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Building a Corporate Culture of Creativity, Passion, and Empathy

United Talent Agency has gone through plenty of changes of late, but one thing that keeps them moving forward is collaboration. Specifically, nurturing relationships with clients so they can more effectively tell their stories.Jean-Rene Zetrenne, chief people officer at United Talent Agency, says as they build opportunities for those clients, others take notice.“They might be looking and saying, I see the success you’ve had here for Bad Bunny, I’ve seen the success you’ve had with Rosalía. I’ve seen the success you’ve had for Karol G. How can I be part of that?” he said. Zetrenne spoke to UTA’s strategies in a fireside chat at From Day One’s Los Angeles Conference. Alison Brower, Business Insider’s Los Angeles bureau chief, moderated. Providing a VoiceAlison Brower of Business Insider interviewed Jean-Rene Zetrenne of UTA in the opening fireside chat at From Day One's conference in LA.Prior to his role at UTA, Zetrenne spent 14 years at Ogilvy, a creative and founder-led environment. In considering the move to Hollywood, what resonated was that UTA was also founder-led.“I can understand the journey that the company is going to be going through as it continues to scale and to grow,” he said. “We sit at the nexus of culture, communications, media, sports, you name it, we are there. We’re able to curate and create an experience that shapes culture. For me, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”With UTA’s name and reputation, they can bring in the names, but what Zetrenne said makes an impact is helping them grow. UTA recently conducted an engagement survey, and the results showed that diverse populations coming into the company feel a sense of belonging.“As in, the organization gives me a voice and a place for me to speak,” he said. “UTA thrives on people having a point of view. Having a point of view is what’s going to help us succeed.”Another driver is diverse people sitting in all areas of the company. Candidates want to see people at the senior level and all other levels who look like them. Plus it helps on the client-facing side to know that DEI is taken seriously. “We have diverse leaders represented at the partnership level. This gives people a sense that they have an opportunity to grow and be successful here,” Zetrenne said. Continuing that mindset is UTA’s program for people of color to opt-in through the onboarding process to gain guidance from other executives that have been successful in the organization. Taking RisksAllowing people to tell their stories is key. UTA has internal initiatives where they have their own fireside chats, which helps to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas. That mindset and value focus is how UTA allows its people to lead the way and encourage them to take risks.That kind of collaboration has paid off in developing an entrepreneurial spirit. UTA has added more facets to its business just in the last few years. “We didn’t have UTA marketing three or four years back. We had an idea, and it came from within the organization,” he said. The same idea goes for acquisitions. UTA has 2,000 employees globally, and 70 percent of the company has joined by way of acquisition and new hires in the last few years. How do you keep the core mindset of the company while bringing on so many new people?“One of the things that we’ve learned is there’s not one culture that fits within UTA. If you’re going to get the maximum experience out of any company that you acquire, you have to allow them to be who they are.” At the same time, they need to find commonality with who UTA is, which is collaboration, entrepreneurship, innovation. “You must allow for the different points of view to come to the table and make sure that you create space for that.”Giving BackFurther expanding its way of thinking, the UTA Foundation’s Project Impact sets aside one day a year for all employees to give back to the communities where they live.  “The idea behind it was to create a space where you could connect clients with some of their philanthropic endeavors, and at the same time, help us as an organization to find ways to give back to our communities.” It’s been a tremendous success in not only turning outward to help others, but to show people in and out of the community what they’re all about.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | December 07, 2023

From DEI to EDI, How Companies Can Rethink Diversity Strategies

For Heather Caruso, Ph.D., associate dean of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, the acronym for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) didn’t quite fit the bill. “We are very intentional about saying EDI at Anderson because it’s meant to be a reflection of how these things build up on one another,” Caruso said.“I start with equity because what we’re trying to do is address the fact that the world has, for most of its history, not been particularly welcoming of different perspectives. To get diversity, we have to acknowledge that there are going to be some inequities in people’s paths in our school.”At From Day One’s Los Angeles conference, Caruso sat with journalist Margot Roosevelt for a fireside chat, delving into the challenges and benefits of addressing diversity in educational and corporate settings, and how leaders can strategize for a more inclusive environment for all identities.Balancing CensorshipIn a study on self-censorship, researchers found only 16% of Americans were comfortable talking about politics with anybody. In contrast, 77% of Americans said they actively self-censor around certain people.In an increasingly divided country, companies and universities are being put in the spotlight on their choice to respond to political and social issues. The decision, in either case, would be a difficult one to make, Caruso says.“Wrestling with that frustration about the existence of different narratives is at the core of what EDI and DEI professionals have to help their organizations confront, because it’s a key barrier to achieving a thriving diverse community,” Caruso said.  “If there’s some domain where we can’t tolerate the existence of different points of view, then that’s potentially a boundary on our commitment to welcome diversity.”Heather Caruso, Ph.D., (left) was the featured speaker, interviewed by journalist Margot Roosevelt (right).Censorship and free speech remain a delicate balance for U.S. college campuses as well. A recent study found students view free speech as important, yet feel unsafe to express their opinions because of fear of judgment or reprimand from their peers and campus.There is no right answer to this issue, Caruso says. “It’s a gamble either way, but I think organizations benefit from at least being intentional about the bet they’re making. We’re betting that some boundaries are necessary or we’re betting that we can create and innovate in this space and find a way to handle it,” Caruso said.By making intentional choices to engage or change work cultures, leaders can help foster a safer environment for their communities to participate in. Keeping an open mind and willingness to learn all play key roles in developing change, Caruso said.“Learn as much as you can as you go. If we encourage that kind of experimentation and learning as much as possible, then we will at least be able to update and refine and improve our efforts more quickly,” Caruso said.Work From the Bottom Up, Instead of Top DownRecent studies show that a diverse workforce has a strong business value, with diverse companies earning 2.5x higher cash flow per employee than less-diverse companies. However, leaders need to think beyond just the business value when approaching EDI strategies.“Top-down initiatives are largely the initiatives where some leader or organization comes out with a proclamation that diversity is the right thing to do because of the business value,” Caruso said. “My problem is that when the business value is centered around getting people to engage with diversity in a certain way, then it tends to focus people on a transactional thing.”Caruso suggests companies focus on bottom-up approaches that look to the root of diversity issues instead of looking for and hiring employees that fit diversity needs.“Try to figure out what you need and try to solve that problem with the people that are right there in the company. Why is it that we’re not seeing a certain race or ethnicity in the organization? Is there something that systematically excludes them from the process?” Caruso said. “I want to see employers give people more room to pick and choose where they want to be and how they want to show up.”Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Wanly Chen | December 07, 2023

How Hybrid Work Has Changed the Ways We Attract, Retain, and Engage Workers

According to a recent Upwork survey, one out of every 10 Americans will be working remotely by 2025. That’s an 87% increase from 2019! While the urgency of the early days of Covid has passed, remote work is clearly here to stay. How can HR professionals rise to the challenge to attract, retain, and engage top talent in this changing working world?In a short time, innovative new strategies have emerged along the whole employee life cycle, including virtual team building, self-paced learning, and asynchronous communication tools. The goal: ensuring workers are both happy and productive in their roles. In a fireside chat at From Day One’s October Virtual Conference, Sadie Bell, the VP of innovation and deployment, people systems and digital experience at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), discussed how companies can embrace new technologies to make their workplaces more attractive.Embracing Digital Transformation Within HROrganizations are embracing the concept of digital transformation in the workplace, incorporating the latest technologies to make work faster, more efficient, comfortable, and sometimes even safer. “I like to talk about digitization not as moving something from paper to a digital format, but uplifting a process. That’s really where innovation is,” Bell said. “How do I take a process, whether it’s in a chemical plant or an HR onboarding, and give it as many digital touch points, considering the human in the process, and make it more efficient and productive?” One example of digital transformation is the optimization of virtual job applications and the entire HR onboarding process.The overlap of consumer technology and HR technology is already here Bell says, and companies are still developing how best to professionalize its use. “We’re now texting people to apply for a job,” she said. “The differentiating factor now will be compliance and regulation for how we share, store, and secure data.”Matt Charney of interviewed Sadie Bell of HPE in the virtual fireside chat session (photo by From Day One)Hybrid and remote work options are another clear sign of “HR embracing this age that we live in,” said moderator Matt Charney, talent acquisition practice leader at  And it has had a tremendous impact on talent acquisition and retention. “There is a high talent market that is unwilling to work without a hybrid work environment. It’s now more of a workers’ market than an employers’ market,” Bell said. Employees are often juggling multiple competitive offers and are able to be more selective about a company’s values and culture. “They’re starting to look at the grain of the company, and make choices about where they want to work because they’re no longer confined by a physical space,” Bell said.Changing the Employee Value PropositionSince employees are no longer limited in their work options by physical location, organizations need to encourage the recruitment and retention of top talent in other ways, making the whole package more attractive. “It’s about community, it's about beliefs. People are looking for a company that has high integrity, that participates in the community on things that they believe in,” Bell said.HPE focuses on its employees as its most important element, Bell says. “We focus on making the employee value proposition something that people can testify about,” Bell said. That includes involving employees in decisions around corporate social responsibility causes, as well as input into creating customized individual benefits packages surrounding mental health, family care, and other key issues. Companies can also consider unique employee appreciation strategies like virtual game days or meal delivery via local services that allow a team to share a meal or coffee together over Zoom.Flexible Work OptionsIt’s also important that companies emphasize flexible working options and allow employees to “design their day, in their way,” whether through a hybrid schedule or one adjusted to account for other personal responsibilities and priorities like childcare.There are still some employees who would prefer to be on site some or even all of the time, but even that environment is shifting. “When people are on site, we’ve found that we have to make things a little more exciting,” Bell said.“I had some team members ask me at some point, ‘If we’re going to come back to the office every day, what are you going to give me?’” Covid proved that in many organizations, full-time in-person work is not necessary. So, companies must pivot their approach to make it attractive and even fun if they’re going to expect employees to return.“The expectation is that when I’m there, it has to be something more valuable than when I'm sitting on my couch, where I can do other things like get to my children faster, or wash my laundry, or just not get dressed when I wake up in the morning,” Bell said. This value can come through setting strong intentions for in-person meetings and making sure it’s always the right people, at the right time, for the right purpose.Retention Through Training and EngagementHPE has a particularly strong track record with employee retention, Charney notes, thanks to the company’s in-house initiatives for growth and engagement. It provides in-house mentorship programs, relying on networking and team building to pass on knowledge. “We think about upskilling and reskilling our teams as technology changes,” Bell said, ensuring that more seasoned workers are up on the latest technology while simultaneously training the newer employees to eventually step into leadership roles.Engagement is no longer about a pinball table in the conference room, Charney says, especially with employees working virtually around the world. Instead, Bell says, there needs to be a focus on frequent smaller team engagement, communities that come together for a purpose, with larger groups coming together more occasionally and usually in a virtual format. Company culture is generally becoming more localized. By embracing virtual working environments, focusing on engagement, and amping up CSR initiatives, HR professionals can attract and retain top talent in a changing working world.Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | December 06, 2023

Looking Ahead: Integrating Weight Loss and Diabetes Medications for a Healthier Workforce

