When Belonging is Broken: How an Intervention Can Strengthen Your Organization’s Culture

BY Mary Pieper | September 05, 2023

In 2020 companies spent $8 billion on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Research shows that over the past year, however, 64% of those in the workforce have witnessed or experienced microaggression or bias. 

Why does this keep happening? How can employers foster a culture where everyone feels valued?

In a From Day One webinar, “When Belonging is Broke: How an Intervention Can Strengthen Your Organization's Culture,” experts from Talking Talent addressed those questions. Talking Talent helps large, global organizations build inclusive, fair and opportunity-filled work environments.

Through DEI initiatives, “We know that we can decrease stress, illness, depression, and isolation,” Teresa Hopke, CEO of Talking Talent, Americas, told moderator Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza. Hopke said this is important because there’s currently an epidemic of loneliness in the United States, with 40% of people feeling isolated at work. 

Part of the reason DEI initiatives are not showing results yet is because culture change can take five years or more, according to Hopke. However, she said employers are trying for “quick wins” through activities such as book clubs that can be a positive thing in the workplace but don't necessarily have a long-term impact.

“They aren't moving the dial in the way that we need them, because to do the real work, is really hard,” Hopke said. 

Support for Chief Diversity Officers

Another problem is that many companies hired chief diversity officers or DEI directors but didn’t give them the resources they needed, according to Renu Sachdeva, Talking Talent’s head of client solutions for North America.

“When I say resources, I don't just mean money or staff,” she said. “I also mean actual support.”

According to Sachdeva, CDOs are frequently members of an underrepresented population, which sadly means they may feel isolated. “Just because the letter C in their title doesn't mean that they’re not experiencing their share of feeling dismissed, feeling unseen, feeling unheard being the only person who looks like them in the room full of people,” she said.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, journalist, moderated the session with speakers Teresa Hopke and Renu Sachdeva of Talking Talent (photo by From Day One)

Another issue is companies sometimes assign someone to be a CDO simply because they are a person of color, even if they don’t have experience in changing systems, according to Hopke. “We’ve set them up to fail,” she said. “We have made the job really difficult for them. It’s no wonder they are feeling burnt out.”

For DEI initiatives to succeed, everyone in the C suite must not only “have the chief diversity officer’s back, but also be just as ardent advocates for the mission and vision of what the CDO is trying to do," Sachdeva said. This level of support from the executive team filters down through the organization's ranks.

DEI in a Post-pandemic World

Several recent studies show that those from marginalized groups who were able to work remotely during the pandemic were reluctant to return to the office because issues like microaggressions made it challenging for them to do their jobs in that setting. 

“The reason that people are feeling anxious is because the same things they experienced before the pandemic are likely to exist after the pandemic because progress hasn't been made in a meaningful way,” Hopke said. 

However, this issue could be a way for organizations to finally make the meaningful changes needed to create a culture of belonging, according to Hopke.

“A big piece of that is equipping and enabling leaders to be able to support people coming back in and making sure that leaders have the talking points and skill sets and capabilities to have conversations to ask people a simple question: ‘How do you feel about coming back?’” she said. 

The next step is to address the concerns employees from underrepresented groups have about returning to the office. For example, they might be the only person of color on their team and feel pressure to educate everyone else on DEI. “I feel like they are exhausted by having to play that role,” Hopke said. 

Another issue workers from marginalized groups struggle with is what they see as a need to “code-switch” in the workplace, which means changing their behavior, language, dress, and hairstyle to fit in. “We have to set up cultures that enable people to be authentic,” Hopke said. 

Some employers are allowing workers to continue working from home at least part of the time. Employees making that choice include people of color and those with disabilities who saw a whole new world open to them during the pandemic. “The limitations that could exist in an office, they don’t have at home,” Sachdeva said. 

However, those workers may find they are being left behind, according to Hopke. “We have to make sure the systems we have in place to measure and reward performance aren’t having gaps in promotion and pay because we’re only paying attention to the people who are in the office, and we’re not paying attention some of the people who may still be working from home some of the time, or maybe experiencing issues when they come back to the office that aren’t helping accelerate their career,” she said.

