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"If we want to create great companies, and great outcomes, we must go deeper than just the surface. So start small and get better."
Hot Tips | How to see bandaids and deeper solutions
“This is a topic that we all need to better understand in today’s climate after the recent racial awakening.”
Typical Bandaid: Host a diversity speaker panel. (….and ally groups to do the work to bring them in and they do in their free time.)
Deeper Solutions: Hosting speakers to tell stories or present expertise/data is great, however, it’s a lot of work for a one-time hit of “awareness.” You can accomplish the same thing through presenting data (see citations in the footnote for where some of that research and support materials exist) and then asking your own employees or customers who are part of a minority group to share their own stories. Record it. It’s more powerful when it’s your own people talking about their experiences before they arrived at your company and what they are up against. It can be reused for onboarding after the first time it’s used to set the tone for others entering the company who want to know you take belonging seriously.
Inclusion + Belonging
“We had belonging issues raised by employees.”
Typical Bandaid: Unconscious bias training
Deeper Solutions: Regularly promote/recognize the successful work of underrepresented workers to reduce unconscious bias we have towards non-white workers whose work we don’t observe in practice at work.
Inclusion + Belonging
“URMs (Underrepresented Minorities) are saying they can’t speak up safely.”
Typical Bandaid: Ally / Employee Resource Groups
Deeper Solutions: Ensure exec sponsorship of ally groups, so a possible majority group leader is learning with the underrepresented employees, promoting their work, their names as sponsors of them as workers, etc.
Hiring for Diversity
“There are not enough diverse candidates in our pipeline.”
Typical Bandaid: Quotas for slates or hiring.
Deeper Solutions: Introduce bias minimization at the point in which you are making a decision about people. E.g. remind people of all forms of bias before a debrief of a new candidate, when calibrating talent for a review, or decisions on who gets a special project.
“I feel like an imposter when I start…”
Typical Bandaid: Tell them everything you can think of about how to work at your company so they can feel comfortable or ‘hit the ground running.’
Deeper Solutions: In onboarding experience, design for increasing belonging.
Name it: Include imposter syndrome data + experiences in onboarding
- Practice: Ask new teammates to identify one thing you want to protect in your life and share – let the rest of the team support you in it. E.g. I need to be present for dinner with my family at 6:00 each day. I want to meditate 1x/day.
Name it: Work/Life balance discussion
- Practice: “Reverse onboarding” – ask new hires to share with their team what they know – e.g. spotlight a past project – in a presentation. Let the team ask them questions about it.
“We spend a lot of time on performance reviews but people still are unsure if the system is fair.”
Typical Bandaid: Throw out performance reviews because they take too long and we ‘know’ who is great. Let’s just discuss it so it’s fair.
- Don’t just do check-ins with no review. The transparency and openness to how you pay or promote are critical to fairness and trust.
- Long-form writing/reviews replaced with questions based on clear criteria for What + How for the role.
- Use a binary rating (e.g. 3.2,4.1) using averages of What/How
- Remove numerical self-ratings (women tend to rate themselves lower; men rate themselves higher; manager anchors to that)
- “Bias Busting” research/tips shared in all calibration sessions
“The same people keep getting selected for the best projects.”
Typical Bandaid: Underrepresented Minorities (URMs) raise their hand. But often don’t get it if they don’t have the right exposure or relationships.
Deeper Solutions: Consider a platform in your HRIS system, or create your own, that opens up projects to be applied to, vs. people being picked to do. This will often bring in many biases, including proximity bias which is when I favour those I am physically close to or see often during my working day (online or in-person).
“We’re not promoting women.”
Typical Bandaid: Mentorship for women and people of colour.
- Sponsorship programs (different from – and proven more effective than – mentorship). Ask senior leaders to adopt URM-sponsored workers who can be supported and presented for projects or open roles.
- Process: a) Clear definition of what is needed in the role – and publicly post for all to apply. b) Fair internal hiring review based on criteria and evaluation of skills/experiences needed.
“Who decides who gets coaching?”
Typical Bandaids: Open applications (people who have time or ambition apply). Women and People of Color Training will help them ‘get ready for bigger roles.
- Avoid using ‘potential’ as a marker for who gets into leadership training and coaching opportunities. It’s rife with bias.
- However, do look at a person’s performance over time and how they lead others – do they have followers? Or just a position where they are in charge?
“Am I being paid fairly? I don’t know if I can trust if I am and I have no way of finding out.”
Typical Bandaid: Very few pay bandaids exist within the context of Diversity + Belonging. In fact, there were none we could think of that aren’t deeper solutions.
- Most boldly, make all pay transparent. Some states in the US are now requiring that salary ranges be transparent to both candidates and current employees. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Meaning, if you post salaries and someone seems grossly under/overpaid, it will become known to you who is performing to the level of their pay.
- If that’s too much, try setting a pay for a role and not allow negotiations. It’s known that men – and white men in particular – negotiate high salaries and/or bonuses (watch out for sign-on or retention bonuses – it can be a hidden way pay is not equitable.
- Many companies – and SaaS companies – can run pay equity analysis fairly easily. Correct inequities at annual review time before you offer pay increases.
- Create an algorithm for pay based on the most objective performance and compensation/market data available. Do not let managers decide. They can offer the performance rating (see above), but unconscious bias around pay for different groups is real. (e.g. “He is having a baby so he’ll need to provide for his family.” vs “She is having a baby so she’ll not be able to work as many hours or travel as she did before.” These are not often conscious statements, but things that inform our ‘judgment’ for the pay increase for an employee.
Connect the Data Dots | The above ‘hot tips’ are for each area you might be struggling with as you scale to be efficient and fair in the assessment of your people. If your talent decision machine is ‘gut feel’ or disconnected from data you have available, it will be biased. Below is a visual for you to put it all together in a way that can show the ease and efficiency of talent decisions flowing from one data set to the next.
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Vibrancy is based in California, with co-founders located in California + Canada. We’re a dynamic combination of experience and expertise, thought leaders in the future (now) of work. We leverage modern org design, iterative implementation and grounding in purpose and belonging to help companies accelerate success with people. We have hands-on expertise and experience, including Airbnb, Morning Star, IBM, Film, Manufacturing, Financial Services and Tech. Vibrancy.co
Via one of its co-founders, Vibrancy partners with Rhythmic Leader Science, a Canadian company focused on helping fast growing companies grow faster by integrating science to iterate and accelerate people performance. Based in Canada with co-founders in Saskatchewan and Texas, Rhythmic Leader also brings academic research-based work in leadership performance, and PhD in Human Resources Development. Rhythmicleader.co
Research + Resources
- Getting Serious about Diversity: Enough Already About the Business Case (Harvard Business Review, 2020)
- Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters (McKinsey, 2020)
- The Diversity Bonus (by Page)
- Racial Attention Deficit (Levine, Raypens and Stark 2021)
- Dr. Greg Walton, Stanford’s Belonging Research Lab
- Dr. Shelley Correll, Stanford’s VMWare Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab
- Iris Bohnet, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Public Policy Professor Author: What Works: Gender Equality by Design
- Amy Edmondson’s Psychological Safety Research (popularized by Google) Author: The Fearless Organization
- Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment (Kahnenman)
- Sleeping With your Cell Phone (Perlow)