Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Common Ground

Both employees and employers win when minority networking groups succeed

By John K. Borchardt, Ph.D.

Minority employee network groups are flourishing at a growing number of companies. These groups provide leadership in resolving diversity issues and offer opportunities for minority employees to grow professionally. They can also help firms compete in the increasingly diverse American economy as well as in global markets.

Both networking groups and employers have a stake in the success of the employers' diversity processes. Strong networking groups can help employers attract new minority employees and customers. They also offer workers a forum for connecting with others of similar backgrounds, interests and cultures. Edgard Prado, a project manager with Shell Services International and president of the Shell Hispanic Employees Network, says, "Our number one goal is to support Shell's diversity process." However, he also notes that the group "gives us an opportunity to talk about things common to us, to feel included and have a sense of belonging to something greater at Shell."

Removing barriers to build a sense of inclusion also carries multiple benefits. Rick Schroder, a diversity group leader and member of Shell's Diversity Center, comments that minority networks "help create a safe, open work environment where people can contribute to their full potential, increasing productivity."

GETTING STARTED

With regard to forming networking groups, diversity consultant Taylor Cox, author of Cultural Diversity in Organizations: Theory, Research & Practice, says, "A core of similarity among group members is desirable. Members must share some common values and norms to promote coherent actions on organizational goals."

Sometimes the impetus to form employee networks comes from management, but more often it springs from employees—although the company may facilitate the group. For example, at Microsoft, individual employees initiate the formation of networking groups. Aerospace and defense firm Lockheed Martin assists employees in starting "affinity groups" by posting guidelines on how to do so on its company Intranet. At Shell, employees can contact the company's Diversity Center for advice on starting networks.

When initiated by employees, networking groups have a better chance of being accompanied by great enthusiasm. For example, although the first organizational meeting of the Shell Black Networking Group was held at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday, more than 300 interested employees attended.

Equally important, however, is getting management to buy in. Without the support of management, an employee group is likely to find success to be an uphill battle. Luckily for many networks, more and more corporations lend strong support, recognizing the benefits of promoting and encouraging employee organizations. Encouragement can come in forms as simple as the employer's providing access to meeting rooms, photocopying machines and company communications channels to announce meetings. Members of the Shell Black Networking Group use company videoconferencing facilities to communicate between different facilities during working hours. Support can also be given in more personal efforts. Each employee networking group at Texas Instruments is sponsored by a member of senior management. There and at other companies, the accomplishments of the networking group influence the adviser's own performance evaluation. At Xerox Corp., CEO Paul Allaire has appointed senior executives as "champions" of the employee networks and given them the authority to act on concerns raised by their groups. When African-American women at Xerox began to fear that the small numbers of black female engineering graduates would translate into their perpetual underrepresentation at Xerox, they confided their concerns to executive vice president William F. Buehler, their group's designated champion. Buehler acted, establishing a summer internship program for black women engineering students that has aided Xerox in recruiting these students after graduation.

MUTUALLY REWARDING

Many companies have discovered that supporting employee networks pays big dividends, as employee organizations can make direct contributions to business goals. Besides participating in ongoing computing technology discussions, members of Microsoft's Chinese group (whose members are from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and North America) assist in Asian business development by participating in recruitment of employees for U.S. and overseas assignments. Their responsibilities grew when Microsoft announced it would open a research laboratory in the People's Republic of China.

Patsy Randell, Honeywell's vice president of corporate diversity and multicultural business affairs, says that the Asian American Council at that company provided valuable insight into Asian business practices and protocol that aided the firm's expansion in these markets. At computer systems firm Silicon Graphics, the Asian networking group provided similar advice and "was pivotal in helping them gain access to the Pacific Rim," according to Michael Wheeler, author of two diversity studies for The Conference Board, an association of Fortune 500 companies. Wheeler also reports that the Silicon Graphics' African-American networking group played a significant role in exploring expansion into South Africa.

Successfully marketing to minority groups is becoming increasingly necessary to business success. Employee networks play a role in reaching American minority consumers as well. For example, Honeywell's Hispanic Council aids the company in marketing products to people whose first language is not English.

Employee networking groups at many firms also promote minority employee recruitment. For example, at Microsoft, members of the Hispanic, Filipino and Chinese groups participate in employee recruitment of more professionals of these ethnicities. Prado emphasizes that the Shell Hispanic Employees Network wants to be a resource in the recruitment, development and retention of Hispanic employees at Shell. Network members are already working with personnel departments and visiting college campuses on recruiting trips, he notes.

While recruiting a diverse work force is important, employee retention is also a critical issue. "Very often, executives trying to build a diverse work force can find talented minorities and women already on the company payroll. All [these employees] lack is the opportunity to advance," observes Bernard E. Anderson, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Firms must promote the development of minority employees, offering suitable advancement opportunities. Some firms view their employee networking groups as valuable tools for encouraging professional development. Charles McCloud, new business development manager at Shell Chemicals, says, "Employee networks provide opportunities for growth for both the members and the company. The more people utilize network groups, the more opportunities there are."At Xerox the desire to retain minority employees has prompted action at the highest level. The Black Managers' Network, working several years ago with then-CEO David T. Kearns, analyzed the resumes of top executives at the company in order to determine the career path that each had taken to the top. Identifying the specific positions once held by these executives, Kearns then delineated similar positions at Xerox for professionals of color and women (in proportion to their numbers in the organization). The effort has not slackened with Kearns' retirement. Allaire has sent a memo to every manager informing them that he holds each of them accountable for promoting minorities and women into management.