With the recent increase in demands for new drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic, 43% of employers are now considering covering GLP-1s next year, nearly double today’s number. Since its first FDA approval in 2005, GLP-1s have proven effective for health conditions like obesity and diabetes.However, with a steep price tag and concerns about misusage, leaders may find adding GLP-1s to their benefits offerings to be challenging. In a recent From Day One webinar, physicians from Accolade joined moderator Katie Miller Blakemore, senior manager of events at Accolade, to discuss the trends around GLP-1s.Understanding Cost BenefitsOn average, medication like Ozempic can cost more than $1,000 per month, a deterrent for some leaders considering proving it in their benefits. However, there may be greater healthcare costs if employers choose not to offer these drugs, says James Wantuck, MD, associate chief medical officer at Accolade and co-founder of Plush.“There are two sides to this equation: the cost of the drugs and the cost of not using the drugs,” Wantuck said. “Employers need to consider the costs for not using the drugs which may include things like absence from work or inability to do as much at work.”Wantuck points to the cost of obesity as one example. Chronic diseases caused by obesity and excess weight cost 1.72 trillion dollars in the U.S. alone in 2016.With a direct effect on one’s cardiovascular system, GLP-1s can reduce the severity of these diseases by reducing the chances of heart failure and strokes. Having healthier employees is an invaluable asset to any company, Wantuck said. “It’s harder to dismiss and not cover a drug that prevents a heart attack,” Wantuck said. “The price decreases as employees get less sick.”In comparison to similar countries, GLP-1s cost five to ten times more in the U.S. and the prices are not expected to change anytime soon, says Connie Hwang, MD, Accolade’s chief medical officer.“The FDA approved GLP-1s almost two decades ago, and yet there are no generic competitors in this class of drugs,” Hwang said. “The patents and regulatory exclusivity granted show a median of 18.3 years of market protection and so putting this into perspective, the earliest date for a possible generic Ozempic is guaranteed for December 2031. Employers need a GLP-1s strategy now as there is likely no pricing relief in sight.”Dr. Connie Hwang, chief medical officer at Accolade spoke with Dr. James Wantuck and Katie Miller Blakemore during the webinar (company photo)Giving Access to the Right PeopleNot everybody qualifies for GLP-1s but high costs and the spike in popularity of some drugs from mainstream media have caused employers to enforce restrictions and in some cases, outright bans.Qualifying for GLP-1s states individuals need to have a BMI greater than 30 along with medical problems such as hypertension, type two diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.“Some large employers have eliminated coverage for GLP-1s for the weight loss indication, and many have done so pointing to the greater than 200% total cost increases that they’ve been seeing,” Hwang said.Eliminating GLP-1 options negatively affects people who need the medications, bringing the strategy back to the need for employers to evaluate cost benefits. In a study of how members receiving GLP-1s meet the protocol criteria, researchers discovered that 94% of Accolade Care members did meet the criteria.Offering GLP-1s is only the beginning of the journey for employers, Wantuck says. Employers need to provide employees with resources to continue the momentum of their lifestyle change for a successful exit from these drugs.“You have to be open to a lifestyle change to change your habits, diet, and exercise routine to make these drugs the most effective that they can be,” Wantuck said. “These drugs facilitate this weight loss and allow people to reach the goals they’ve never been able to reach before, and I think that inspires them to change their habits.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Accolade, for sponsoring this webinar.Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Wanly Chen | December 06, 2023

How Equitable Technology Can Boost Diversity

Almost three-quarters of Americans oppose the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in hiring decisions, according to a 2023 survey by Pew Research Center, yet almost 25% of companies surveyed by SHRM report using AI for HR-related tasks.In order to make advanced tech a useful, ethical, and legal part of people operations, employers may proceed with enthusiasm, as long as it’s tempered with caution. This was discussed in an executive panel titled “How Equitable Technology Can Boost Diversity,” which I moderated during From Day One’s November virtual conference.Given the panelists’ expertise in talent acquisition, the way tech is used in hiring decisions (specifically how AI and bias-limiting tools are used) was at the center.When Tech Makes Decisions, and When People Make DecisionsTech has proven itself to outperform recruiters on many hiring tasks, like making connections across vast amounts of information to solve problems faster, says Rebecca Warren, who leads customer success at talent intelligence platform Eightfold.There’s a difference between new AI-powered tools and the more familiar ones that use data analytics and machine learning. Warren considers AI to be largely proactive, while the latter is reactive.“AI are systems or machines that are replicating human intelligence,” she said. “Data analytics uses the insights, patterns, and trends from data to help make decisions. If you were to think about providing actionable information to improve operations, that would come from your data analytics, as opposed to using AI, which helps to either eliminate extra work or make connections faster. They should be used in conjunction, but they have different purposes.”One signal of a good tech tool is that it streamlines the interview process, said Stacey Olive, VP of talent acquisition and employer branding at Medidata Solutions, which builds software for clinical trials. “Anything that levels the playing field is going to be helpful. Sometimes that’s the luxury of an applicant tracking system that allows you to customize a feedback form or to make sure that hiring can’t take place unless you have a diverse candidate slate.”It appears that a sizable share of workers are comfortable with companies using AI to screen candidates. Pew found that 47% of Americans think AI would be better at evaluating job applicants than humans are. Only 15% believe it would be worse.But there are some parts of the hiring process that even the most sophisticated tech can’t replicate, like networking. “Many people find their jobs through their network and by word of mouth. Some people don’t even like to apply, so you’ve got to always be networking, and that’s constant hard work,” Olive noted.Spotting the Bad Actors, Finding the GoodResist the draw of all things shiny and new, said panelists. Don’t chase technology for technology’s sake and adopt a buzzy tech trend before you’re equipped to do it well. “Like any new technology, people need to think about the problem they’re trying to solve,” said Josh Brenner, CEO of job search platform Hired. Instead of finding a problem to fit the technology, find tech tools that solve problems you already know about.Journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza moderated the panel among Josh Brenner of Hired, Rebecca Warren of Eightfold, Nicholas Mailey of Equinix, and Stacey Olive of Medidata Solutions (photo by From Day One)Larger firms should make sure the tools they’re picking are set up for enterprise-level application, “especially when it comes to compliance,” said Brenner. “There are a lot of challenges within recruiting around privacy, salary transparency, and AI biases. Make sure your vendor can provide a third-party audit.” As of July 5, employers in New York City are required to submit AI tools used in hiring to an annual audit under the US’s first law designed to limit such bias. State and federal laws may be incoming, and some agencies already have recourse to challenge AI tools that cause harm.All employers should look out for AI platforms making big, vague claims. “If your vendor can’t explain how the platform or the process works, that’s a red flag,” said Warren. “You need to make sure that the person who is telling you what you need to buy actually understands how it works.”Not everything billed as AI is truly artificial intelligence. Some might be more accurately labeled as machine learning or data analysis. If you’re unsure of your vetting capabilities, bring in an expert. “Even if you’re a small organization, it’s absolutely worth the money to bring in a consultant to give you an independent view of whether that technology is going to solve your problems,” Warren said. “Even if it’s just five hours or one week, bring in an expert to make sure you’re not causing more harm than good.”Governing Your Company DataTo better govern its data, enterprise network provider Equinix developed a governance board comprising representatives from information security, legal, IT, and HR analytics. The team built a process for reviewing the way data is handled, who has access (and whether they still need it), how it’s used, and who governs it. The group meets at least monthly, sometimes more, to review new data practices and audits.“Then we run water through the pipes,” says the company’s VP of talent acquisition, Nicholas Mailey. “You want to play out the implementation of different solutions or processes, look at the outcome of those processes or practices to ensure that you know, to the extent that you can, that you have control and a sense for whether the outcome is ultimately equitable.”The test-run exercise has worked, prompting the company to correct itself before making privacy-violating mistakes. “We started to implement AI technology in certain areas, then we candidly thought that we were out over our skis,” Mailey said. At the time, Equinix asked job seekers to self-disclose demographic information in the application process. So when Equinix wanted to create diverse talent pipelines for jobs, it was those self-disclosures they thought of first. But at disclosure, applicants had been assured that such data would not be factored into hiring decisions.“Fortunately, we caught it,” he said. “But if we hadn’t had a governing board in place looking at how we were approaching these issues, we would have made the mistake of leveraging that data.” Instead, the company took its time and got it right. “It was another year and a half before we started implementing again.”Recruiters like to move quickly and get things done. But HR isn’t a tech department (at least, not entirely), and it’s best to proceed with caution, Mailey said. “It’s safest for companies to go slow in order to go fast—and ensure you’re doing the right thing.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | December 05, 2023

Tech-Powered Ways to Recognize Your Team

When Magdalena Bugallo, director of total rewards experience at VCA, opened an ecard on Boss Appreciation Day this year, she was moved to tears.“There were words of appreciation from my team, and for me that was amazing because I built this team from scratch. We had been getting to know each other for the past year. And it filled my heart and made me cry,” Bugallo told journalist Lydia Dishman, moderator of the recent From Day One webinar titled “How Tech Can Boost Engagement and Recognition.”In this new hybrid and remote work era, using tech to recognize others can be as simple as that. This is good news because employees who think their company will recognize them are 2.7 times more likely to have high engagement at work, according to Zippia.But business leaders also need to know which technologies and practices are motivational and informative versus fatiguing or counterproductive.Recognizing Team Members in the MomentOrganizations are already using communication tools to effectively recognize employees immediately, instead of waiting for their performance review or a big corporate event.Supriya Bahri, vice president of global total rewards at Roblox, says whenever one of her direct reports has a work anniversary, she writes one or two short paragraphs on the team’s Slack channel to acknowledge the event. Those individuals have begun to do the same for their direct reports.“If it’s the first anniversary, it’s a three or four-line story about how we met and how we’re so excited looking at how far we’ve come,” Bahri said. “And if it's the year three anniversary, it’s reflecting back on the year and thanking them for it.”Microsoft Teams has a function that VCA uses to celebrate employees in a team chat or via a private message, says Bugallo.“It has visuals like a unicorn that means, ‘You’re amazing,’” she said. It also allows managers to recognize employees when they display values such as leadership or courage, Bugallo added.Recognition For AllEveryone is different regarding how they like to be recognized, and respecting that difference is critical, says Katrina Hall, director of human resources at VSP Vision.For example, Hall had a team member she wanted to recognize for the extraordinary way she faced adversity. Hall planned to praise her on a company-wide platform, but the employee told her she disliked recognition on the platform and found it disingenuous. She told Hall, “the people who really appreciate me will tell me directly. I don’t want the fanfare.’”On the other hand, “I have other people on my team that need that larger recognition,” Hall said. “You have to lean into your team and ask, ‘How do you want to be recognized? What’s important to you?’ In knowing that, then you hit the mark every time.”Everyone’s Voice MattersOne essential way to recognize employees is to make them feel like their opinions matter, which can be challenging to accomplish in a hybrid workforce, says Bahri.During Covid, everyone worked remotely, so “we were all a box on the screen. It was leveled,” she said.Now some employees are physically present in a room while others are still boxes on the screen. Bahri says some in the latter group weren’t actively participating in meetings, so she told the team leaders to “watch out for the quieter people, and as we are asking for input from the room, if we haven’t heard from employee A and employee B, let’s ask them, ‘Hey, we haven’t heard from you. How do you feel about it?’”Lydia Dishman, senior editor for growth & engagement at Fast Company moderated the webinar (photo by From Day One)Barhi also recommended companies take advantage of Zoom’s breakout room feature to allow remote workers to meet in smaller teams “because some people are more comfortable discussing an idea among three people versus 15.”Employee engagement and recognition can be challenging for large corporations with team members across the globe.“We’d like to have a little bit of fun. Who doesn’t?” said Seema Bhansali, vice president of employee experience and inclusion at Henry Schein.That’s why the Henry Schein Games began. Employees were randomly split into two teams: Team Henry and Team Esther, Esther referring to Esther Schein, co-founder of the company. Each team was given the opportunity to engage through competition and surveys on topics such as how they volunteer. The company set up a specific website for the games where employees can check the leaderboard, post pictures, and engage with each other. A few Henry Schein sites even held field days for in-person competition.“It was amazing to see the transformation from some of the most serious people in our organization, just getting into the fun and chatting on teams with one another,” Bhansali said.The company also has various clubs where employees worldwide can bond through shared hobbies such as gardening or gaming.“It’s an appreciation for the team to say, ‘Hey, jobs well done,’” Bhansali said. “You also need to unwind. It’s a focus on wellness and connection in a time when we are a little bit disconnected because of the way that we work.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Achievers, who supported this webinar.Mary Pieper is a freelance reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | December 04, 2023

Is Your Company Attractive to a Diverse Workforce?