Finally, employers must encourage allyship, according to Hopke. “Everybody should be caring for each other and making sure we’re all OK right now,” she said. 

Overcoming Resistance to DEI

Creating a culture of belonging requires everyone in the workplace to be committed to the goal. Unfortunately, some people are difficult to persuade. 

“Usually, people ascend the ranks based on their technical skills, and that’s what they continue to build,” Sachdeva said. “But the human skills aren't necessarily always developed in the same intentional way in organizations.”

Empathy is “one of those key human skills, to just understand where people are,” Sachdeva said. 

People often ask Sachdeva if empathy is an innate trait that someone is born with or not or if it can be taught. She said she believes individuals can learn how to be more empathetic, which helps them “be able to put ourselves in each other's shoes, and maybe get past some of those blocks that we may have,” such as belief systems they may have grown up with or zero-sum thinking – the idea that if one group makes gains, other groups lose something. 

Overcoming those blocks takes time, and it can’t be done with a checklist, according to Hopke. “What you have to do is change people’s hearts and minds,” she said. “You don’t just tell them to change, or you don’t just tell them, ‘This behavior is annoying and you should stop doing that.”

Some companies are overcoming resistance to DEI by changing the title “chief diversity officer” to “chief belonging officer.” Sachdeva said many people yearn for a sense of belonging in the workplace, noting that the U.S. Surgeon General declared loneliness an epidemic earlier this year. 

However, “I think what we have to be careful about is that we don’t lose the importance of DEI even if we call it by a different name,” Sachdeva said. “We still need diverse workforces. We still need equitable outcomes for the people in those workforces.”

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Talking Talent, who supported this webinar. 

Mary Pieper is a freelance reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.


RELATED STORIES

How to Attract, Screen, and Manage Your Talent in Today’s Hiring Landscape

Companies are more focused on retention and internal mobility than ever. From this focus, hiring talent externally has become more convoluted. The technical complexity of job boards generates a large pool of applicants who are not necessarily matched with the right jobs. So how can businesses optimize their search for qualified external talent within these talent pools? Heidi Barnett, the CEO of ApplicantPro, shared critical methods of optimizing the recruiting process during From Day One a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s June virtual conference.Knowing who you are as a business provides valuable information for sourcing. It’s imperative to clearly define who you are as a business, including your values, unique attributes, and what customers and employees love about it, says Barnett.ApplicantPro empowers businesses to streamline their hiring processes by posting jobs across multiple job boards, conducting thorough applicant screening, and offering guidance to hiring managers. One of ApplicantPro's key insights draws a parallel between job boards and search engines.Heidi Barnett, the CEO of ApplicantPro, led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)By understanding that job boards prioritize higher visibility based on relevancy, businesses can develop more effective recruiting strategies, says Barnett. For example, job boards such as Indeed are optimized for the search of job seekers – not companies. To give job seekers the most results catered to their needs, Indeed provides visibility to newer jobs, jobs with more reviews, and higher click-through rates. “So their core focus is on candidates and candidate flow, not on companies that are posting jobs," she said.Reaching more applicants isn’t necessarily a disadvantage either. “What we’re going to want to do is cast the widest net: allow more people to see the jobs so they have interest. And then on the back end, we’re going to search for quality. And we're going to make sure that, not that we don’t have this huge influx coming in, but we’re focused on quality.”Barnett provided several job ad optimization strategies tailored to draw in the ideal talent from vast talent pools. First, include your salary. Otherwise Indeed creates an estimation that may not accurately represent your business. Next, close the job position if it hasn’t been filled within 21-30 days. Instead of reposting it, which will make Indeed block your traffic, rewrite its contents so that it will be recognized as a new job.Finally, prioritize the disposition of your candidates: by reviewing and engaging with your candidates, Indeed offers you more visibility and you get to screen candidates more efficiently. Barnett also advised businesses on what not to do, such as using redirect URLs in your ad that will take applicants away from your job post.Screening Tools to Identify Key TalentEffective screening tools can help identify top talent. Barnett recommends open-ended screening questions with multiple response options to gather comprehensive information from candidates. This approach allows a more thorough evaluation of applicants' skills, qualifications, and potential match for the organization.Candidate matching has also emerged as a valuable tool for businesses to identify and interview top talent quicker than before. AI-powered candidate matching tools assist in analyzing job screening questions, resumes, and years of experience. This newer technology streamlines recruiting, allowing businesses to make informed hiring decisions more quickly and efficiently.Pre-employment assessments also serve as a valuable tool for identifying candidates, says Barnett. These assessments provide additional insights into a candidate's alignment with the desired qualifications, offering a more comprehensive understanding of their suitability for the position. This allows organizations to make informed hiring decisions, increasing the likelihood of selecting qualified talent.Lastly, video interviews are a transparent method to gain insights into applicants' personalities and assess their potential suitability for your organization's culture and values.Using these strategies, businesses can effectively “make sure that you’re not only getting these positions filled, but navigating all of the different quality challenges,” she said.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, ApplicantPro, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. 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 | July 17, 2024

