Tag Archive for inclusion

Changing the Conversation about Diversity & Inclusion – #SHRMDiv

s_HomeI had the opportunity to attend the SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference and Exposition in New Orleans on Monday and was just enraptured; it was my first time attending this particular SHRM conference.

I could tell, right out of the gate, that this event was going to be a bit different than the typical HR event (SHRM or otherwise) geared towards the masses of HR practitioners trying to scoop up re-certification credits. It was small (500 or so attendees I would estimate) and the energy, passion and excitement was palpable. Smart, authentic, honest and human conversations were happening all around me as soon as I walked in and sat down for the opening general session.

During the session, after we all did a brief activity with the person sitting next to us (talking about unconscious bias), a few people shared their thoughts with the larger audience. When an HR/D&I pro stood up and said “As a gay black male here is what I experience everyday….” it was confirmed for me yet again that this was not your mama’s HR conference. I’ve been to HR conferences with your mama (and your daddy). Sometimes she’s racist, homophobic and judgmental; she quite possibly would have rolled her eyes at this guy’s honesty.

And it was the honesty I appreciated so much at this conference; people (HR people!) were their most authentic selves at every turn. No one was afraid to point out the absurdities of some of the residual attitudes they encounter every day in their D&I work. In a session I attended the speaker said “I’m a white middle-aged male. My friends don’t understand how it came to be that I’m speaking at a Diversity conference.” (and all of us in the room chuckled knowingly).

We didn’t hear chatter about EEO-1 reports or affirmative action. We didn’t sit through sessions run by the EEOC. Rather we had the chance to discuss “Building an ROI-Focused Diversity Scorecard” and “Assessing and Developing Passion for Global Diversity.” There were session offerings about religious diversity, using Six Sigma to link innovation with diversity, and how to address the biases that exist against the unemployed.

As Dr. Shirley Davis (SHRM’s former VP of Global Diversity & Inclusion and Workforce Strategies) told me during a video interview we did “we have changed the conversation about what diversity and inclusion is.”

I agree. We have. But our continuing work is getting all HR practitioners invested in that conversation.

Here’s the deal: I’m a SHRM member, former chapter president, and long time volunteer leader at the state level and I travel around quite a bit and see activities at the chapter level far and wide. Many SHRM chapters and state councils now have a Diversity Director position on their board and quite a number of chapters (and state councils) promote “Diversity Awards.” Yet I can tell you that the old conversation still reigns supreme as race and gender (with a smattering of generational diversity) continue to be the overwhelming topic of D&I talk. Compliance and coded keywords are prevalent. Too often, in my estimation, when HR practitioners say “we have a diverse workforce” they are merely doing a mental tabulation of their workforce demographics: white vs. black, old vs. young, males vs. females.

How do we disrupt that?

The Monday afternoon keynote speaker Daymond John, said something that is wildly appropriate to everything we do in HR but especially in our approach to building and embracing inclusion:


“The world is getting smaller and there is disruption in every industry.

We can either take advantage of that … or we will fall by the wayside.”


Let’s not fall by the wayside.

Making the Unconscious Conscious – Live from #SHRMDiv

s_HomeI’m excited to be attending the SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference and Exposition in New Orleans today; it’s the first time I’ve been able to attend this event and want to thank SHRM for inviting me to participate as a blogger. Rumor has it I might be doing some video interviews later today as well (stay tuned) so I best get my camera-face ready. Or something.

SHRM’s CHRO, Jeff Pons, kicked off the conference with a lively and interactive session where we had the opportunity (challenge?) of discussing unconscious bias at our tables. We also watched “Making the Unconscious Conscious” – a super video from Google (Life at Google). Go watch it. It’s worth it

And then, dear reader, I implore you to share it with your organizational leaders, HR colleagues and others who can benefit.

It’s an important conversation to have.

p.s. follow the conference hashtag #SHRMDiv through Wednesday!

Employee Referrals, Inclusion and … Discrimination?

This post originally appeared at SHRM’s We Know Next

question diceThere’s a heightened focus in the HR and Recruiting sphere on the effective use of employee referrals in order to make effective hires and we see numerous reports informing us that referrals tend to get hired faster, are often a better fit with the organization culture and are less likely to quit their jobs.

It’s hard to argue with the findings and few of us do; as a result a whole batch of nifty HR Technology solutions exist to assist employers as they tap into social referrals for hiring. Employers, however, should not go jumping headlong into any sort of employee referral program without considering some of the “what might happen” scenarios.