Three out of four job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce as an essential factor when evaluating companies and job offers, according to a 2020 Glassdoor survey. “Underrepresented candidates really care about the makeup of your organization and the actual numbers,” said Rena Nigam, founder and CEO of the AI-enabled hiring and talent intelligence platform Meytier, during a recent panel discussion at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Ideally, employers will be able to show candidates that there are people who look like them across all company levels. But what if they aren’t there yet?“If you’re still at the beginning of your journey, then be authentic,” Nigam told journalist Lydia Dishman, panel moderator. “Convey your intention on why you want to improve or why you have a lack of diversity.”Overcoming Biases When HiringTo create a diverse workforce, everyone involved in the hiring process needs education on how to recognize their own biases. Education can help “control some of those thoughts, and ensure that it doesn't allow you to make a decision based solely on those particular biases, but challenge it in the moment,” said DeShaun Wise Porter, global head of diversity and recognition at Hilton.Shenece Johns is the head of inclusion and diversity at JCPenney, which is exploring how to use AI to attract talent. She says this technology is so new that the company is still navigating how to infuse it into the recruiting and hiring process.“There could be bias when using AI, and we want to be mindful when we do decide to go full-steam ahead so that we don't inadvertently put our own unconscious bias into the system and discriminate,” she said. “We want to be intentional and methodical about how we approach it. We don’t want to screen out individuals based on their name, school, neighborhood, or other factors like that.”But companies can employ AI to expand opportunities rather than automate rejection, says Nigam.“We use an AI based ontology there to ensure that we discover things that people may not have stated,” she said. “We look beyond the obvious on people’s journeys.”Skills vs. Traditional MetricsHigher education is becoming more expensive, meaning many individuals can’t afford college. However, that doesn’t mean they lack skills, says Louis Chesney, neurodiversity program manager at RethinkCare.“Even if you were to walk into an interview with a master’s degree, they care less about how many years you were in that environment, and more about if you can do the job,” he said.Lydia Dishman of Fast Company moderated the discussion titled “Is Your Company Attractive to a Diverse Workforce?” during From Day One's recent virtual conference (photo by From Day One)Hilton has eliminated the four-year degree requirement for most of its positions in favor of looking strictly at the skill sets of potential employees, says Wise Porter.“It afforded us an opportunity to truly evaluate and determine what is honestly needed for a particular role,” she said.Monica Parodi, vice president of talent acquisition for The New York Times, said that as a federal contractor, the organization uses a structured, consistent, and inclusive interview process where the questions are all tied back to skills.“The training needs to be there for recruiters to make sure that anything that veers away from skills and might show bias in debriefs returns right back to the skills qualifications for the role,” she said.Leaning into Corporate ValuesMany companies have diversity and inclusion as one of their corporate values. However, those are just words on paper unless an organization truly embraces them.The golden rule, ‘treat others as you want to be treated’ is one of the core values at JCPenney. Johns says it’s a phrase everyone is familiar with, so it’s a good way to connect everyone in the organization as well as job candidates. “We lead with that and we lean into it,” she said.However, people can perceive values differently, which can cause bias, says Porter. She said it’s important to ask “appropriate behavioral-based interview questions to be able to get down to the crux of the matter for a consistent experience.”The best way for an organization to communicate its values is to demonstrate them, says Chesney. That’s why it’s essential to provide a detailed interview agenda to job prospects. “This could level the playing field by giving all candidates the same information and expectations. It’s also important to be transparent about the accommodations process, which can help candidates with different needs to perform their best in the interview,” he said.Connecting with Overlooked Candidate PoolsNigam defined overlooked candidate pools as “people who see constant rejection. They are people who always end up in the job black hole.” These individuals include immigrants, caregivers, veterans, and those with disabilities, she says.The New York Times is working on hiring practices across the board for anyone from historically marginalized groups, including people who are neurodivergent, says Parodi.For example, the organization is moving away from panel interviews. Those interviews were created to reduce biases but have also excluded some groups, says Parodi.Certain individuals might not perform as well during a panel interview because they may struggle with working memory or executive functioning, says Chesney. He said those struggles are amplified “when you’re getting rapid fire questions from multiple people.”One of the most overlooked talent pools are those with criminal backgrounds, says Johns. “We are doing some work in this space to help with giving them a second chance,” she said.Mary Pieper is a freelance reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | November 30, 2023

What Business Leaders Can Do to Improve DEI Efforts in the Face of Backlash

Can corporate America restore its momentum on diversity, equity, and inclusion? DEI initiatives became a must-have for business organizations in 2020, after the killing of George Floyd in May of that year sparked a new wave of civil-rights protest and discourse. That cultural conversation focused partly on workplace discrimination against Blacks and other marginalized people, and it led to countless leaders—some from the biggest groups in corporate America—stepping up with DEI plans to help close disparities in opportunities. For a time, it seemed like those executives were delivering. According to Glassdoor data, DEI job openings grew 55% within a few weeks after the Floyd tragedy. Spending in the category surged, too. A November 2021 report from a top market research company said DEI funding was projected to reach $15.4 billion, more than double the amount it was in May 2020, by the year 2026.While many leaders maintained the DEI programs they enacted within the past few years, a backlash against DEI quickly arrived. A survey of more than 800 HR professionals in various industries, conducted around six months after George Floyd’s death, found that about 80% of companies are “going through the motions” with DEI programming and not holding themselves accountable. Glassdoor research later revealed DEI programming growth stalled in 2022, and CNBC reported last January that, to some in underserved groups, many efforts geared toward tangible change have felt inauthentic. One source for the piece said the DEI programs they’ve interacted with feel more like “branding strategies.” The turning tide against DEI picked up speed in June when the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in higher education, a decision that many speculate will have an adverse effect on DEI efforts across industry. The New York Times reported that experts believe “the ruling will discourage corporations from putting in place ambitious diversity policies in hiring and promotion—or prompt them to rein in existing policies—by encouraging lawsuits under the existing legal standard.”The same issues in place before 2020 persist for Black workers at the office. Gallup polling indicates that employees of color still report discrimination—and those who do also have a burnout rate that’s twice as high as workers who are not discriminated against. DEI strategist Amri B. Johnson (author photo)However, the high court decision and the failings of some organizations does not have to inspire total pessimism for those who are committed to furthering DEI’s progress. DEI strategist Amri B. Johnson, author of Reconstructing Inclusion: Making DEI Accessible, Actionable, and Sustainable, says this is an opportunity for the true advocates in the space to stand up. “We focus a lot on symptoms and we don’t focus enough on systems,” Johnson told From Day One. “Now we need to start building the systems” that will lead to improved, tangible DEI outcomes. He adds that the Supreme Court decision and the pressures that it may put on companies to forego DEI investments could very well be used as an “excuse” to do just that. Eventually, though, “if a company uses that as an excuse not to be mindful, to cast [their] net wide and find people from different backgrounds to bring that insight, and create attention to [their] organization because people see things differently [due to] their embodied experiences, then they should stop” their DEI programs. “If they want to miss out on talent, let them do it,” he says. For those truly well-intentioned corporate leaders and people managers who want to carry on their DEI initiatives—not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it gives their businesses a well-chronicled leg up on the competition—here are some tips on how to ensure such programming can thrive, even in the face of DEI fatigue, and not come off like PR campaigns.Add a “B” to “DEI,” for “Belonging”Throwing money at the situation and writing declarative press releases is not going to solve problems like the ones that DEI programs are designed to address. Real people are affected by the culture that historically exclusionary business institutions have wrought, so it’s going to take person-to-person care and attention to disrupt the presence of outdated workplace management approaches.Johnson says leaders must do “the little things” around the office—real or virtual—to ensure that workers feel a sense of belonging. “Thoughtful gestures can show someone that they are seen and welcomed in the group,” says Johnson. “Instead of sharing a funny story with just your closest coworker, invite the person within earshot into the conversation. When religious or cultural holidays roll around, don’t hesitate to say, ‘Ramadan Mubarak,’ ‘Happy Easter’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah’ to those who observe. The only kind of inclusion system that truly perpetuates belonging is one that centers on humanity, creating conditions for all people to thrive across their differences and similarities.”Creating such a culture where behaviors like that are the norm may take a change in approach and mindset on the part of the leaders tasked with cultivating one. Julie Fink, VP of HR at the University of Phoenix, suggests that organizations think of “DEI” as “DEIB,” where the “B” represents “Belonging.”“Belonging is how employees feel about their company, their boss, their leadership, their peers, whether their organization cares for them as individuals,” says Fink. “If employees feel they belong, they feel safe and more connected to the work and the organization.”To help inspire this sense of security and connection, Fink says leaders should talk and listen to employees with a focus on “not only what they say, but what they don’t say in this area.” Ask: “Do they feel comfortable and safe to speak up in areas that can be improved, or bring forth suggestions or recommendations?”When employees feel a sense of belonging at a job, as Harvard Business Review reported in 2019, they perform better, at a rate of 56%. They also take 75% fewer sick days and are 50% more likely to stay at their job, research showed.Take a Skills-Based Approach to HiringLimiting recruitment hunts to individuals with gobs of experience and college degrees from top-level colleges is exactly how companies have stayed in a rut in which the same types of people are granted opportunities to achieve and advance. But considering skills required for a given position and just the general type of person who might be a great fit for your organization will render such histories of privilege irrelevant.Amanda Hahn, chief marketing officer at HireVue, a talent recruitment and hiring platform, says a growing number of employers are “exploring alternatives to their traditional hiring habits,” with a mind toward better DEI outcomes. HireVue recently published a report covering global trends in hiring, which included surveys of more than 4,000 talent leaders and found that nearly half (48%) are adopting a skills-first approach to talent acquisition, “forgoing educational and past work experience unless they’re actually relevant to the job at hand,” Hahn said. “In doing so, they’re widening their overall talent pool, increasing the number of qualified candidates they attract and charting advancement paths for employees based on less-biased or fairer, objective data.”And once interviews start—or maybe even earlier than that—prioritize the character of the candidates. Hiring teams should think about the culture of their organization and what kind of personality traits they’d like to find in the people they bring on board.“When you hire someone, you hire the entire person, not just their output,” said Fink. “You cannot think that a person is just an employee, and worse yet, a commodity producing widgets. Every person is an individual and made up of a variety of elements and you need to ensure your policies, and more importantly your actual practices, speak to this.”Amanda Hahn, chief marketing officer at HireVue Advises Johnson, the author and DEI strategist: “Make sure you have designed your talent attraction and candidate experience to attract talent from and across a broad spectrum of identities and lived experiences. And, don’t stop there. Once you attract a diverse group of committed people, create paths for growth, development, and thriving to keep them. If you are unsure of how to do so, ask them.”Hahn notes that greater integrations of technology can also help organizations expand the candidate pools each of them are accessing, while also providing hiring teams with greater insights into the types of individuals they might soon hire.“There’s a misconception that technology is replacing human roles. Instead, it’s fulfilling mindless work, boosting employee productivity and allowing talent teams to focus on the most impactful parts of their job,” says Hahn. “Our report found that in the past year alone, two in three talent teams have implemented video or virtual interviews to boost hiring productivity. When asked what benefits talent teams saw from these changes in interviewing, respondents reported time savings, greater flexibility and a bigger pool of diverse talent.”Don’t Base DEI Success Strictly on NumbersThe true impact of DEI can’t ever be completely quantified on a spreadsheet or in a PowerPoint. Sure, there’s the aforementioned impact a greater sense of belonging can have on the bottom line and other data on DEI return on investment, but measuring a culture—an atmosphere about the workplace—and levels of individual contentment is impossible. DEI should ultimately be done because it’s good for people and their copmanies. “There are several areas where employers can make mistakes when beefing up their DEI programming,” says Fink. “The first is to think that DEI is just about the numbers and the typical race/ethnicity categories. Second is to tie bonuses or incentives to DEI metrics. This can drive compliance rather than commitment and possibly not the best decision for the business. We need to make the expected behavior clear, then reward or showcase that behavior. Set the example and shout it from the rooftops.”Johnson says that limiting DEI focus to “single identities” is actually counterproductive to its mission. “Yes, it is very important to make the workplace welcoming for groups that historically have been pushed to the fringes—people of color, LGBTQIA+, the disabled, older employees, women,” said Johnson. “But true inclusion includes everyone, even those with longstanding power and privilege.”Which is why people leaders should…Avoid Playing the Blame GameWhile changes to workplace culture and people management to enhance DEI of underserved people are needed, don’s create new discrimination in the process. Furthermore, excluding members of an employee base that may have benefitted from now-outdated systems does not align with the values associated with DEI initiatives in the first place.“Be sure you are not making your DEI efforts feel divisive or punitive,” said Johnson. “Everyone in the organization needs to feel welcome to join in the discussion, but no one should feel singled out. Pointing fingers only perpetuates division. We need collective accountability without attempts to determine who is right.”Accept Realities and Normalize Social TensionsPracticing mindfulness and acknowledging grounded truths about the state of things might be the most crucial step of all if people leaders want their DEI programs to achieve desired outcomes while fostering a real sense of belonging for all members of an employee base. Thinking any initiative will be rolled out perfectly and solve all a company’s ills is a sure route to failure, DEI experts assert.Johnson says DEI work will not remove social tensions—nor should it. Conversations that are open and honest will need to continue, and if they do, people will be bound to disagree or not reside on the same page with their colleagues. He adds that “tension is necessary” and not a bad thing in and of itself. “The danger comes when you don’t know how to navigate the tensions and complexities that come from those differences,” he said. One way organizations can ameliorate tension around the subject of DEI is to actually calm expectations around the adoption of what Johnson calls “complicated jargon” that is inaccessible for many. Terms like “heteronormative,” “transphobia,” “BIPOC” and “unearned privilege” can be difficult for workers to understand and “may even raise employees’ defenses,” Johnson said.“If you are speaking about DEI-related concepts and a term is introduced, explain the term, and make sense of it with the person or people you are engaged with,” he advised. “If you read a word that you are unfamiliar with, look it up, ask someone more familiar, and learn to explain it in a manner that is clear for you.”Allowing people to be themselves, which includes displays of not only their strengths but also their blind spots, is the ultimate goal of DEI. Accept where voids in understanding lie, fill them up and move on—one step closer to greater harmony.Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.(Feature photo-illustration by Vadym Pastukh/iStock by Getty Images)