The Black Managers' Network also found that African Americans as a group received lower performance appraisals than other groups—even when the same wording was used to describe their performance. In addition, African Americans in the same jobs often received lower pay for the same work. As a result of these findings, Xerox changed its personnel processes to achieve equity. These actions impacted hundreds of employees.

Networking groups at Texas Instruments have played a similar role, helping the firm update its policies against discrimination. For example, members of the company's women's networks participated in developing a training program addressing sexual harassment.

Employee networking groups also help younger employees meet successful co-workers who can become mentors and role models. In the case of engineers and computer scientists, these contacts can be invaluable since they might otherwise have little contact with successful minority co-workers. The latest employment data released by the U.S. Department of Labor show that there are still few African Americans and Hispanics employed in the engineering and information science fields.

LEADERSHIP FORUMS

Networking groups help members in less direct ways as well. Chip Egea, director of human resources at AT&T's corporate headquarters in New York, says that employee networking groups provide an arena in which to develop leadership skills—tools that become increasingly valuable to employees as they progress in their careers. The Texas Instruments Semiconductor Group Black Employee Network sponsors a leadership training program. Gini McCain, director of human resources communications at 3M Corp., notes that networking group activities often help employees develop useful political skills.

Some employee networking groups organize courses in career enhancement subjects such as communications and management skills. Others serve as clearinghouses collecting information on such courses and informing their members about continuing education opportunities. Employee networks can also strengthen other employee groups dedicated to improving personal skills. For example, discussions within the Shell Asian Pacific Employees Networking Group on the importance of oral presentation skills convinced some members to join the Toastmasters Club that meets weekly during lunch hours at Shell's research center in Houston. (Toastmasters International is an independent organization dedicated to improving its members' public speaking skills though an organized program of projects.)

Benefits can also spill over into the surrounding community. Wheeler says, "Community involvement helps the community but also provides developmental opportunities for employees."

The African-American, Hispanic, Native American and other employee networking groups at Microsoft have outreach programs to minority communities, particularly schools. Members of the Shell Hispanic Employees Network recently set up computers at a Houston area school that received a shipment of computers but no instructions on how to install them.

Programs through these and other companies' employee networks encourage minority employees to talk to grade school classes about career opportunities in engineering and other fields. These volunteers provide role models to children, showing that minorities can achieve career success in engineering and computer science.

Honeywell often responds to requests from its employee networking groups for financial support of worthy community and educational causes. The Lockheed Martin Latino Mentoring Network has raised thousands of dollars for the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund and has cooperated with other groups such as the Society of Women Engineers in service projects in the Hispanic community. These projects include going into schools to discuss engineering careers and serving as mentors to science teachers, providing information and materials to help them teach their classes.

CONVERGING POINTS

Even if various employee networks at a company represent different minority groups, they often have common interests. Recognizing this, some networks are banding together, sharing resources and supporting each other's missions. The Texas Instruments Diversity Network is an informal organization of representatives from the various employee networking groups at the firm. The Microsoft Diversity Advisory Council includes representatives of 12 employee networks.

At both firms these groups exchange information, oversee areas of common interest to the various employee resource groups, guide new initiatives and organize leadership conferences. The Texas Instruments network also publishes a periodic diversity newsletter for employees.

Throughout the country, corporations and their employees are clearly realizing the benefits of minority employee networks. When supported and nurtured by employees and management, both groups reap significant profits—not only in terms of the bottom line, but also in career development success.

Dr. John K. Borchardt works for Shell and is an adjunct professor of chemical engineering at the University of Oklahoma. He also consults on career management and work force diversity.

Diversity Expo, New York's EOE hiring event, brought to you by the producers of JOB EXPO and TECHEXPO, respectively the most successful Sales/Management and Information Technology career fairs in the Northeast. Over the years, we have acquired much expertise in the area of recruiting events production, striving to continually improve on past results and bring you great shows. Diversity Expo promises to be an outstanding success. All upcoming events are listed on the web site.

Source : Graduating Engineer Online

Friday, October 19, 2007

Multicultural is New Workplace Model

By Juana Bordas

Not only is the world getting flatter, it is becoming more colorful.


As globalization becomes a reality, more and more companies will employ people of every race, nationality, religious background, and age group. These people will work side by side in the same office building, others a hemisphere away.

That's why if your company is still leading the "old" — read "white, male, authoritarian" — way, you're making a mistake. It would be great if you could magically fill your leadership ranks with men and women from different cultures, backgrounds and traditions. But if that's unrealistic, you can gain a lot by simply borrowing their techniques.

"Today's leadership models, although they may differ from person to person and method to method, generally have a common bias toward Western- or European-influenced ways of thinking," said Bordas, author of the new book "Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age."

"We're leading as if our companies are filled with white men and, quite clearly, that's no longer the case. Contemporary leadership theories exclude the enormous contributions, potential learning, and valuable insights that come from leaders in diverse communities."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2010 one-third of U.S. residents will trace their descents to Africa, Asia, the Hispanic world, the Pacific Islands, or the Middle East. In her book, Bordas explains that the most successful businesses will be those that incorporate the influences, practices, and values of these diverse cultures in a respectful and productive manner. Through implementing multicultural leadership, not only will your company's working environment be a better, more enjoyable place to work, but you will be able to better handle the needs of your multicultural customers.

"Multicultural leadership encourages an inclusive and adaptable style that cultivates the ability to bring out the best in our diverse work force and to fashion a sense of community with people from many parts of the globe," Bordas said. "It enables a wide spectrum of people to actively engage, contribute, and tap their potential. That's why making sure that your workplace has culturally inclusive leadership will be one of the most important transitions you make into the new globalized world."

Here are eight ways to help you make the transition to a multicultural leadership model.

