As a former journalist, I was so pleased when I was asked to put on my “reporter hat” and attend the Argentum Senior Living Executive Virtual Conference workforce track sessions, which OnShift sponsored. A regular contributor to the OnShift blog, I do my fair share of research and writing but I had forgotten the thrill of jotting down important details in real time that comes with covering live events. Embarrassingly, my shorthand is not what it used to be, but I was able to decode everything in my notes upon review. This was quite a feat because I don’t think I stopped typing throughout each session, a true testament to the quality of discussion that unfolded.
When debriefing my team, they asked, “what was your favorite session?” I was unable to answer. Each topic was critically important, and the panelists shared a ton of timely information. In fact, I found it hard to fit all that was shared into one blog post. So, I will spare you a saga and start with Crucial Conversation: Equity, Inclusion, and the Future of Work in a Post-Pandemic World.
As expected, the pandemic was addressed during most discussions – but the outlook on the whole situation appeared to be pretty positive overall. I really liked how George Brooks, Global Deputy, People Advisory Services, EY framed the situation. “Anything extraordinary comes from a catalyst or shock to the system.” He said that we are experiencing multiple shocks at the same time -- the pandemic, racial tensions, the political climate. But these will only serve to bring about a positive change in mindsets and behavior. I thought that was an interesting way of looking at everything happening. We are struggling to get to a better place.
This was a common theme throughout the discussion. Panelists agreed that you have to have the difficult and often uncomfortable conversations in the journey to advance equality. And you need to recognize that change is not going to just happen overnight. That’s why putting a system in place to measure success is critical. For example, Brooks says that EY strives to do better year over year when it comes to measuring their success around areas like recruiting, hiring and conducting internal anti-bias training.
Panelist Karyne Jones, President and CEO The National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, stressed the importance of getting the message right. For example, educating employees on the meaning behind movements like “Black Lives Matter,” which do not favor one group over the other, nor do they aim to take from one group and give to another group.
“People look at it in different ways and that’s been a problem within our society that we have to address,” she explained.
She likened the message to the Save The Whales campaign. “We’re not saying forget all the rest of the fish, we’re just saying it’s important to include the whales, who may need some special treatment or attention.” She shared a couple of excellent analogies throughout the session. To explain how much work needs to be done, she said to think of your inclusion efforts like a baseball game where one team has had the advantage for nine innings.
“They’ve had the bat, the bat the ball, the bases, the field and the umpire – all of the things to be successful in the game,” she explained. “And then the 10th inning, we say ‘okay, now we are going to play fair.’ The disadvantaged team has a lot of catching up to level the playing field.
“We have a long way to go and need to recognize that it’s going to take not only including people…but changing the atmosphere where people feel threatened and that someone is getting an advantage that is being taken away from them.”
To better understand where they stand, organizations should have candid conversations with their employees and get them involved in the plan.
In talking with OnShift clients, CEO Mark Woodka says organizations are treating this as a wakeup call and are prepared to do better moving forward. Many are creating their own diversity, equity and inclusion committees to get more feedback from employees and are focusing on better hiring practices, looking for diverse candidates. One client has begun anonymizing resumes. “They take names and addresses off of resumes before hiring managers review them to protect from any unconscious bias around those elements that are in the resume,” he explained.
Other organizations are holding individual discussions with staff or town hall meetings to encourage open and honest conversation. In fact, during one town hall, a community uncovered that staff members were experiencing racism from residents and asked the organization to arm them with tools to address it in the best way possible. That was something that opened my eyes to the depth of these issues and how it needs to be addressed from all angles.
For example, Woodka also shared that OnShift is not only looking at how we can be more inclusive within our organization, but how the software we build can better support diversity and inclusion for our customers and their employees.
Brooks says compassion is one of the most important pieces in advancing diversity and equity and EY has implemented mindfulness programs to help people adopt more inclusive, kind and compassionate responses. In fact, he said LinkedIn, who has an SVP of Compassion, has seen success in implementing mindfulness programs. “It permeated to their culture – one where they treat their customers, their clients, their suppliers and each other with compassion in everything they do.”
Deke Cateau, Chief Executive Officer at A.G. Rhodes, a company who operates three nursing homes in metro Atlanta, says that creating diverse leadership teams and boards is also a huge component in “walking the walk.” They are currently being deliberate in this at their organization, which employs a 90%+ minority workforce. They understand the importance of positions of power reflecting those they serve and dismantling this “lopsided diversity.”
Cateau says his organization has gone one step further and hired a third party to conduct a diversity assessment across all areas where bias exists, not just race, but in other areas like gender and race. Similarly, Brooks said EY has expanded their efforts to include the neurodiverse to give people with autism and others with neuro-variations more opportunities in their workforce.
All panelists agreed that the industry as a whole has work to do. In fact, a poll conducted during the session found that only 18% of participants believe their organization has been extremely or very effective at addressing diversity, equity and inclusion. Ten percent of respondents answered that their company has not been effective at all. The good news is that 44% of participants say they are in the process of designing a strategy to align diversity, equity and inclusion with company business goals and 25% are already in the data collection and analysis state to determine the need for change.
We have still a long way to go but if I know this industry, we will stop at nothing to get there.
Thank you for being proactive in addressing diversity, equity and inclusion and for all that you are doing in the fight against COVID-19.