Michael Stahl | November 30, 2023

Utilizing Benefits to Attract Diverse Talent: Building the Foundation Before They Arrive

When Matthew Legere and his family faced a devastating pregnancy loss, he submitted for bereavement leave at work. He was denied. “They said because the baby wasn’t actually born, I didn't qualify for bereavement leave,” Legere said. “Now, if you asked me at that moment if I felt valued as an employee, no. No, I did not.”While this example is startling, it’s unfortunately not uncommon. Progressive employers need to account for all the nuances and complexities of an employee’s life when crafting a benefits package with care, dignity, and respect.By looking at your benefits plan through a variety of lenses and thinking about your employees’ diverse needs, you can build a plan that allows individuals and their families to feel seen, heard, and valued through the benefits that you offer. “By addressing unmet needs, we believe you can truly drive engagement with your current employees. But it also casts a vision that’s attractive to a prospective employee, making it so that your story can truly become their story,” Legere said.Legere, now SVP of Brown & Brown, the fifth largest benefits consultant in the country, shared his top tips during a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Building out an employee benefits package that is comprehensive and sensitive to a variety of lifestyles and situations is integral to workforce acquisition and retention. Of course, employers cannot envision those needs in a bubble. There is a difference between a vision and a shared vision, Legere says. “If we have an opportunity to get feedback from the talent market, or even our current employees on how well we’re solving for a diverse employee benefit program, that is what’s going to be most effective,” Legere said. Shared visions attract more people, sustain higher levels of motivation, and withstand more challenges.Surveying Employee ValuesLegere cites a 2023 study from MetLife of the top desired employee benefits, which include, in order of importance, health, paid leave, 401(k), dental, vision, life insurance, and disability.But importantly, Legere notes, these rankings changed from generation to generation. “You have to get a sense of who your current population is as well as who you’re trying to attract and what their needs are,” Legere said. “What they expect for benefits could vary significantly.”It’s also important to pay attention to what trends change over time. For example, from 2020 to 2023, there was a 100% increase in employees surveyed who prioritized wellness benefits like gym memberships and employee assistance programs. Your employee benefits need to change along with the cultural climate in order to stay competitive. Legere also shared that employers tend to significantly overestimate their employees’ well-being and satisfaction, and encourages them to be proactive in crafting a package that reflects their actual current circumstances.Moving from Buzzword to ActionMatthew Legere, senior vice president of Brown & Brown, led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)Talking with employers, Legere found that while many talked about diversity, equity, and inclusion, they weren’t really taking steps to move the needle.  “Craft strategies, policies, practices, and procedures, for everybody at every aspect to feel valued,” Legere said. That means taking into consideration all aspects of life wellness and creating policies that are effective for all generations in your workplace. It’s also crucial to recognize the different steps of an employee’s life journey both in and out of the office, and account for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.Using national statistics like Gallup polls or the U.S. census, employees can project an estimate of how their workplace population might be impacted by categories like LGBTQIA+, family planning, veteran status, working parents, and build out a benefits plan accordingly.An effective plan should be valued by all employees, encompassing all of their intersectional identities. “You want to be relevant to your employees in those key areas and offer benefits specifically for them.”Legere and his team at Brown & Brown offer assessments for organizations to see how their benefits packages address the needs of certain populations and find where there might be gaps. They can also show the cost/benefit analysis, in other words, how much an employer has to pay for a benefit vs. the positive economic impact it would potentially have on an employee.Executing the Benefits Strategy and Looking AheadAlongside benefit strategy decisions, Legere says employers have several opportunities to embed relevant DEIB themes across their HR and benefits communication. Employees and their family members receive inclusive content, DEIB culture messages, and targeted materials. It’s important to use inclusive language in these communications. Legere shares an example of using the term “chosen family” alongside “nuclear family” when talking about holiday celebrations, which is potentially more welcoming to LGBTQIA+ employees. “Having intentional and inclusive language woven into communications can be significant,” he said.Legere advises employers to identify their target employee audience, then take a look at their current benefits partners to make sure they are offering the depth, breadth, and cultural sensitivity that is best-suited to that community. If they are not, it’s time to make a change.Ultimately, it comes down to what is best for the employee when they are at their time of greatest need and vulnerability. “If you can be relevant with what your employees or prospective employees are talking about at their kitchen table,” Legere said, “you're going to help them feel so seen.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Brown & Brown, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | November 30, 2023

How to Focus and Accelerate the Hiring Process for a Better Experience

Amy Onori, senior vice president of talent acquisition at Publicis Media, was frustrated with the traditional hiring process, which was typically slow, inefficient, and biased. She and her team wanted to try something new and she had some experience with live hiring, a novel on-the-spot approach to hiring talent. When Apex, a trading platform at Publicis Media, had several job openings, she felt it was the perfect opportunity for innovation.“At the end of the day, we did make executive decisions on which candidate was going to be receiving an offer. And in the event that we weren’t going to proceed with a candidate, they were messaged within 24 hours explaining that we would not be moving in the direction of an offer.”Onori spoke about this one-day, top talent hiring process with Saja Hindi, a reporter for The Denver Post during a fireside chat at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Sprinting to the Finish LineThe benefit of live hiring is that it’s transparent and fast, and lets candidates know right away if they’ve made the cut. The purpose is to streamline the hiring process and make it more efficient.For the event, Onori says that several weeks out they stopped actively recruiting and created several featured positions they were going to fill at the event. The recruiters generated leads on LinkedIn and through other channels, incorporating diversity and inclusion. The candidates were pre-vetted and prescreened, and highly experienced for the roles they would fill.“The day of, we would have a lot of hiring initiatives. Meaning they would get a new hire orientation with a debrief on Publicis Media, in addition to what Apex is. [They] would be greeted by our senior leadership and there would be a round robin style of interviewing. We would go over each question and each answer and decide, right then and there, who we are going to make an offer to,” Onori said.The hiring sprint was held towards the tail end of the pandemic, when the economy was still opening up and people were coming back to the office. This is something Onori wanted the candidates to know—that they were returning to the office.“It also really created an awesome buzz with the return to office initiative. This entire event was orchestrated in-person,” which excited people, Onori said.Amy Onori of Publicis Media was interviewed by Saja Hindi of the Denver Post during the virtual fireside chat (photo by From Day One)This live hiring event wasn’t Onori’s first experience with the format. In a previous role, she held a similar event for entry level roles. “All of our entry level talent was hired that way from that point forward. And I wanted to bring that idea and execute it for Publicis and Apex, and make sure that we are doing this for experienced talent.”To make sure their hiring process was diverse, they leveraged their third party efforts through partnerships that foster diverse talent, like veteran networks. “We made sure that a diverse roster of talent was being considered. And I do feel that we succeeded in that manner," Onori said.Despite being a relatively new and unknown approach, Onori says she didn’t have much difficulty convincing senior leadership. “They really listened to me, and they really understood this could solve a lot. And we could be more effective if we just do these things right now, versus talking about it and potentially doing it a few months from now.”To get people to sign on, Onori came with a powerpoint and a plan that showed how it would solve recruitment efficiency and preserve the candidate experience, the specifics around data rollout, and her anticipated results. The biggest hurdle, Onori says, was time.“They had to dedicate basically an entire day with their senior leadership to do this, and to partner with me and my team to make sure that we were doing it in the way that I knew it could be successful. A day in the life of someone in media is a huge thing. You have a lot of things going on all at once,” Onori said.Breaking the process down further, Onori explained that to keep it unbiased the resumes were blinded and they had multiple planning sessions with leaders to go over the sort of questions to ask to make sure, for example, they didn't hire in a biased way. Leadership was only given 48 hours to consider resumes beforehand, which gave them review time but not enough to develop a strong opinion on the candidates.Even if they didn’t get the job, Onori says they left  with feedback and experience. Those who were hired found out in less than a day.A Hiring Sprint For All IndustriesSprint hiring is not impromptu. It takes time and planning to pull off a successful event, but Onori believes it is repeatable anywhere.“It’s not something on the recruitment side that can be done within an hour or two,” Onori said. But she says it does make the hiring process fair and equitable. She added that it's not specific to media or advertising and can be applied in every industry.However, Onori says sprint hiring is better for more experienced roles and having “enough lead time to allow recruiters to source and screen the right candidates” is key.So, is it worth it to try something new with the hiring process? Though Onori says this round of hiring was a bit ambitious, trying to hire eight out of nine positions, she was pleased with the four they got.“I think a lot of people are afraid to do something different to disrupt the process,” Onori said. She recognizes that staying inside the tried and true process is easy and safe, but being bold has its advantages. “Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. So long as what you’re trying to do lines up with business and what they’re seeking to accomplish.”As far as hiring sprints disrupting the future of hiring, Onori has some additional advice. “Hiring managers should be really thinking long-term in terms of what they’re seeking, not just as a hire, but as a culture,” Onori said.“Whenever you’re looking to hire someone, think about who is adding something different to the mix, who is bringing value in a different way. The many people in my group do not think just like I do, or perform just like me. And that’s what makes us a really strong team. We’re different, our ideas are different, and we’re each adding something new to our collective vision.”Matthew Koheler is a freelance journalist and licensed real estate agent based in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in Greater Greater Washington, The Washington Post, The Southwester, and Walking Cinema, among others.