How Focusing on the Candidate Experience Helps You Hire Faster and Better

Today’s job seekers are sending out dozens of applications just to get to an interview, let alone an offer. Candidates don't want to waste unnecessary time where they don’t have to. “Speed is a cornerstone of hiring. And companies that have a streamlined and efficient application process can convert more job seekers into applicants,” said Naomi Bower, senior director of design at Lever, an Employ Solution.Most of those job seekers, around 78%, believe the application process should take 30 minutes or less, but still, that’s too long, says Bower, who led a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s June virtual conference. “Nearly one in 10 job seekers believe the application process should take less than five minutes,” she said. Bower spoke about what companies can do to focus on the candidate experience and speed up the process.More than a third, around 39%, of job seekers will abandon applying for a job if the application takes too long, Bower says. This  means that companies are missing out on recruiting potential talent. “Imagine you worked for a B2C company, and your sales team noticed that nearly 40% of customers were abandoning their carts in your E-commerce workflow. Wouldn’t your entire company drop what they're doing to rally around fixing that problem?”There are some simple fixes to streamlining the application process, says Bower. Making candidates type out information that’s already on their resume or taking steps that aren’t necessary are the most common frustrations for applicants. Other actions that will cause them to abandon the application process include having to join a talent network or creating a profile.Naomi Bower, the senior director of design at Lever, an Employ Solution, led the session (company photo)“If you’re on a hiring team, or a talent acquisition team, you can shift your perspective to one that also considers the time it takes a candidate to apply,” Bower said. “Just like you’d rally your team around reducing the time to hire, reducing the time to apply helps both your TA team and your candidates. So it’s a win win.”To more quickly get from start to finish in the application process, Bower says companies need to focus on design. “When we think about design in terms of how something works, we can see how the principles of good design are critically important to something like shaping the experience of applying for a job online. At the end of the day, design is about crafting something with intention.”To accomplish this, teams should focus on making the process simple, useful, and giving users control. To build out a UX that reduces friction and workflows, companies have to eliminate unnecessary and repetitive steps. Bower says you want to give candidates a good return on investment “by ensuring that [you’re] only asking them to complete the steps that add value for them.” This can be as simple as looking at an application process and taking out non-critical steps for candidates.However, there are times when adding friction to the application process can benefit both the company and the candidate in the long term. For example, if a role requires a specific license or certification, then having an extra step whereby they certify or upload that license or certification, saves every one time by weeding out candidates who aren’t certified to fill a role.There are several easy steps recruiting teams can make today with minimal effort to vastly improve candidates conversion rates. “The first one is to skip the registration requirement. Registration on a career site often comes with complex username and password requirements that create a barrier to moving forward.”The next step is enabling quick-apply options, like social, cloud, and mobile applications. “Allowing candidates to leverage their social profiles, like LinkedIn and Facebook, to apply for jobs is a recruiting best practice. Having the option for applicants to automatically populate relevant information from their social media profile is effective in converting career site visitors and applicants.”The same can be said for using Dropbox or Google Drive to populate relevant fields with cloud-based documents. “And employee data reveals that only about half of organizations offer candidates the option to apply with a cloud-based resume, which is a major deterrent for tech savvy candidates.”“If your application process isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re absolutely losing out on candidates. Indeed is considered the world’s largest job site and offers a game changing opportunity for companies to convert candidates into applicants by leveraging organic candidate traffic, specifically at a point of application conversion.”Bower points to some strategies to improve the candidate experience and positively impact candidate conversion. First, audit your own candidate's journey – put yourself in their shoes. Is it a process that you'd feel great about completing if you are a job seeker? Next, measure what matters to your organization and then optimize from the end of the candidate journey to the beginning. “And what I mean by this is to start with the end goal in mind of having job seekers complete the process and go from a site visitor to an applicant.”At the end of the day, though, it’s about the process, and the best way to understand that process, and how it can be improved, is to experience it yourself. “Something that you can do right now as a hiring team, is just review your application process. Go on to your career site, step through that process yourself. And just take a really critical lens to what the steps are,” Bower said.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Lever, an Employ Solution, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Matthew Koehler 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 | July 16, 2024