From a regulatory standpoint it’s always important to pay attention to the UGESP’s definition of discrimination (41 C.F.R. §60-3.3 A) and if you’re a government contractor you want to consider how referral programs appear to the OFCCP.  Even though in the case ofOFCCP v. VF Jeanswear Limited Partnership (DOL Office of Administrative Law Judges, No. 2011-OFC-00006, August 5, 2013) the ALJ found against the OFCCP it’s interesting to read about this case while paying particular attention to the employer’s use of an employee referral program.

(to read the rest of this post, click here…) 

Focusing on Abilities for a Great Workplace Culture

focus on abilitiesIndividuals with disabilities have long faced challenges in accessing job opportunities and employment; many of us cannot even imagine the obstacles that exist. I’ve always found it not only an imperative as an HR professional to ensure opportunities exist but also personally believe that we should do all we can to have a level playing field.  A few years ago I was proud to spearhead an initiative with my local SHRM Chapter (Greater Baton Rouge SHRM) that included developing partnerships with the US Business Leadership Network’s Louisiana chapter (LBLN) and local/state-wide organizations that worked to provide education and access to individuals with disabilities.  We won a SHRM Pinnacle Award for this initiative in 2008 and the partnership assisted LBLN in that they were awarded the BLN Chapter of the Year award.  We called the program ‘Focus on Abilities’ in order to grow understanding of the valuable abilities that all people can bring to the workplace and we started the program in order to strengthen the partnership that was entered into between SHRM and the US DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.  ODEP is a great resource for employers by the way; specifically check out the Job Accommodation Network.

I’ve found that job seekers who require accommodations are hesitant to bring up their disability or accommodation needs until they absolutely must. This may occur at the post-offer stage or even, in some situations, once they walk in the door on day 1 of the job and start completing all their new-hire paperwork.  Quite frankly, in many situations, they’ve previously felt the sting of bias and, dare I say, discrimination. “How will she answer the phone with her hearing loss?” or “How can he manage to get around the building when he’s missing a limb?” are just a few (a few!) of the boneheaded comments I’ve heard from hiring managers and HR professionals over the years.  Yes…HR professionals.  Is it any wonder that candidates are afraid to request an accommodation before they have an offer in hand?

This remains an issue because even though it’s been more than twenty years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) individuals with disabilities continue to have an unemployment rate of 14.7%; almost double the rate for people without disabilities.   Individuals who have faced barriers to employment are simply afraid that they will continue to run into those barriers at every step so they wait until an employer proves to them – actions, not words – that they truly have an inclusive work environment.

Although it’s been a few years since I’ve worked for a contractor with AAP obligations (and thus haven’t had to develop, write and implement an affirmative action plan for some time) I’ve long been an advocate of doing the right thing as both a member of the human race and as a business professional. There are some though who refuse to take action unless the government steps in and says they must; thus, the plethora of rules, directive and regulations that come our way.  There’s one such change around the corner however (effective date of March 24, 2014) when federal contractors/subcontractors of the US government will be required to take enhanced affirmative action under both VEVRAAA  (Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974) and Section 503 (Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973).   Among other things, the disability rule updates state:

  • Contractors will now have a 7% utilization goal for qualified individuals with disabilities (IWDs).  Contractors must apply the goal using the established job groups that they’re already using for their utilization analysis under Executive Order 11246
  • Contractors must invite applicants to self identify as IWDs at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process
  • Contractors must document and update annually some quantitative comparisons for the number of IWDs who apply for jobs and the number hired

You can click here for a complete recap of the Final Rule for Section 503.

Contractors are understandably a bit concerned with the new responsibilities and requirements; it’s never fun to have more work to do along with additional record keeping requirements.  But I’ve long been a believer that businesses should follow some of these practices whether they’re a contractor or not and any thinking HR professional understands it’s always been good practice to keep an eye on utilization and continuously make sure the job application process is open, inclusive, accessible and attractive to ALL candidates.

Rather than view these new rules as an impediment to running one’s HR function I encourage HR professionals and organizational leaders to approach them with the intent of making real meaningful progress in the area of disability employment.  In addition, these changes provide an exceptional opportunity to educate hiring managers, employees and other stakeholders.

Companies that want to hire the best and brightest and promote a workplace culture of inclusion, transparency and opportunity should wholeheartedly adopt the spirit and goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA) and Section 503 and move beyond merely doing “what needs to be done.”

Do what can be done and focus on the abilities.  Of everyone.


As part of the Focus on Abilities program we developed “A Resource Guide for Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining People with different Abilities.”   You can access the guide here.