1. First, you need a history lesson. You may be thinking: Why can't I simply hire new leaders from varying backgrounds and incorporate their leadership techniques into the entire organization? Here's why. Expanding the leadership at your organization into a multicultural form requires an understanding of how Eurocentric and hierarchical leadership became dominant in the first place. That means beginning with our society's myths concerning the "settling of America," which deny the historical contributions of communities of color.

"For mainstream leaders, understanding the history that gave rise to ethnocentricity is perhaps the most difficult step in transforming leadership to an inclusive, multicultural form," Bordas said. "You can't just go to a seminar for a day and come out understanding why the old Eurocentric leadership models won't work in a globalized world. You need to learn about these cultures in order to develop the clarity that allows you to incorporate multicultural leadership techniques into your organization."

2. Think we, not I. Today's corporate world is an incredibly competitive place where the accepted motto seems to be "Every man for himself." Bringing in multicultural leadership will put an end to this sometimes harmful way of thinking and will create a working environment where the focus is on mutual, not singular advancement.

The Black, Latino, and American Indian leadership techniques that you will integrate into your organization originate from a collectivist culture. These cultures are usually more tightly woven and integrated than Eurocentric cultures, and as a result they cherish welfare, unity and harmony.

"To maintain these elements, people behave politely, act in a socially desirable manner, and respect others," Bordas said. "People work for group success before personal credit or gain. And there isn't a business out there that won't benefit from employees who identify themselves as part of a team and who, as a result, work together to make the entire company a great success."

3. Practice generosity, not greed. In communities of color, being generous is an expected leadership trait that indicates integrity and garners respect.

How does this generosity show itself in the working world? Let's use Latinos as an example.

They have the highest percentage of participation in the U.S. labor market of any subgroup and are viewed as being great contributors at work. This reflects their value of generosity. They view work as an opportunity to share their talents and contribute to the welfare of the organization, Bordas said.

"Just as employees are generous with their hard work, company leaders need to show generosity by paying employees fair wages," she said. "According to a 2002 study, CEOs are making 241 times the average worker's salary. This can't happen in a company that practices multicultural leadership.

"Multicultural leaders are not greedy. They want the best for their employees. As a result, their employees are generous with their time and concern for customers."

4. Flatten your leadership structure. Traditional leadership today, particularly in corporate America, is associated with fat salaries and mega bonuses, the big office, corporate jets, special parking places, and the numerous privileges that come with being in the top echelon. These types of perks create elitism that runs contrary to the principle of equality in the workplace, resulting in economic and social chasms between leaders and employees.

Organizations would benefit from taking a more multicultural approach to leadership structure. Take the American Indians, for example. In their communal set-up, everyone can be a leader because the members of their tribes are valued based on what they contribute to the community.

"Today's high-powered CEOs are known for what they take," Bordas said. "But as the world flattens, successful companies will be those whose CEOs view themselves as just another part of the company and who place value in the expertise and innovation of their employees.

"Flattening the leadership structure will put you a step ahead of your competitors. Why? Because employees will feel more appreciated and will work more easily together instead of getting hung up on a 'You're the boss' mentality."

5. Help people learn to work better together. No two people come from exactly the same background. Despite outward similarities, every employee, manager or CEO is unique.

Successful businesses are those that learn to accept the small differences that make us human and work together for the greater good of the organization. Latinos exemplify how this can work in the real world. They are not a "race," but an ethnic group bound together by the Spanish language, colonization, the Catholic Church, and the common values that stem from both their Spanish and indigenous roots.

"Latino leaders, therefore, are challenged to forge a shared identity, vision and purpose from a conglomerate of people who are joined together like pico de gallo — a Latino condiment that includes bite-size pieces of many spicy ingredients," Bordas pointed out. "They have to be consensus builders and integrate the many critical issues that touch people's lives. Consensus building is a great way to strengthen any company's work environment."

6. Minimize conflict by reminding employees that they truly are "family." Aside from heading up different projects and managing different departments, company leaders are expected to bring together employees who don't get along. Any number of conflicts can arise in an office setting, and by using the right leadership techniques, you can alleviate conflict so that everyone works together (for the most part, at least) as one big, happy family.

"In multicultural leadership, one step toward minimizing conflict is encouraging people to view each other as relatives," Bordas said. "In the same way that viewing other members of society as relatives would reduce the likelihood of war and fighting, encouraging employees to view one another as family encourages them to seek out resolutions to their problems. It makes them feel a responsibility to find a way to coexist in order to benefit the company."

7. Foster a culture that's accepting of spirituality. As a business owner, you might be reluctant to make a connection between spirituality and work, but it is possible to do it without stepping on anyone's toes. As long as no one tries to force his or her faith on anyone else, the entire workplace is free to learn from one another and be inspired by the values that underline many faith traditions — hope, optimism and gratitude — all factors that go hand in hand with a spiritual life.

By encouraging employees to share their spiritual sides rather than compartmentalize them, you create a workplace where people bring their "whole selves" to work. You do this by example: Be open about your own spiritual beliefs and activities and strike up conversations with employees about theirs (in a completely nonjudgmental way, of course). Your employees will quickly see that they are free to be themselves and, as a result, they will be happier people — and happier people are more productive and creative.

"When I was researching my book, LaDonna Harris, a member of the Comanche tribe, pointed out to me that in American society, churches are one place, work is somewhere else, education is over there, and none of them relate to each other," Bordas said. "She explained that for Indian people, spirituality is the integrating force of their lives and the essence of leadership. By encouraging spirituality in your employees, you can create even stronger bonds within the workplace and improve the ways in which your employees work together."