Matthew Koehler | November 29, 2023

Look Again: How to Find Top Talent Among Those Who Didn't Make the First Cut

Delphine Carter checked all the boxes. She had a robust background in product and sales development and thought she found an opportunity that she could be successful in.But like many, Carter’s nonlinear work history caused her resume to be initially rejected. “I applied but I didn’t get an interview. A friend of mine was friends with the hiring manager though, and said that I was a great cultural fit and they ended up hiring me.”Carter called herself a “trash can hire,” a term referring to a candidate whose resume was tossed out in the initial screening but rescued in the end. Now, as the CEO and founder of Boulo Solutions, Carter speaks about her business of helping employers break out of their traditional hiring processes to adopt a more open-minded approach. Carter spoke on the subject during a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Avoid Looking at Titles and EducationTraditional hiring practices look primarily at linear work experience, with employers scanning resumes for key titles, education and company names. However, this method removes candidates with nontraditional resumes who may be prime candidates as well, Carter says.“Ask recruiters to ignore titles, industry and timelines and focus on what’s needed. Put these candidates in front of a panel that represents people from different areas of your organization,” Carter said. “This can help ensure a fair evaluation process and expand the type of questions that the candidate might receive.”At Boulo Solutions, clients are already embracing this change. For each candidate, Boulo Solutions creates a profile of their work experience and skills to present to employers.“We create a 360-degree profile of our candidates with the information that shows off their capabilities in a nonlinear fashion, to eliminate the bias that’s caused by hyper-focusing on titles, timelines and industry,” Carter said. “This helps the candidate stand out because it calls out hard and soft skills that they’ve gained through job and life experiences. Our customers feel like they’ve had a mini interview, and it makes it easier to compare the hard and soft skills of one candidate with another.”Grow Your Referral PipelineDelphine Carter, founder and CEO of Boulo Solutions, led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)82% of employers rated referrals as their top source for yielding the best return on investment, showing referrals from employees can be a reliable source for employers to get top candidates.“Referrals come from people within your organization or a personal network, who are familiar with both the candidate and your company’s culture. As hiring managers, you can elevate this element of trust and credibility to identify candidates who are more likely to align with your company’s values and expectations,” Carter said.For employers, 45% of referral hires stay longer than four years, compared to only 25% of job board hires, and can cost less to hire than other hiring sources. Having a referral pipeline from employees and industry peers can diversify the hiring pool and help employers look at candidates beyond just the ones that come from the job board, Carter says.“Grow a referral pipeline from industry peers or companies with cultures similar to yours,” Carter said. “This method leverages personal and professional connections to find individuals who possess qualities that are essential beyond what’s written on their resumes and can contribute to a more robust and culturally aligned workforce.”Break Out of TraditionAs a former “trash-can hire,” Carter isn’t afraid to go dumpster diving. “The best reason for dumpster diving is that these candidates are in the dumpster because they applied and they found your company and that job interesting,” Carter said.Looking at rejected resumes with a different mindset can help change traditional hiring practices and give top candidates a second chance. When evaluating these resumes, employers should look for the value proposition that the candidate can add to the company.“Some exceptional candidates may not have the most conventional resumes but there’s a chance of uncovering those diamonds in the rough who may not have typical paper qualifications but possess the skills and potential your organization needs,” Carter said. “Look for the diverse perspectives and backgrounds that are missing from your team and find how they could add value.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Boulo Solutions, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Wanly Chen | November 29, 2023

Shifting Mindsets: Innovative Strategies for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Glenn Jackson joined M&T Bank 25 years ago thanks to a development program. He’s been their chief diversity officer for an impressive five years, long before many organizations had an inkling of that role. Over the years, he’s developed an intimate knowledge of the workings of the company. But more than that, he has the trust of everyone, which has been instrumental as he transitioned to his current role in the DEI space. “We move at the speed of trust,” Jackson said. “So that’s been a blessing for sure. You also come up through a space where you understand where the biggest challenges are.” Because the bank started early in this and had the trust factor built in, Jackson said they’ve made great progress. Weaving diversity into a company must be intentional, and even though it’s still a young concept, it’s here to stay. Jackson shared his experiences during a fireside chat at From Day One’s November Virtual: Fresh Approaches to Diversity Recruiting. Lizzy McLellan Ravitch, workplace reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, moderated the chat. On average, diversity specialists have been in their roles for around 18 months, and many are new to the company they are serving, says Jackson. Which means the specialist and the company are still working through how to do what they need to do to incorporate diversity into the fabric of the organization. It’s no wonder that some are finding it challenging to help shift the hearts, minds and culture of companies. Can it really be done? And if changes are made, will they stick? “There’s always a fear that as you start to make progress, the commitments will start to dwindle over time,” he said.Lizzy McLellan Ravitch of the Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed Glenn Jackson of M&T Bank in the virtual fireside chat session (photo by From Day One)Recently, among peers, someone asked, are you worried about people disinvesting in the work? “Probably about half the room raised their hand and said they were concerned.” Unfortunately, some businesses are making staff cuts and often less traditional roles like diversity can be in danger of not showing value. But since Jackson has been in his role for longer than most, he actually feels hopeful. And thankfully so did about a third of the peers who reported they were actually doubling down. “There’s an acceleration toward more challenging issues,” Jackson said. “The organization has built it in a way that is embedded in the DNA of the culture rather than built as a vertical, which, frankly, can’t possibly fundamentally change and shift the culture of an organization.”That’s the key, isn’t it? Not to build diversity as a side gig, but as an integral part of how the company operates. Of course, it’s challenging to change mindsets and shift from traditional ways of doing things. First, you have to pay attention. Second, you have to think outside the box.Jackson offered an example as to how they’re building DEI into the DNA. One of the most encouraging things M&T Bank is doing is partnering with CareerWise to offer an apprenticeship program. “It feels like a game changer for us,” Jackson said. The curriculum is for recent graduates who aren’t going to attend a university, but want a good career in banking. The program meets them where the students are, introduces them to the education they need, and combines it with the job training that will eventually lead to a good-paying job. “What I love about this is that you’re going right to the space that you belong,” Jackson said. The company is showing talent that it cares, and through the program they can build trust. Plus the employees coming in through nontraditional means can then become integral parts of the organization. Instead of relying on traditional methods, they went right to the source. Companies will continue to hire employees in the traditional way, but even those methods should be challenged and interrupted. This can be done, even at big organizations where there are typically many openings to fill. What hiring managers need to do is look at their biases. Most people don’t have ill intent in these roles, but unfortunately it’s natural to hire people who look like you or have experiences like yours, says Jackson.“But oftentimes, if you just rely on that pattern, you’re going to get the same results,” he said. Diversity is gone, and a narrow perspective prevails, which doesn’t help business or customers. Rather than rely on your initial instincts, Jackson says, broaden your perspective. Create interrupters that allow people who have different experiences to show what they can do. If you’re not sure how to go about doing that, Jackson has some advice. “You likely already have people in the ranks right now that did not come through a traditional sense that are high performers in your organization. Go talk to them,” he said. “Then it becomes a value discussion.”Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | November 28, 2023

The Secret to Building Loyalty in the Hourly Workforce

In a deskless economy lies the challenge of employee retention: QSR Magazine revealed that only 54% of quick service employees completed 90 days before quitting in 2022. With high turnover and increasing financial losses, companies want answers and solutions, especially because training and onboarding can cost up to $5,000 per worker. After surveying hourly workers throughout workforce culture shifts, companies confront assumptions about their motivations.The issue is not that people want to stop working for companies. According to Daniel Blaser, head of brand at Workstream, the problem is the opposite. “You don't want to feel like you're working at a dead-end job,” Blaser said. “That's why for a lot of those in the hourly workforce, there has been really high turnover rates.”This key finding was one of the focal points discussed during Workstream’s recent From Day One webinar. Blaser discussed eight key ways to foster loyalty and engagement with hourly workers. Then, he revealed two lesser-known but equally crucial factors contributing to employee retention.  Attract Employees Looking For StabilityA McKinsey & Company study found that 41% of workers reported quitting their previous jobs due to lower career development and advancement opportunities. The study also found that 31% quit because of a lack of meaningful work. Blaser says this is a result of the miscommunication of advancement opportunities.Companies should discuss what opportunities are available as early as the job description. Blaser used the following scenario. “‘This role has the potential to transition into this role within six months.’ Something like that provides a concrete example that this opportunity can lead to other opportunities, and you’re looking for someone long-term and not just to fill a vacancy for a couple of months.”Daniel Blaser of Workstream led the From Day One webinar (company photo)Optimize Onboarding and Orientation ProcessesBlaser offered some onboarding tips, such as making new hire paperwork easy to complete by transitioning to digital to save time and resources and including company culture training during orientation to make workers feel integrated sooner. Lastly, he encourages organizations to assign new hires a mentor to learn from during the first few weeks.Workstream provides a text-based HR management platform to ease the completion of paperwork. This simple and progressive approach to documentation optimizes onboarding. Companies can focus more on developing dynamic and engaging onboarding and training programs.Provide Valuable BenefitsMore valuable benefits keep people coming back to work, offer benefits like paid time off, family care, career development, retirement plans, and health insurance. Companies can also use creativity to create benefits. Blaser advised quick-service restaurants to offer workers two meals for completing 8-hour shifts.Offer More Competitive WagesWorkers leave their positions and seek others with more competitive wages. Workstream has a free hourly wage index to reference. Companies can benchmark pay across industries and see where they compare and contrast.Invest in Career DevelopmentHourly workers are looking for careers, not temporary jobs. To address advancement expectations, Blaser advised the following. “I'd say frequency is more important than scope. It's better to have more opportunities more frequently, then dangle some big, you know, two-year advancement for two straight years, but have nothing else in the middle.”Employee RecognitionAccording to a Nectar survey of 800 full-time employees, 83.6% of employees say recognition affects their motivation to succeed at work. 81.9% agreed it contributes to their engagement with their job. Blaser notes that weekly formal and informal recognition garners better results.Train Your ManagersWith a smaller scope of talent, companies may choose managers based on availability. This process can be detrimental without proper and ongoing leadership training. “People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers,” he cautioned.Be Open to Exchanging FeedbackExchanging feedback makes your company a better place to work and it gives employees a voice and helps them feel valuable and integrated into the company.Other Opportunities for Higher Employee RetentionBlaser revealed two surprising factors most companies overlook. These significantly contribute to higher hourly employee retention, sometimes more than competitive wages.First, flexibility is essential. Hourly workers have shown a preference for flexibility over competitive wages. Employees value reasonable accommodations in emergencies.Second, employees value autonomy. Workers look for trust to make decisions on behalf of their companies when demonstrating their capabilities.Your Company Culture: The Deciding FactorThese eight key ways and lesser-known opportunities build loyalty among hourly workers. By exploring these opportunities, companies can create an engaging company culture that encourages retention.A thriving company culture is a culmination of internal investment, adaptability, and stability. The goal is to create a sustainable, promising, and supportive work environment. Hourly workers are searching for these kinds of jobs, Blaser says.“Being able to have a culture where employees feel valued, they feel connected to their coworkers, and they feel like they are contributing to kind of a greater whole – all those things are really important.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Workstream, for sponsoring this webinar. Stephanie Reed is a freelance news, marketing, and content writer. Much of her work features small business owners throughout diverse industries. She is passionate about promoting small, ethical, and eco-conscious businesses.