The Future of People Analytics Opens Data Science to Everyone

Human resources has officially moved into the C-suite. Where HR was in the past called upon for arithmetical facts about the workforce and its makeup, the department’s new position of influence now puts it on the hook to answer qualitative questions about the state of the workforce and the future of the business. But without quantitative backing, those answers are, at best, guesswork made in good faith.People analytics is proving a popular instrument. SHRM found in 2021 that HR teams using people analytics report achieving their DEI and retention goals and being more competitive for talent than HR teams that don’t.But people analytics platform Visier estimates that people operations teams still spend about 70% of their time on foundational analytics, that is, figures like headcount, turnover, and diverse representation. But as HR is increasingly called upon to be a strategic contributor to the business, the team needs to satisfy complicated concerns, like, Are we underpaying in our industry? Who’s most at risk for leaving the company? And how can we keep them?From Day One spoke with Visier’s VP of product management, Ian Cook, about HR’s move from counting workers to needing a PhD on the team just to answer business questions.Cook develops ways for HR teams to avoid staffing someone like him to answer their people operations questions. He equips them to do it themselves, no advanced mathematics and no PhD required. At the same time while people analytics capabilities are growing more sophisticated, the tech that powers it is becoming more accessible, and many who are tasked with analysis have little to no quantitative expertise–and that’s not a bad thing.Q: I now hear the term ‘people analytics’ more often than I do ‘human capital management.’ What’s the difference?A: Traditionally, HR’s focus has been on process control: Who works for us? When did they start? How much are they paid? When did they move roles? Human capital management systems are the record-keeping systems for that data. That information used to be kept in file cabinets, but within the last 30 years, it’s all been digitized, and that means they’re a valuable source of useful information.People analytics answers questions about your business: Who’s the right person for this job? If we move this department under another leader, is it still going to function? Are we paying too much for this particular set of capabilities? Your human capital management system has the record-level detail, but it has no way of taking that information, running a calculation or an analysis, and giving you the right answer. People analytics brings evidence to HR decisions.Q: So, you answer these kinds of questions?A: We are not a consulting business that does the work for our clients. They do the work, using our technology to find the answer for themselves, because they can.This is a pivot from how HR typically operates, which is going to an outside expert, having them decide what’s wrong and then how to fix it. We put that capability inside the business so they can apply it themselves. Evidence doesn’t become a project from a consulting firm, it becomes the way the business operates.Q: What do people get wrong about people analytics and how it fits into HR strategy?A: People tend to think that you do your work, then you do the analysis later to find out whether it worked. But that’s the wrong way around. I would rather do analysis up front so we can substantiate the decisions we make. Let’s not look at it as a retroactive justification, let’s be proactive. The people analytics team is the strategy arm of the CHRO.Others tend to think of people analytics as this weird science project. As in, we do HR, and then we do people analytics on the side. I fundamentally disagree with that. People analytics is how we should be doing HR.Q: I hear from HR leaders that they’re getting a directive from the C-suite: Start using AI. But without further direction, some don’t know where to start and whether they can meet expectations for what artificial intelligence can do.Ian Cook, VP of product management at Visier, spoke with journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza (company photo)A: HR individuals are right to be skeptical about AI, because depending on how the models are built and what you’re doing with the models, you can’t just throw your people data into a model and say, Tell me who to hire