8. Focus employees on a company vision. Almost every organization has a company motto or promise that is meant to inspire employees and assure customers that only the highest quality product or service will be coming their way — and if you don't have one, you should come up with one right away. But does your company's vision really represent the beliefs and attitudes of all of your employees?

"In order to develop a company vision that truly reflects the diverse attitudes of your employees, think of it as a community vision," Bordas said. "Listen to different points of view, communicate in an open, give-and-take fashion, and welcome new ideas.

"The shared vision that results will provide a focal point for people's skills, talents and resources. With that vision assuring them that their efforts will make a difference, people will be willing to assume a higher degree of risk and make greater sacrifices, which will translate to a company with harder working, more dedicated employees."

"Businesses today understand the phenomenal growth in communities of color and want to access these lucrative and growing markets," Bordas said. "Tapping the potential of the changing work force, consumer base and citizenry requires leadership approaches that resonate with and are representative of a much broader population base. Mainstream leaders must be able to use practices and approaches that are effective with the many cultures that make up the U.S. population.

Business leaders without significant experience within diverse cultures needn't worry, Bordas said. People can develop affinities and sensitivities for a number of different cultures. Leaders can acquire multicultural competencies and work effectively with many different populations.

The convergence of the leadership principles of diverse cultures with American business practices can create a socially responsible environment — one that underscores the role of business in supporting the welfare of our communities and our quality of life, she said.

"If we can achieve this, the world will be a better place — to work in, to live in, and to bequeath to our children and to future generations."

About the Author

Juana Bordas is president of Mestiza Leadership International in Denver and vice president of the board of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. She is a founder of Mi Casa Women's Center and founding president/CEO of the National Hispana Leadership Institute and was initiated into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame and honored as a Wise Woman by the National Center for Women's Policy Studies.

Source : Seacoastonline.com

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Value of Diversity

By Miki Saxon

A Creative Generalist post led me to some excellent answers from Frans Johansson on questions regarding the value and importance of managing diversity. Here is the Q&A, along with additional thoughts.

Q. What does diversity bring to a business, and how can it make money?

A. Diversity brings the possibility to leapfrog competitors. By leveraging different perspectives, a company can create “Medici Effect”, an explosion of groundbreaking ideas. A corporation must first understand the need for diversity and then how to use it. With those two pieces in place, however, it will outperform. This is ultimately reflected in shareholder value. Diversity can make money in several ways. The most fundamental is in how it drives innovation. When Volvo Cars decided to create an all-female engineering team it came up with hundreds of ideas, most of them never suggested before - and many were brilliant. In addition, diversity can help us find unique market opportunities. When the Hispanic networking group at Frito-Lay in the US (part of PepsiCo) suggested the company develop a “Guacamole Chip”, the company went for it and made $100 million in its first year of sales.

Companies must do more than “understand the need;” CEOs often must instigate fundamental cultural changes across the organization’s MAP, starting with their own. Only then can the leaders expect diversity to be accepted as the norm.

Q. Does it [diversity] mean hiring people who are not as well-qualified?

A. Hiring well-qualified people is the baseline. But diversity means we need to question our assumptions about those qualifications. When L’Oreal acquired Maybelline it changed the make-up of the company’s staff by bringing in people of different ethnicities and countries. Many may have been traditionally “not right” for the job, but five years later Maybelline had become the number one cosmetics brand in the world - a result of innovation from diversity.

I’ve written for years on the dangers of hiring only in your comfort zone and the dangers have increased exponentially with the explosion of global workforces and products.

Q. Does it have to mean age, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation?

A. Not necessarily but those attributes increase the chances in bringing together different perspectives. It can also mean different fields, experiences and expertise.

Those attributes also don’t guarantee diversity. For example, Dick Chaney, Clarence Thomas and Alberto Gonzales are ethnically diverse, but think in tandem.

Q. What if my occupation happens to attract a particular type, such as men, women, straight…?

A. If everyone around you is the same, you’ve got some serious problems. Every industry today is under intense pressure to innovate and change, and they should seek diversity anywhere possible. Seek out organisations that try to hire people different from yourself.

If you really believe that it’s the nature of your work that leads you to hire a particular type all the time, then it’s safe to assume that you also believe in the tooth fairy. Rationalizations aside, it’s almost a toss-up as to which is worse, mental or skills homogeny.

Q. How do I make a workplace more attractive to different types of people?

A. The first step is to ensure it is diverse to begin with. If your competitor is further along than you, get moving. To get a diverse workplace to begin with, though, you must breed openness, respect and tolerance. Only then can team members feel comfortable providing, championing and challenging ideas. In addition, you have to ensure people are evaluated more on their ideas than on how well you know them, since diverse teams tend to consist of people who may only have worked together for a short period of time. Things work pretty well when we’re all from the same backgrounds.

Openness, respect and tolerance must be embedded first in your MAP and the MAP of your managers, then in your company culture. The foundation of all three comes from your employees’ fundamental belief that the messenger won’t be killed—no matter the message or how it’s delivered. Because it’s a trust issue, recovering from a violation is more difficult than almost any other cultural stance.

Q. Wouldn’t changing the make-up mean conflict and inefficiency?

A. It’s all about leadership and management. The most important quality for a global leader is understanding how to manage diversity. That bit of extra time dwarfs in comparison to the benefits in revenue, market share or profit margin that results from the team’s composition.

To conflict and inefficiency add mental, psychic and, possibly, even physical discomfort—for you, your group and, if you’re a diversity trailblazer, the entire company. But that’s often the initial result of change, that’s why so many leaders, managers, people, often go through changes kicking and screaming all the way.