Stephanie Reed | November 27, 2023

Whole-Person Management: Listening, Gaining Trust, and Helping Employees Connect

At a past job, Rachelle Carpenter led an HR team whose desks were situated at the back of the office, behind a locked door. The physical barrier did not make for a connected work environment.“One of the first things I did was change that, and they all came out on the floor.” Being in close proximity with the employees helped the HR team to listen, gain trust, and connect, she says.Carpenter was one of four experts speaking on a panel on “Enhancing Employee Well-Being Through Whole-Person Management” at From Day One’s recent Denver conference. Carpenter recalled a time when a boss who listened made a big impact on Carpenter. With her husband deployed in the military and two boys at home, she needed flexibility at a time before remote work was commonplace. “The care my boss showed for me so that I could both be successful in my role and continue growing in my role versus being stagnant, and taking care of my children while their dad was in Afghanistan, was something that meant the world to me,” she said.Now at Apryse, a software company Carpenter has the opportunity to pay that thoughtfulness forward. The company is remote-first, and what she has heard from employees is that they crave connection. So Apryse holds regular in-person events, like picnics, where everyone can meet up and connect. And if workers are in the office and they experience water-cooler moments when ideas come up on the fly, it’s important to document these. “When we see those moments, we capture them, then we share them,” she said. It helps remind people that they can connect with each other and foster a feeling of togetherness. Humanity in BusinessCompanies need to focus on employee wellness from the top down. Judith Alemendra, a group VP at TTEC, a customer-experience technology company, put it this way: “Our purpose as an organization is to deliver humanity to business.” But how to do that, especially in a large company? At TTEC, engagement surveys are offered quarterly, but getting this information in real time is crucial. Employees can also give feedback anytime. “You don’t have to wait for a survey to be connected to your people. You can have focus groups, conversations, one on ones,” Almendra said. “All of those are forums in which you can continue to gather information,” she said. This is where leadership learns what is most important to their people, because it’s going to be different from organization to organization. Gathering the info is only part of the equation. It’s the part that comes after that is crucial to enhancing employee well-being. “The action-planning after the survey is probably the most important component,” Alemendra added.Previously at TTEC in the U.S., many employees were single moms, so childcare was important, and as an organization they focused on that. After the pandemic, however, Alemendra said employee needs have changed somewhat. Employees who are returning to work at the office are worried about their pets at home. As part of its benefits offerings, the company launched a new app which provides a discounted service for someone to check on your pet. It’s all part of keeping up with what employees want and need to help them feel safe and productive at work.“A lot of our programs and benefits, we look at them every year make changes based on the feedback that we get from our employees,” Alemendra said.Gaining and Keeping TrustWhile managers need to respond to individual workers needs, it’s also important that employees can voice their sentiments anonymously. Said Jessica Hitt, a VP in HR at TIAA, “We spend a lot of time making sure people understand the anonymity of our employee engagement surveys. We do a lot to protect that.”Because gaining the trust of employees can be difficult, companies must take care not to undermine it by failing to follow through. “If you have the opportunity to do something, and you didn't do it, why would I ask you to solve this next thing?” The speakers, from left: Rachelle Carpenter of Apryse, Jessica Hitt of TIAA, Judith Almendra of TTEC, moderator Noelle Phillilps of the Denver Post, and Mel Faxon of Mirza (Photos by From Day One)Another thing for company leaders to keep in mind is explaining benefits to their employees so they are aware of what the organization already has to offer them. At TIAA, Hitt explained that their Business Resource Groups connect employee identities and affinities with relevant benefits and program. “Right now, this is our Disabilities Heritage month. So we're doing all sorts of events talking about Alzheimer’s, or preparing your family for retirement, or an aging workforce,” Hitt said. “Right there, we could slip in information about our benefits, or we could talk to you about retiring with dignity aligned to our whole philosophy. We try to be creative, but consistent. It’s all about the consistency of messaging and taking advantage of every avenue.”The Bottom LineSome companies may say that giving extra benefits to employees sounds good, but how is it sustainable? Mel Faxon, the chief operating officer and co-founder of Mirza, a family-care solutions provider, broke down the numbers. In a 1,000-person organization, parents, on average, miss about nine days of work per year due to childcare-related needs. At $20 an hour, that equals about $432,000 in just lost productivity from parents missing days of work. “If you take that same spend, and invest it in stipends,” Faxon said, “you can offset costs for each of those parents about $1,500 for the year. Plus, you can then take advantage of federal tax credits that are about $150,000 a year (23 states offer incentives).” So the company is spending less than half the loss incurred by parents missing work, which doesn’t even take into consideration employee retention and other positive impact.At Mirza, the company offers its employees eight care days a year, which says volumes to workers, Faxon said. “It’s giving people the reassurance that when life happens, that is the priority.”Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.  

Carrie Snider | November 27, 2023

The New 401(k)? Providing Student Loan Support as an Employee Benefit

Decades ago, a clever benefits consultant spotted a provision in the federal tax code, section 401(k), that would allow employers to create a tax-friendly way for their workers to save for retirement. The rest is history. As of this year, Americans have more than $7 trillion invested in their 401(k) accounts.Today, employees are having a different kind of problem: debt. More specifically, student loan debt. They need help digging out so they can then turn to saving. Thankfully, there’s a way for employers to help. Mick MacLaverty, CEO and co-founder of Highway Benefits, discussed the topic “Providing Student Loan Support as an Employee Benefit” during a recent From Day One webinar.The Student Loan ProblemThe sad numbers: the U.S. is approaching $1.8 trillion in student loan debt. This equates to about 46 million Americans, who average have about $40,000 in loans and around $400-500 a month to pay. For employers, that means about one third of their workforce is struggling financially.This massive problem has become more severe recently. During the pandemic, loan repayment and interest was paused, but resumed on Oct. 1. That means many recent college grads are scrambling to figure out how they’re going to make payments.“It’s more or less a dam that's been built up of this pent-up student loan problem that we now have to address,” MacLaverty said. “This is a massive problem.”The government offered a way for employers to help. In March, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, they expanded Section 127. This allows employers to pay up to $5,250 per year of an employee’s student loan, tax free. The program is voluntary, but companies are seeing the benefits.Focusing on TalentAt Highway Benefits, which helps companies offer this benefits program, MacLaverty said most of their clients want to offer student loan repayment benefits for two reasons: attracting talent or retaining talent.“On the attraction side, only 9 percent of companies currently offer student loan repayment as a benefit,” MacLaverty said. For potential employees comparing different benefits, this is a great way to stand out.“On the retention side, no two companies are alike in how they should or would want to roll out this program,” he said. Companies can choose to offer the max amount available, but may offer less to start, with more given to employees who stay.“So, if you’ve been at the company for one year, you might get $100 a month, but if you've been there for three years, you get the maximum benefit. Employers are creating an environment that encourages employees to stay and provide a financial incentive to do that in a tax-free way.”Highway Benefits is a hub for companies to get started quickly and easily, especially to ensure they comply with the laws. Highway Benefits can help companies find out who on staff is eligible, then help the company figure out the best dollar amount that makes sense for them, and ultimately make the student loan payments on their behalf.Journalist Kelly Bourdet moderated the discussion with Mick MacLaverty of Highway Benefits (photo by From Day One)Why not just offer a higher salary or a $5,000 annual bonus to help employees? One big reason is that the student loan repayment benefit dollars are tax-free. That benefits the employee, but it also reduces the taxable income of the business.“This is arguably the most effective compensation dollar you can give someone if they have student loans,” he said. “Every dollar contributed goes right into their loan account.”Value-Added BenefitsBut there is another piece to this, MacLaverty added. A company that offers this benefit to employees is showing a degree of care and humanity that employees look for and appreciate more than ever.“You are telling them, and showing them, ‘I care about your financial well-being.’” It’s not just throwing cash at them to do what they want with it, but putting in the extra effort to help solve a problem for them. “So every month, in addition to whatever your payment is, you’ll get a little bit extra, and we'll get you out of debt faster. Wow, what a story that tells prospective or current employees.”For the employees who don’t have student loans, MacLaverty said they appreciate working for a company that offers it. Not every benefits package is a one-size-fits-all. Not everyone takes advantage of the benefit but for those it does help, it makes for a better employee and a better work environment.Only 2% of companies offered this type of benefit in 2017, 4%  in 2018, and 8% in 2019. Then student loan payments were paused, but now that people are back to paying them again, MacLaverty anticipates an uptick in companies that offer this benefit.The extended Section 127 is slated to expire at the end of 2025, however, the original Section 127 was started 30+ years ago as a short-term program but kept getting extended. MacLaverty believes the same will happen with the student loan repayment benefit, and hopefully the max benefit dollar amount will increase.Highway Benefits is seeing about 40% of company clients offer $100 a month per employee, about 50% introduce tenure rules, and about ⅔ offer a multi-tier rule system. Those who are eligible for the benefit and are taking advantage of it? Ninety percent. Clearly, people want this.MacLaverty said they’ve gotten emails from employees who are ecstatic about the help they’ve received in paying their student loans.Employees are even emailing their total rewards and HR teams with testimonials like, “‘I’m out of debt. I now don't have this burden hanging over my head and I can live freely.’’Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Highway Benefits, for sponsoring this webinar.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter. 