and tell me who to fire. An HR professional being tasked by business leaders to use AI must educate themselves on what is real and possible versus what is not.Q: Can you tell me more about Visier’s generative AI tool, Vee? A: It makes the analytics process really human. Most people think in questions, like, I wonder if we’re losing people in this area. Is that normal? With the generative AI capability, you can put your question into the bot, and the bot will interpret it and return you an answer.The traditional way these problems were solved was with handmade answers. You would build somewhere to store the data, and you would build some SQL code to run calculations on top of that, then you would put that into a different piece of technology to create charts. Someone would then assemble and distribute that. With Vee, it sits over a customer’s data that their people analytics team would access via our platform, and opens up the opportunity for any employee to simply ask questions, in natural language, without needing a data analyst to decipher the answer, with their precise security applied.Generative AI reduces the barrier to entry for everybody to become analytically informed. At the same time, no customer data is ever sent to a large language model which removes the fear we talked about earlier.Q: How is it different from other AI-powered HR tools available at the moment?A: We’re faster, cleaner, more integrated, and have a higher level of security. The teams running Visier are half the size of the traditional teams.We don’t recommend you shrink the team because, invariably, the demand on the team is always greater than it can solve, but with the same number of people, you can serve four to eight times the number of inputs and requests. Generative AI is designed to accelerate that even further.For instance, where a large financial institution may have 100 full-time employees running their people analytics team, one of our clients maintains just three dedicated FTEs to make the Visier component run. We’ve taken what has been a specialist, an expert, and made it into a process. We’ve created a high degree of automation, and we’ve layered in specific HR expertise, so that you don’t need to hire a whole bunch of data scientists to deliver the answers that your business needs.Q: If you can use it to answer questions about a given business, can you also use it to benchmark a business against its competitors? A: Sometimes ‘good’ is not an absolute inside an organization; it can be relative performance.All of our customers live in exactly the same data shape, which isn’t true for every other competitor, so we can publish benchmarks on resignations, promotions, diversity percentage of managers, and we’ve got some design benchmarks coming out around span of control, etc. All of that can be compared against the Visier customer population and broken down by size of organization, geography, and more. For instance, with that, we were able to demonstrate that Visier customers’ resignation rates were going up slower than the market. It’s available inside the application to any customer.Q: Could it be used to prevent over-reaction to employee attrition or engagement?A: Yes. Lots of executives run down the corridors, worried that everyone’s leaving, going to a competitor for tons of money. But an analyst hears that and says, that’s an interesting perception, let’s have a look. Sometimes you might find that you have a problem with attrition, but you might also find that one person left this week for a competitor, and that’s just one out of a hundred. Let’s keep our money and not overplay a reaction based on a specific individual’s perception.Q: Do you think analytics will be a permanent component of the HR function?A: Analytics is kind of a scary word, and it’s often presented in a way to make things seem difficult and important. I would rather talk about an evidence-based HR practice.If you can have the evidence that this program is going to manage to retain people better, why wouldn’t you use the evidence? We’re really passionate about pulling this whole practice away from having to be math experts just to understanding your people and your business.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Visier, for sponsoring this sponsor spotlight. To learn more, tune into their webinar on July 30. 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 Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | July 16, 2024