Q. Surely we’re going to have to spend more time on training?

A. We have developed a workshop which trains executives and managers to use existing diversity in their company to generate new innovations in products, services, supply chain, marketing, hiring… everywhere. With these skills, a corporation not only understands the value of diversity - it accomplishs breakthroughs because of it.

Another way to look at it is that any increased spending on diversity development is an investment and will be more than offset by the increases in innovation, productivity and revenues. If spending $100 results in a bottom line increase of $1000, did you really spend the $100, or did you gain $900? $900 that wouldn’t be there if you hadn’t invested the initial $100.

Source : b5media

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bridging the Gap: Diverse Job Seekers, Employers and The Internet

Recruiting, managing and retaining a diverse workplace is a key issue facing today’s executives and HR professionals. The market drivers are clear: the global economy and advancements in technology have spurred increased interaction among people from diverse ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds, and have caused major demographic shifts in the ethnic make-up of the U.S. population. Despite all of this, HR professionals remain challenged with finding, recruiting and retaining diverse employees.

Key Features

While almost all organizations recognize the importance and benefits of workplace diversity, not as many have fully committed the resources necessary for the policies and programs to support it.

• Two-thirds of organizations have a documented diversity policy (a written document that contains a mission or vision for diversity within an organization).
• Half of organizations have a formal diversity program (initiatives such as diversity training, diversity recruitment, diversity advisory councils, employee forums, and mentoring programs), yet
• Only 37% of organizations have specific diversity recruitment targets or goals.

Diverse online job seekers care about diversity. They recognize that it is important, and this affects the way they conduct their job search. However, many are not convinced of the benefit to highlighting their ethnicity during the application process.

• 92% of online job seekers agree that “Diversity improves creativity and innovation in companies.”
• 85% agree it’s important that the company they work for actively tries to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.
• 73% agree that when considering a job it’s very important that a company already has a diverse workforce.
• 43% of diverse job seekers say it is disadvantageous to indicate their ethnicity when applying for a job.
• 56% say they sometimes wonder if they will be hired more for their ethnicity than their abilities.

Nearly all HR professionals and diverse job seekers agreed that the Internet is a powerful tool for connecting diverse job candidates with employers.

• 78% of HR professionals who have posted jobs stated that the Internet helped their companies reach the widest and most diverse pool of candidates.
• 80% of HR professionals have posted jobs on national Internet recruitment or job sites.
• 87% of ethnic job seekers reported that the Internet helped them find out about jobs they would not have known about otherwise.
• Three of the top four resources used by job seekers in the past year involve the Internet.
• Overall, 39% of ethnically diverse job seekers said they used a national Internet recruitment job site during the last year.

Please click here to view the report.

Source : Monster

Monday, September 24, 2007

Diving into Diversity

By Beverly Smith

Diversity
is a strange little word. When people start looking at it, and add the word "training," things start to get interesting. Now there is not only variety, but also training to go with that variety. How do you train a person in variety? People start getting a little worried. "Did I hear you correctly?" they ask. "You're saying both my company and our employees will benefit? Who says so? And, why pick on me? I do my job, and get along with my coworkers."

Here's why: It wasn't always like this, and in some workplaces, it still isn't.

When our grandparents were growing up, people chose to assimilate rather than tout their diversity. They feared if they didn't fit in, they wouldn't be accepted—and if they weren't accepted, they wouldn't be able to find a job. They had blacklists in those days, and if you were on someone's "black" list, you weren't hirable.

People fear what they don't know or understand, which is where formal, corporate learning programs about diversity can be helpful. Why do we need diversity in the workplace? The answer is simple: because it is the right thing to do. But more than that, businesses make more money when they support a diverse workforce. More companies are doing business internationally, which means their customer bases also are changing. To serve these new customer bases, companies need employees who respect the differences of others, and, in turn, provide more revenue for stakeholders.

Companies are using diversity training to educate everyone from the CEO to frontline workers. When it starts at the top, and cascades down to the rest of the organization, frontline employees know their company considers diversity a key strategy.

There's a reason you're now hearing so much about diverse workforces. Interest in diversity has gone global. Initiatives to make organizations more diverse in the UK have launched, with nearly 70 percent of British firms reporting the presence of diversity policies. But some critics say these UK companies have no intention of doing anything about their diversity initiatives—they just want credit for having them. The latest UK population statistics show it is worthwhile for these organizations to follow through. Forty percent of students in UK public schools are ethnic minorities. Companies that want to continue doing business, and attracting customers, realize they need to understand diversity from the inside to prosper long term.

Diversity gained a foothold in the United States in the 1980s. Anti-discrimination laws were passed, and more women entered the workforce, along with other minorities. Companies were required to make appropriate accommodations for the new hires, and not all of them resisted doing the right thing. Many wanted to provide a safe, healthy, and friendly work environment, regardless of their legal obligations.

As in the UK, the U.S. companies that launch diversity initiatives are reflecting growing changes in their country’s population. The U.S. minority population is 98 million, representing one-third of the country's people. Hispanics are the largest minority with 42.7 million, according to the Spokesman Review.

Despite the gains made in accommodating employee diversity, Workplace Safety reports there are numerous Hispanic fatalities each year because too many Spanish-speaking workers didn't understand the training material provided. Tests should be administered so the trainer has proof all employees understand the learning content. This is especially critical in a dangerous work environment.

The National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) recommends diversity be approached from the perspective of "training the trainers." They believe people are less resistant to being a team trainer than taking a class that presumes to teach them how to respect others.