Carrie Snider | November 27, 2023

Thriving Within: How Companies Are Fostering Internal Mobility for Success

Why do most employees choose to leave their companies? A Gallup survey of job seekers looking to leave their current role discovered that the number one reason was lack of engagement with their organization, cites Scott David, CEO and founder of The Authentic Executive. Respondents explained they were looking for professional development, career advancement opportunities, and more interesting work to keep them engaged. The good news is that this is a salvageable situation for employers willing to focus on their employee engagement and internal mobility strategies.To retain valued workers and attract top talent, more companies are focusing on providing both upskilling and reskilling opportunities to their workers to help prepare them to move into new roles across the organization. During a panel discussion at From Day One’s Denver conference, experts discussed the benefits of improving internal mobility. In the discussion titled “Creating Opportunity Within: How Employers Are Boosting Internal Mobility,” the panelists discussed topics around how employers can coordinate these efforts by their executive teams and leaders in HR and talent acquisition, and why better internal mobility can align with efforts toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion.Helping a Company’s Bottom LineDavid notes that studies from Gallup, SHRM, and Deloitte have found that internal mobility correlates with a 21% increase in engagement, a 23% increase in productivity, and a 40% reduction in turnover. “So when you figure it takes one-and-a-half to two times somebody's salary to replace them, those numbers add up pretty quickly,” David said.Upskilling is one of the key ways to increase retention. When employees have an opportunity for professional growth, even if it’s just skills-based rather than a title, it can increase their desire to stay. Panelist Kassey Kampman, VP of people operations at SSA Group, is a perfect example, having started as a cashier at the company then growing in her responsibilities over 15 years. Kampman shares that the company looked to its employees to guide it on what training to provide. “We took the bottom-up approach, which is very organic, leaning into our daily operations and observing skill gaps, observing our operators in the field, letting our people tell us what skills they’re interested in and what they are seeking,” Kampman said. From there, they were able to build out a standardized upskilling model.Rebecca Warren, director of customer success at Eightfold, agrees that an organic approach is most effective. “When we back it up a little bit and say, ‘what skills are actually needed for this position?’ and we start putting a focus on the person as opposed to focus on the job, those skills become really apparent,” Warren said.David Mafe, chief diversity officer & VP of HR at Denver Metro Region, UCHealth, emphasizes the need for removing hard and fast requirements, such as certain academic certifications, from job descriptions in order to let the right people grow naturally in a role. “I think that’s really the future of upskilling,” Mafe said. “It's about removing the barriers so people are able to move once they develop skills. What we'll find is that there are people who are qualified who are hiding in plain sight.”Upskilling as a DEI strategyRemoving these barriers for advancement and instituting an internal upskilling program can complement an organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, helping to ensure that employees from marginalized groups have access to all the tools they need to succeed. Mafe’s team noticed a high turnover of entry-level employees who were struggling with a need for better tuition assistance. Many of them were Black or Hispanic, often first-generation immigrants. UCHealth began offering in-house short-term skills training programs to try to offset the need for these employees to pay for education elsewhere. Getting an in-house certification in just a few months allows workers to progress to positions within the company where they can make more money.“You can start as a front desk person earning X amount, and then [transition to a role] where there's an immediate $3, $4, sometimes $5 difference that you're able to gain access to within about seven months, which is really powerful and makes a tremendous difference in the lives of the people that are working for us,” Mafe said. “We had this expectation that it was going to improve engagement, retention, and DEI and we saw all of those things right away.”In a conversation moderated by Elizabeth Hernandez, reporter at The Denver Post, the panelists discussed the topic “Creating Opportunity Within: How Employers Are Boosting Internal Mobility.” Melissa Uribes, VP of talent, diversity, equity and inclusion at Trimble, says her organization began working with workforce partners to provide accelerated boot-camp style training to employees that have demonstrated the right competencies for success in an effort to bring in more diverse leaders to a traditionally white male skewing team of engineering professionals. The partner even screens training candidates for Trimble and develops the 20-week curriculum. “Of the 20 employees who came through that cohort, Trimble ended up hiring about seven of them and they are really thriving in terms of their contribution to the company,” Uribes said.  “And we have dramatically changed their economic mobility because they've now had access to a career field that they did not have access to before.”Employers are also recognizing that networking and mentorship are just as integral as education when it comes to retention – and that too can affect DEI statistics. Kampman says SSA Group built a mentorship program in 2015, when at the time it had only 23% female representation in its general management positions. “We had an ‘Empower Her’ ERG that was fostered toward empowering women in leadership. In leaning on the mentorship program, we were able to shift that representation to 52% in 2023,” Kampman said. The company has expanded the mentorship program to also include hard skills training as well as leadership exposure for its hourly workforce, 75% of which comes from marginalized groups.Shifting the Mindset Toward Internal MobilityOne of the biggest challenges to ensuring internal mobility can be a mindset shift for leaders who may not have prioritized it in the past. Part of this comes from recognizing past patterns, such as talent hoarding among departments and from there, developing benchmarks to reinforce accountability, Uribes says.This keeps efforts from being performative, what moderator Elizabeth Hernandez, reporter at The Denver Post, called a “one-off brown bag lunch” meeting so that the leadership team can say that they tried. “Every organization in the company has goals around career mobility and career growth, and we do monitor,” Uribes said. “Very quickly, we were able to ensure that almost 25% of our requisitions are filled with internal talent.”That mindset shift can also mean seeing internal mobility as not just tied to roles, but also to responsibilities and projects, Warren says, which are all “different ways to get people invested” and can keep the work fresh and exciting for employees. Managers are encouraged to develop gigs that can help employees build skills and try out new projects, while simultaneously ticking the boxes of major tasks needed to move the company forward.Leaders should set the standard for workplace pride, Mafe says, by having a system in place to celebrate employees who take on new roles or complete training programs. And it’s also about developing a bit of tolerance for risk, “to be willing to take the risk of investing in a B player, or letting an A player go in order to continue to further their career,” David said, and focus on developing talent with the hope that it will engender company loyalty.Ultimately, employee mobility and engagement should be the natural result of an overall focus on human resources development. “The right managers shouldn't be project managers, they should be people developers and enablers allowing folks to do what they do best,” Warren said. Uribes emphasizes the need to look at career development holistically rather than in terms of lines on a resume. “We believe in the lattice,” Uribes said. “Career growth isn’t always upward mobility.” Too often, David cautions, senior leadership is focused on the numbers, the achievements, and the deadlines. That shortsightedness can cause employees to get frustrated and leave. “Your primary job is to develop people,’ David said. “If you do that, the numbers will take care of themselves.”Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | November 27, 2023

What Really Matters in the Employee Value Proposition

Discover Financial Services explores the human needs of its 11,000 agents to ensure the workforce is engaged. One way to do so is through the use of data, says Traci Wicks, senior vice president of talent and human resources strategy at Discover Financial Services.Wicks was interviewed by Lydia Dishman of Fast Company in a fireside chat during a From Day One virtual conference.Wicks’ purview over employee retention tracks talent, mobility, talent management processes, talent acquisition, and employee engagement. Wicks calls hers an employee-centric approach, or data with a dialogue. “We’re breathing life into the number by walking the floor and talking with people to really understand what their core purpose is, which may be beyond work.”Meaningful WorkBut how can data be communicated, made accessible, and even exciting? “To make the data powerful, you have to ask, ‘What’s your purpose? What’s driving you and your craft? What’s inspiring?’” said Wicks. For example, when Discover posed such questions to its engineers, they revealed their interest in tech academies that exist at Discover internally and externally.“If you want leaders to drive your technology transformation within the organization, you have them teach to make those connections outside of their work. Discovery is going through three core transformations right now and one is our tech.”Compensation is no longer the main driver for employees, says Dishman. Instead, employers seek what excites them about going to work in the morning.“Yes, you can see the social contract between employee and employer has really changed. The workforce is really looking for additional ways to find their purpose, volunteerism is an example of that,” said Wicks in agreement.Core Pillars for RetentionDiscover has created three core pillars to ensure retention. Employees may engage with one of them or all three.First, is a focus on meaningful work from day one. The organization encourages volunteering and making a social impact. Next is growth. At Discover, Wicks is focusing on finding the opportunities for mobility and also ensuring they differentiate themselves from competitors in this regard. Lastly,  Discover wants the employee to feel at home in the company to create mental health and well-being. Thus, the third pillar focuses on belonging.The financial services company measures these pillars every six months. Leaders regularly talk with employees about what their purpose is and how the company can help them within those pillars.Discover uses an outside vendor to survey employees. The results help the company see “where we can win and also markets where we’re not going to win. We’re not going to change those pillars; it’s who we are," Wicks said.Lydia Dishman of Fast Company interviewed Traci Wicks in the grand finale fireside chat (photo by From Day One)Discover also conducts listening tours so that its agents can find areas of improvement for leaders. The listening tours survey live tapes of agents speaking with customers, whether about credit, fraud, or collection.Connecting VirtuallySince the onset of Covid, Discover has been working to build connections and other initiatives in virtual workspaces.“The result is that learning and development have taken on new accessibility because people have changed the way they deliver training and development,” said Wicks.The company employs about 11,000 hourly salary agents across the United States. It offers community centers to teach jobs skills and academies to teach entrance to the technology world.Training at Discover includes its tech academy, its advanced analytics research center and a tuition reimbursement program. The company offers advanced education tuition because it “wants to pay our folks to get their bachelor's degrees,” Wicks said.It has created guilds around various crafts and skills for training and communication. “We invest in our workforce with continuous improvement and growth opportunities. We make time for people’s professional development and personal development, including volunteerism and community outreach,” said Wicks.Francine Brevetti is a business writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach in San Francisco, CA.

Francine Brevetti | November 24, 2023

Leading the Human Side of Rapid Digital Transformation

Jeannine Tait walked into a “turbulent” industry in educational publishing in 2022 when she took over the role of chief HR and communications officer at McGraw Hill. Higher ed, and education in general, was experiencing more upheaval than it had in years, and arguably still is. On top of that, the pandemic was persisting and at least in the U.S., many were still fighting about how to reopen the economy, and when. But that uncertainty and chaos wasn’t the case at McGraw Hill, Tait says.“For me walking in, the one thing that I noticed right away was the culture for McGraw Hill. Employees were just starting to come back.. But during that time, the pandemic had really accelerated our digital transformation. So as part of that, our employees rallied, they came together to really help teachers in a time of need,” said Tait.During From Day One’s conference in Philadelphia last month, Tait spoke about digital transformations in HR at McGraw Hill in a fireside chat moderated by Ariella Cohen, assistant managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer.Coming into the organization as a new leader, Tait says her job was to look at the state of HR and enable digital transformation. “Taking that assessment, How do we transform HR to meet the stage where we were in business transformation with digital transformation? And then keep up with it?”Returning to the idea of what digital transformation means in the world of HR, Tait pointed out that McGraw Hill used to be known for their print materials–the “textbooks” company, as Cohen phrased it–but the world of publishing has changed, and McGraw Hill with it. “So how do we stay closely connected, whether it’s talking to a K-12 teacher or talking to professors and colleges about how they are doing their job? What tools will make their jobs easier–where they can really focus on the learning of the student? And each student’s needs are very different, so how do we make sure our products are keeping up with that?”Jeannine Tait, chief HR and communications officer at McGraw Hill, speaking at From Day One’s Philadelphia conference (Photos by From Day One)The role of HR in a changing world is to facilitate a business model that can evolve. McGraw Hill looks at the skills needed in the company, as well as worker profiles to fill that skillset. The other aspect to staying dynamic, Tait says, is making sure the company is there to support their employees and the company’s journey.“I feel like in my imagination,” Cohen said, “HR was more of a back-office kind of function, more transactional. And what you’re talking about is really being in the executive suite, really talking about business strategy.”Responded Tait: “In our case, it shows up as changing to a high impact HR operating model. So you think about a sports team, right? Everybody on the team has a position to play, vs. trying to play every position.” Every discipline gets broken down for sharper focus, she said. The company has a Center of Excellence that focuses in several key areas: talent management, DEI strategies, culture, compensation, benefits, HR, technology, and analytics. That team explores and brings information back to the company so they can act on it. “And making sure that we’re operationally excellent in the ways that we do things so that we can be scalable over time,” she added.Looking at that dynamic shift in fine detail, Tait goes back to the pandemic and says McGraw Hill had to look at how managers were connecting with their employees, or not connecting. They had to ask themselves how they could give leaders the tools and guidance they needed to better connect with their employees and help give structure in a way that performance goals and expectations were clearly understood. In the remote and hybrid world going forward, they’re focused on how they strengthen those connections. Asked Cohen: “When you’re kind of refining the model for performance management, is there one golden rule that you have really ascribed to?”“One of the things I say is there should be no surprises, right?” Tait said. She elaborated that the role employees play, performance expectations, and whether they’re veering off the mark, should all be information a workforce can readily access, not something that comes up in a performance review at the end of the year. She boils this down to a coaching, mentoring relationship between workers and managers, not simply a transactional one. “I’m giving feedback to my boss on how things are going. It’s this symbiotic relationship, where it’s constantly focused, not just on the performance, but also [on] authentic relationships,” Tait said. “Do you have a relationship? Do you understand your employees? What motivates them?”Zeroing in on a few products that really embody the shift towards digital transformation, Tait touched on Sharpen and McGraw Hill’s customer-success team. Launched in 2022, Sharpen is a college-study app students can pull up on their phone. It allows them to go through curated content and take quizzes; it’ interactive and akin to social media. “It’s what we’ve heard from the students who helped inform the product bill. They said it’s like their textbook and TikTok had a baby,” Tait said. It’s basically education in small, bite-sized pieces that can be tapped anywhere, any time, she said.The other element that exemplifies their digital transformation is their customer-success team, which is “responsible for making sure they’re meeting with instructors and students to make sure the products are sound. And customer centric–It all comes back to the customer and the needs of the customer to make things easier for them,” Tait said.Ariella Cohen, assistant managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer How does McGraw Hill disseminate that consumer-centric focus to their teams so that it informs the hiring process? Tait says that from the top of the organization to the bottom, their mission is clear: to help the teachers and students they serve. Furthermore, there’s transparency with their senior leadership. “And then it comes down to the leader, ultimately. Every manager is responsible for making sure we get back to performance management: What do I need to do to make sure that I’m making that connection right back to the customer?” Tait said.To sum up not just her role in HR, but HR in general, Tait described the universality of what HR does, bringing strategy into business, and relationships to customers. “HR has the unique ability to jump industry. You can go across and transverse a lot of different industries. And coming to the business to really understand what is it we do. How do we do it? How do we need to do it better?” Being in a leadership role, Tait says, puts her in a unique position at the table with senior leadership to discuss the direction of the company and how HR can support those goals. Lastly, it’s about relationships, she said. “Our customers in HR, our employees, the business, the business leadership, our owners, the executive team, of course. And so we pretty much have everybody as our customer. And so it’s important that the business coupled with what we deliver for HR is highly connected.”Matt Koehler is a freelance journalist and licensed real-estate agent based in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in Greater Washington, the Washington Post, the Southwester, and Walking Cinema, among others. (Featured photo by AzmanL/iStock by Getty Images)