Diversity issues sometimes arise in surprising places—such as the medical profession. Diversity training was never mentioned once during my 10 years as an employee at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX. Hospital policy stated that sexual harassment would not be tolerated; four safety classes had to be attended each year; immunizations had to be updated, but not a word about diversity. Maybe it was assumed that since there is every type of person on Earth in a hospital (at one time or another), diversity awareness wasn't a problem.

But in actuality, that awareness often is only achieved following legal action. Lawsuits—or the fear of them—are a huge contributing factor in many companies' push to institute diversity training. The problem is, organizations frequently spend millions of dollars on diversity training without scrutinizing the instructors or learning material.

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. did just that. It hired a company to deliver training designed to "make white employees confront their alleged racism." The training was court ordered after previous lawsuits. They had questionnaires asking if black people had a distinctly different body odor, and if Puerto Ricans were more sexually loose than other nationalities. Every employee had to sit through movies that showed the Ku Klux Klan during lynchings. One worker had to sit through the movie four times. The company eventually was sued for racial discrimination, according to Forbes. The suit was settled in 2004 with an additional $15 million against the now-closed plant.

This brings up the type of trainer companies need. You want a person who's passionate about making employees aware of diversity, but not one disposed to raging at the podium. NCBI recommends asking questions about how they would handle hypothetical racially/ethnically charged situations, so you can evaluate their competence. In addition, ask how they plan to put the program together. The more questions you come up with, and the better their answers, the better your program will run.

As you would before launching any training program, conduct a needs-assessment of your company to isolate knowledge gaps in diversity awareness. Meanwhile, top executives in your company must support the training. A statement should be made indicating the value of diversity training to the company. Don't state it is required because people will start thinking negatively before they even arrive. Whenever possible, have someone within the firm deliver your instruction, since training that comes from within is accepted more easily than training delivered by outsiders.

Pfizer is one company that has made great strides in diversity. Jeff Kindler, previously president, partner brands at McDonald's, joined the Pfizer legal team in 2001. His top priority upon arrival was diversity. Kindler, who says he enjoys a diverse culture, values the different perspectives diversity adds to a discussion. "We don't have the luxury of overlooking the most talented people," Carol Casazza Herman, assistant general counsel, Pfizer Inc., told the Corporate Legal Times. "If we don't create a culture where different types of people can thrive, we’re going to lose out." Pfizer's legal department developed diversity programs for five different areas, including recruiting and hiring, development, retention, supplier diversity and communications. The company also created scholarships for minorities, as well as a summer internship program specifically for minority law students.

A diverse workplace does not happen by accident. OK, so maybe it might happen in a very small company, but not in a large one. Someone must make a conscious decision the workplace will become diverse. Not only do they need to make the decision; they also have to make sure everyone plays nicely with each other. If they don't learn to play together, then someone will take all their diversity marbles, and those of their friends, and go home. Bottom line: Companies need to teach workers to respect and communicate effectively with one another. Without proper respect and communication, you are not working with a strong foundation, and your diverse house will come tumbling down.

About the Author

Beverly Smith lived in nine countries on five continents for 18 years. She was exposed to a wide variety of cultures, and currently is an MBA student at Sam Houston State University.

Source : ManageSmarter

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Job-Seeking Strategy for Differently-abled Candidates: Address Employers' Fears Head-On

by Maureen Crawford Hentz

The single biggest barrier to full employment for the differently abled is the "fear of the unknown" of hiring/working with someone different. Employers know and generally comply with the law, but little is being done to educate co-workers in effective strategies for coping with their apprehension. I believe that hiring committees composed of co-workers/superiors/subordinates may often be the derailing factor in a differently-abled person's job search process. Peer committees may simply not know how working with a differently-abled individual will work. I've often heard comments from potential co-workers that range from "well, how can she talk to us if she's deaf?" to "well, there's not enough room in here for a wheelchair.”

As differently-abled job searchers go through the process of interviewing, a good strategy may be to address potential concerns directly. This strategy is not required on the searcher's part, but in my professional opinion, it is a technique to counterbalance the prejudice that people may feel -- whether or not they express it. Remember, technically, employers are limited by law to asking if the candidate can accomplish the job (and in some cases, ask the candidate for an illustration of how). What I would argue, however, is that the real questions are the ones that a coworker would be afraid to ask. I think that the best defense, if you will, is an effective offense -- putting people at ease.

For example, I recently had a deaf person as a client. She was concerned that the company where she was interviewing would be afraid she could not communicate with co-workers. As an excellent lip reader who also is verbally articulate, this client brought this issue up at the interview in the following way: "I want to let you know that I'm able to read lips, so understanding what is being said should not be a problem as long as I can see everyone's face. If you need to get my attention, just wave or give me a tap on the arm. Likewise, if you don't understand something I say, please ask me to repeat myself -- no need to be embarrassed -- communication is the key."

An additional strategy for this client was to ask her references to specifically address the communication issue when giving the reference. She asked her former supervisors to bring up the communication issue with the reference-checker. This strategy also proved extremely effective, as the former employer was able to verify the ease of communication.

For this client, these strategies worked exceptionally well. She was subsequently hired for the job. With her coworkers, she has continued to work out day-to-day details, such as telephone calls and messages.

Each job-seeker needs to evaluate his/her feelings about this issue. Many job-seekers don't want to have to educate everyone with whom they come in contact. That's okay. Many job-seekers don't want to directly address their disability. That's okay. Many job-seekers feel that it is incumbent upon coworkers to initiate their own learning process. All of these feelings and beliefs are valid. Ultimately, each job-seeker must decide if, when and in what manner similar strategies should be employed.

Is it ok to say "Did you hear that...." to a deaf co-worker? Should I offer to push my supervisor's wheelchair? Should I open a door for a person with leg braces? Do I offer to spell check my dyslexic co-worker's memo before it goes out? Is it appropriate to ask how my HIV positive coworker is feeling? How do I shake hands with a visually impaired client?

Coworkers and others in the workplace have questions like these, but don't know if, where and how they should be asked. In the millennial workplace, all members of a team must be sensitized to working with diverse people. Too often, however, diversity training is limited in sphere to racial/ethnic and gender issues. There are many diversity educators available who present workshops on issues specifically related to disability in the workplace. In my professional opinion, every company should include these kinds of programs routinely. By hosting diversity training sessions focusing on the issue of people with disabilities, co-workers can become not only sensitized to certain issues, but also more adept in using appropriate behaviors.

Similarly, a personnel/human-resources office should initiate educating potential coworkers about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the practicalities of reasonable accommodation. In this way, what I call the "Hidden Trap for Differently-Abled Job Seekers" can be effectively counterbalanced.

About the Author

QuintZine regular contributor Maureen Crawford Hentz, an independent career and HR consultant, has been working with career seekers for nine years, and has master’s degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University. A popular conference lecturer, she specializes in large and small specially designed workshops for professional organizations, students and environmental groups. Her most popular career workshops address topics including: Non-Verbal Techniques To Use During An Interview; Powerful Resumes; and Interviewing Etiquette You've Never Even Thought About. She has a particular interest in job searching techniques for differently-abled candidates, new grads and career changers. Proving that you never have to settle for just one career, in addition to her consulting work, Maureen is also the director of volunteer programs and Internships at the New England Aquarium, Boston and an instructor of American culture at Showa Boston Institute for Language and Culture.

Source : Quintessential Careers

Researching a Company's Diversity Policies

By Therese Droste


The interview's set. Now you want to know if the potential employer does more than talk about diversity. Follow these tips to find out if the company has a proven commitment to hiring a wide range of people.

Making the Grade

Many business and special interest publications compile regular lists of employers that back up their diversity efforts with proven results. Forbes magazine publishes an annual list of businesses noted for their diversity policies. Niche publications such as Working Mother and The Advocate do the same for their communities. "Such publicity gives you some clue into the company," says diversity expert Joyce Moy, director of the Center for Workforce Strategies in Long Island City, New York.

What's the Buzz?

"Listen to what your community is saying about an employer," advises Moy. Don't underestimate the power of these grapevines. They are valuable tools to learn about potential employers from people with unique perspectives.

Look the Company in the Face

"The biggest and best indication is a company's public face," says Luke Visconti, president of Allegiant Media of New Brunswick, New Jersey, which publishes DiversityInc.com. "Look at its Web site and closely evaluate the diversity areas on it," he says. "Also view the company's advertising to see if it reflects the values you'd want to represent."

Kim Mills, education director at the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, advises job seekers to "look at how a company gives back to the community." One way to do this is to check out diversity-related events sponsored by the company you're interested in working for.

Internal Affinity Groups

Does the company foster an environment that encourages employee groups to form around certain issues of common interest, such as ethnicity? "If a company has an affinity group, it's a good sign," says Moy. Call a company or check its Web site for such groups. Better yet, ask your potential employer for a person to contact within the affinity organization and ask questions about the company's atmosphere and policies.

On Campus?

Does the employer have a presence on college campuses where minority groups are well represented? If so, it's a good indication they're serious about recruiting minorities.

Check the Bottom Line

Investigate whether a company ties diversity to its bottom line. "If they don't, it doesn't necessarily indicate they are a bad company, but one that perhaps isn't publicly embracing the concept of diversity as a business issue," advises Visconti.

That concept requires more than just sponsoring events to support social issues. It means a company views serving diverse communities as a comprehensive business advantage. Feel free to ask what a company is doing to contribute to the field of diversity.

"Overall, you want to work for a company that understands the needs of various groups," says Visconti.

Copyright 2002 - TMP Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article first appeared on Monster, the leading online global network for careers. To see other career-related articles, visit http://content.monster.com.

Source : The Multicultural Advantage

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Seeking Diversity in the Workplace

By Dakotta Alex

Have any of the employees within your company ever asked you why diversity is not a priority? Do you find yourself interviewing the same type of candidate on a regular basis? Do you think you are hiring innovative employees or just those who will only do what is asked of them? If so, you should consider changing your hiring practices to include interviewing and hiring those who come from differing educational, social, religious, cultural, and industrial backgrounds.

Since the mid-1990’s, the business world has become much more global. Companies are opening offices and manufacturing plants in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. Hiring employees who come from these areas that understand the culture can only benefit company profits. But many are still anxious about hiring those who are from other countries or whose background may differ from their own.

While changing your entire hiring process will take time, there are small changes you can make in order to bring in talented people with diverse cultural backgrounds so they may become an integral part of the sales a company will earn from year to year.

Changes in recruitment

How you recruit candidates determines the types you will end up interviewing and hiring. Old stand-bys include college job fairs, ads in newspapers, and receiving referrals from other employees or recruiters. While you should still practice these methods, have you ever considered putting an ad in a foreign newspaper? How about attending a job fair in Turkey? One strategy that may prove fruitful is building your network outside the U.S.

If you employ travelling to another country in search of candidates as a recruitment strategy, research which countries have the best candidates for your company. This will help narrow your search a little. Talk to current management and other employees to see if they can recommend possible candidates. Companies that conduct a lot of international business have many contacts.

Building a recruitment network outside the United States will cost more money, but if you are looking for new talent, those who are ready to work, and those who can reach a different segment of the consumer population, the money you spend today will be returned many times over.