Matthew Koehler | November 22, 2023

How to Make Financial Well-Being Benefits Inclusive for All

The silver lining of the 2008 financial crisis, according to Steve Ulian, the managing director of client and product solutions at asset management company Apollo, is that employers began offering financial well-being benefits in earnest.“I view that as the inflection point, when more holistic financial wellness became a necessary benefit,” he said. Baby Boomers were, for the first time, clocking in at retirement age just as the financial crisis eroded their savings. “Employees started to cry out for help, and who did they want to help them? Their employers.”Employer-facilitated retirement plans became the norm, at least for full-time workers in white collar jobs, but the types of benefits and guidance that make day-to-day finances, mid-and long-term planning, debt repayment, home buying, investing, and goal setting possible were available mostly to those with wealth. That is, major assets, both liquid and fixed, numbering in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. Wealth management, even wealth building, was for the already wealthy.“There have not been many options for people who need help with everyday questions and everyday money decisions. The whole industry was designed to help people who have a lot of money, and to create really big, long-term strategies,” said Rebecca Liebman, CEO and co-founder of workforce financial wellbeing platform LearnLux. Now, financial planning is for everyone. “It’s for people who want to have a plan for everything from cash flow and budgeting to retirement, drawdown, and estate planning.”Liebman and Ulian were joined by Hannah Johnstone, a financial wellbeing consultant at Gallagher, for a recent From Day One webinar titled “Making Financial Well-Being Inclusive for Your Entire Workforce,” which I moderated. They busted myths about financial planning, celebrated the inclusive power of open access, and offered advice on rolling out new tools.New Employee Expectations for Financial BenefitsIn 2023, employees expect options for managing their financial health–even those who haven’t had access in the past. “It’s no longer sufficient to provide only a retirement plant,” said Johnstone. “Expectations have ticked up. Just as we’ve grown and expanded programs beyond the retirement plan, financial wellness has grown beyond group education and a webinar once in a while. It’s becoming a more personal expectation.”The panelists spoke during From Day One's webinar about “Making Financial Well-Being Inclusive for Your Entire Workforce” (photo by From Day One)In wealth management, talk is often about retirement savings and spending, but that’s not the only financial guidance people need, and Johnstone lamented the narrow attitude toward financial wellness. Everyone needs command of their day-to-day and month-to-month finances, enough to absorb a financial emergency, emergency savings, and the ability to meet future financial goals. Everyone deserves to feel confident making quick, need-it-now decisions too–sometimes people need to know how much car they can afford to buy when the old one conks out. People also need the freedom to make choices that allow them to enjoy their life. “I think we forget to talk about that part,” said Johnstone.There are other myths about financial planning; perhaps the biggest is that people who make a lot of money are good at managing it. “Just because someone makes a lot of money doesn’t mean they know what decision to make,” Liebman remarked. “It’s a common myth that if you make a certain amount of money, you’re good to go.” She’s right: Even high earners struggle with the small things. Sixty-five percent of people in the US are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a fall 2022 report from LendingClub, and almost half of people earning $100,000 or more live that way. Those with large incomes especially may be embarrassed to ask for help. “No matter how much money you’re taking home, people have questions and financial decisions that are very emotional,” said Liebman.Financial Wellness as a DEI StrategyExpanding financial benefits to all is a matter of inclusion–one often left out of DEI strategy. Planning benefits are no longer limited to the C-suite. Programs now can serve an entire workforce: hourly employees, middle managers, entry-level workers, VPs, and executives, in every location and across all industries.Liebman encouraged global parity when rolling out financial benefits, “making sure that every aspect of the program has parity in each country, so if you offer financial planners in the US, offer financial planners in every single country where you have employees. If there’s a digital platform, the digital platform should be localized for every country where you have employees.”To reach everyone, Johnstone recommends making personas of workers across the organization. She often starts there when working with clients. Who is in your workforce? What are their needs? Are they eligible for all your financial benefits?Generally, people want to talk to other people about financial matters, says Ulian. Tech is good, it’s useful, and it has its place, but it’s hard to beat face-to-face questions. He worries that many employers choose a tech tool to tick the financial benefits box, when what they need is diverse fiduciary advisors and household access to help. “Some people want to talk with their family members, because culturally, talking about anything important comes with talking with your family member. Some people really want to talk to somebody who looks like them because there’s a comfort level there.”The group noted that without financial education and help with applications, benefits may go unused. Employees need to know how to use the suite of tools and products available. “As an employer, you’re spending so much time and effort to pick amazing benefits. Let’s make sure people are utilizing them the right way and understand them and are getting the value,” Liebman said.In the benefits blitz of the last few years, employers have been adding new perks, new programs, new rewards to attract and retain workers, and many people have benefitted, but frontline workers and folks who work the machine floor, those who earn an hourly wage—they were often left out. Financial wellness affects mental wellness, panelists said, and workers who have peace of mind about their money are more prepared to be present at work. Everyone who earns an income benefits from sound advice and planning, so why isn’t it available to all?Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, LearnLux, for sponsoring this webinar.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz at Work, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | November 20, 2023

What Employees Expect When They Bring Their Full Identities to Work

Bringing one’s personal identity into the workplace doesn’t just refer to the more “traditional” demographics associated with DEI, like racial identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. It also includes disability, age, chronic illness, neurodiversity, and even mental health. Today, progressive organizations are working hard to recognize that all individuals are unique, carrying with them sometimes invisible identities that may impact how they view and move throughout the world–and the workplace.Especially in recent post-pandemic years, workers have demanded greater respect for the many facets of their lives: family, ethnicity, politics, outside interests, and much more. Whether it’s creating a wellness program for those navigating a chronic illness, or understanding how questions about transportation during a job interview could unintentionally disqualify a disabled candidate, employers need to be thinking about how to build an inclusive environment that encourages all individuals to be their full selves.Speaking to this subject at From Day One’s recent Denver conference, was Dr. Sabrina Volpone, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Volpone is a well-published scholar who focuses on the orientation of workers toward their roles. During the fireside chat session she discussed why the clock can’t be turned back on workplace inclusion.The Merging of Personal and ProfessionalIt's becoming the norm for “your personal life and your work life to collide,” Volpone said. Especially during Covid when many workers were quickly forced onto Zoom, their home lives began literally appearing on the screen as children, pets, and spouses wandered into the background and interrupted conversations. The separation of one’s professional and personal life was no longer an option. “If I had chosen not to share that, or it was important to me to segment those two lives, all of a sudden that wasn’t really an option anymore,” Volpone said. “Especially those first few weeks where we didn’t know how to blur the background and all those fun privacy features that we’re experts on now.”While this was a struggle at first, ultimately, Volpone says, it allowed for a humanization of the workforce. “We’re realizing more and more that our colleagues are humans with lives,” Volpone said. The shared experience of pandemic-era struggles combined with the physical merging of work and home life helped break down barriers, allowing colleagues’ humanity to shine through.Diverse Leadership as a Pathway to Inclusive WorkplacesIn 2023, workplaces continue to diversify as DEI initiatives remain a top priority. Volpone notes that leaders with underrepresented identities are more likely to institute policies that are inclusive of people with lived experiences similar to their own, leading to an overall more welcoming, accommodating, and inclusive workplace. “As people with traditionally marginalized identities get into positions where they have power and can control policies and procedures, we see that the lived experience that hasn’t traditionally been a part of those policies and procedures has an impact,” Volpone said.For example, with more women in positions of power, maternity leave policies are expanding, as are bereavement policies that account for pregnancy loss among other types of grief. “That sphere of life is being brought into the workplace more and more because those individuals have a seat at the table where their voice can be heard more easily,” Volpone said.Remote Work and InclusionJust as the pandemic impacted how we see one another in the workplace, it also sparked an increase in remote or hybrid working environments which, for many companies, are here to stay. Pre-pandemic, remote work was a benefit that proved elusive for many, meaning that certain employees with disabilities or those in caregiving roles, would find themselves at a disadvantage when it came to access and opportunity for advancement. Now that remote work is commonplace,and even the norm, those workers have expanded opportunities, Volpone says. Freed from the limitations of scheduling and physical workplace accessibility, those with disabilities or additional caregiving responsibilities can strike a more effective work/life balance that allows them to excel in the workforce.Dr. Sabrina Volpone, right, was interviewed by Saja Hindi of the Denver Post in the grand finale session of From Day One's Denver event.Ironically, while there has been a recent increase in bringing one’s own personal identity to the workplace, there has also been a reduction in identity-based discrimination in the remote-working world. Volpone and her team are seeing a reduction in employees reporting on workplace microaggressions now that so many more workers are not in an office full-time. “You’re not having those watercooler conversations or those side conversations in the break room where jokes are made,” Volpone said. “There’s not a space for that in a Zoom environment.” The remote workplace, while more inclusive, also manages to be more professional.Volpone urges employers who are still pushing for a full return to office policy to reconsider. “By rolling back those flexible work policies we’re really damaging the flexibility, accessibility, and the positive day-to-day experiences for a number of marginalized groups. This could really make a difference, keeping things flexible,” Volpone said.Organizations Taking a StandIn recent years, especially since the social reckonings of 2020, “Employers have faced a lot of public pressure to either take stances on certain issues or they have taken stances and have faced backlash,” said moderator Saja Hindi, reporter at The Denver Post. Regardless of the risks involved with making a political or social justice statement, organizations must recognize that their employees and even customers now expect them to speak out on injustices and share their values openly.“All of a sudden, these values of organizations became very relevant to stakeholders for a number of reasons. Where do I want to work? Where do I want to put my money?” Volpone said. “2020 certainly wasn't the first time we saw organizations making statements. But I think they really sat differently because we were at home and they were hitting our emails. It wasn’t just a team leader saying this or that, or a CEO saying something on the news. These hit in very personal ways.”While these statements can have a positive impact, there are also consequences, says Volpone. It’s important for companies to seek out resources and training on how to talk about important issues and go into their statement creation armed with knowledge and research. But generally, Volpone said, “Making a statement is better than not making a statement.” And once you make a statement, stick with it. Backtracking in the face of backlash only causes a loss of trust among employees and consumers. “Knowing who you are as a company, and being able to stay firm with that is the most important thing,” Volpone said. “As HR practitioners, this is a new management competency that is going to be expected.”Volpone encourages employers and managers looking to build a more inclusive working environment to stay informed about marginalized identities so that they can be better prepared to support their teams. By understanding which accommodations are necessary and what language should be used when discussing certain identities, leaders can reduce stigma and build an environment where employees feel free, comfortable, and supported.Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | November 17, 2023