The Internet has provided people with the means to communicate with people all over the world, yet many companies are reluctant to use the Internet as a recruiting tool. Advertise online, review resumes online, and get the candidates your company needs.

Diversity in your own backyard

If your company cannot afford the costs associated with overseas recruitment, relocation packages, and other expenses, there are other ways to drive diversity into your company’s culture. Hiring candidates that have travelled, worked overseas, or who have faced challenges in their lives that are different from other candidates can give companies insight into other cultures and the consumers who live there.

Below are a few examples of the groups you should take a closer look at:

* As more and more people complete their service in the military, they will need jobs. These candidates have travelled, have trained with different types of people, and can learn easily. Military job boards are very good places to advertise and recruit.

* Stay-at-home parents who want to go back to work after taking a few years off are also great candidates because of their role as consumers. Your company will benefit from this perspective. Parents who want to go back to work are eager to prove themselves and have a strong work ethic.

* Hiring internally will not only help you fill positions, it will also boost morale and encourage people that work for the company to stay for a longer period of time. If you have offices in different countries, send a memo or email asking other HR managers if there are any internal candidates that are interested in relocating.

* Hiring consultants to work for your company may help in recruiting those who are older and who have more experience than someone who is fresh out of college. Often, consultants have travelled and are aware of the complexities of other cultures.

Downside of diverse workplaces

Hiring those who come from different social, educational, industrial, and cultural backgrounds may make some employees fearful of their job security. Since outsourcing has become a growing trend in business over the past six years, employees, particularly those who work in IT departments, worry that their jobs might be taken away from them. While you should hire the most qualified candidates, you should ask yourself if your company is ready to accept those from other countries, religious backgrounds, and cultures to help them become members of teams and departments within the company.

Understanding diversity

Diversity does not have to be a quota of people you hire, it does not have to be extreme, and it should not interfere with hiring the very best candidates. As your company grows, you will start receiving more resumes from those who have different backgrounds, education levels, and talents. Using the tips mentioned above are ways for you to see what is out there and how you can help create a diverse working environment from which everyone benefits.

Source : Recruiting Trends

Why Diversity Could Be Your Job-Search Edge

By Luke Visconti

If you've clicked on this article, you have an interest in diversity -- and building on that interest may be a great way for you to stand out from the crowd, regardless of your race or ethnicity.

Strong relationships are based on a concurrence of ideals, interests and ethics. Employers are looking for employees who will fit in with their interests and direction. You're most likely to get a job in a company that mirrors your style and how you think.

When executives catch on to an effective new management trend, they become passionate about it. There's a good reason -- significant new disciplines can become competitive factors that make or break a company. Within the past five years, diversity has generated the same type of enthusiasm companies had when supply-chain management and total-quality management were first introduced. Employers who have recognized the bottom-line results have made diversity a top-down imperative with aggressive measurement and goals.

Why? For people of color, household income, education and their share of the total population have increased dramatically in the past 10 years. The growth rate of multiethnic households also is increasing. Instead of being easy to ignore, these markets are becoming key consumer segments, driving growth and sales in many industries.

As with any new strategic direction, not all companies are going to catch on. There always will be those that come late to changes in the marketplace -- that's why less than half of the companies that were included in the Fortune 500 in 1980 exist today.

So how does this help you? If you're seeking a job in a company that values diversity, you can become a diversity champion. Regardless of your race or ethnicity, it will show that you are on board with the strategic direction the company has taken.

First, you'll need to know whether diversity is a priority for the employer. It's easy to learn about a company's values through its Web site. Questions to ask include:

1. Is there a link to diversity or diversity-related information on the home page (or at least within one click of the home page)?
2. Does a simple search for the keyword "diversity" yield relevant results?
3. Is the diversity information up-to-date?
4. Does the site use multicultural images?
5. Does the site offer diversity information in its career area?
6. Does the site offer information for diverse suppliers?
7. Does the site highlight company activities that assist diverse communities?

If your research yields no diversity interest, you may want to consider walking away -- especially if you're a diversity enthusiast. Diversity is like a canary in a coal-mine -- if a company is oblivious to the substantial and dramatic changes in the U.S. marketplace, what else is it ignoring? This isn't a good sign.

When you're job hunting, your cover letter, resume or interview responses should emphasize factors that correspond to the employer's diversity interests and involvement. For instance, you might:

* Reveal association membership, committee or charity work that identifies you as a diversity champion.
* Share diversity experiences, such as training sessions or workshops you attended for previous employers.
* Discuss volunteer work that demonstrates community involvement or good citizenship.
* Link these to your profession and help the company understand that in addition to being, for example, a great accountant, you also are a team player, an asset to cross-company projects and a positive role model.
* Help your interviewers understand how your "cultural competence" will help you play a role in connecting with today's consumers, co-workers, suppliers and investors.

If you like the concept of diversity, but don't have any experience in the area, get involved by reading books, volunteering or taking a course. Remember that most companies and people also are at the beginning of their journey to understanding and using diversity as a business opportunity.

Please note that I'm stressing experience and insights, regardless of your race. All races and ethnicities have members who are culturally incompetent. Employers know that they have to continue to hire and promote white employees. If you put yourself in an employer's shoes, however, you can see that it's more efficient to hire people who already "get it." As an analogy, would you hire someone who wasn't using e-mail?

Keep in mind that diversity will be a competitive edge for you -- but it won't win the battle on its own. Even companies known for promoting diversity value competency over everything else. But if you bring up the subject at the appropriate moment, at the right company, championing diversity can give you a competitive edge.

About the Author

Mr. Visconti is a partner and co-founder of DiversityInc Media LLC, a publishing company based in New Brunswick, N.J.

Source : CareerJournal.com