"Workplace Diversity & Inclusion for 2013"
By: Sanjeev Panicker, SPHR - Diversity & Inclusion Chair
By living the mantra of embracing diversity in the workplace, we ensure that all individuals are given an equal opportunity to be productive. We all know that best practices for creating and maintaining a diverse business environment goes beyond hiring and providing reasonable accommodations for individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, or disability. It is our responsibility to review all aspects of inclusion in the workplace. From the first experience of a company during the recruitment process and throughout the life cycle of employment, we will offer insights as to how companies may go beyond compliance and truly embrace diversity as part of the corporate culture.
Diversity is critical in the workplace and benefits the company and employees in many ways – some are obvious and others are more subtle, showing benefits over a longer period of time. Consider the following:
- Business Solutions - because each person has different experiences throughout their lives that affect their perspective, cultivating a diverse workforce provides opportunities to consider a broader variety of ideas and solutions to every day business issues, project teams, or new ventures;
- Strategic Competitive Advantage - integrating persons with disabilities and from diverse backgrounds creates a strategic competitive business advantage. Did you know that consumers and customers are more likely to use a product or service with a company that demonstrates embracing diversity in their workforce?; and
- Community Enrichment – opportunities for equal employment and equitable treatment throughout employment equates to higher self esteem and ultimately more productive citizens.
It is part of our business role to model the way. In addition we must strive to find ways to educate employers on how to incorporate a mindset of embracing diversity into our daily business practices. How will you choose to lead the way?
"Make Flexibility Real" Case of the Month Flexibility to Minimize Layoffs
By: Cali Yost, CEO Flex Strategy Group
Eighteen months ago, Jim, as senior leader in a national professional services firm faced a challenge: He needed to reduce his head count by 15% but his clients valued the consistency of the teams dedicated to their accounts. Plus he knew that when business recovered he'd be forced to overwork the staff that remained as he struggled to hire and train replacements. There had to be a better way.
Jim thought about his options and called a meeting of his direct reports to brainstorm. One idea suggested was, "What if we cut everyone's hours and salary by 15% for the next six months and then reevaluate where we are?" When the leaders announced the plan, they were surprised by how few people pushed back and how many appreciated the opportunity to keep their jobs and work together to help the business recover.
Today, business is recovering and Jim believes that his team's strategic, creative use of reduced schedules for six months has positioned his region for success. Other offices are not only scrambling to hire people, he isn't losing people as the market improves. "I think they are grateful that we tried to do all we could to minimize job cuts. And we are seeing the payback today."
Here are the three things Jim did to make flexibility real and minimize layoffs:
- He defined the problem.
- He involved his team in brainstorming solutions with strategic flexibility as an option, and
- He instituted a short-term checkpoint to reevaluate and recalibrate if necessary.
For another example of a manager who used flexibility to limit layoffs, click here.
To Make Flexibility Real, You Need All 3 Layers of the Flex "Turducken”–Policy, in Process, in Strategy
By: Cali Yost, CEO Flex Strategy Group
Yes, that’s right. Flex strategy "turducken.” What? Here’s the backstory:
It all started during a team discussion about the best way to present our next phase recommendations to a client. In an attempt to wrap them under a unifying concept, FSG partner, Donna Miller, pointed out, "It’s a policy wrapped in a process, wrapped in a strategy. A veritable flexibility ‘turducken’ if you will.” And, with that, the perfect metaphor for "strategic flexibility” was born. A turducken.
And just as a butcher creates a turducken by wrapping chicken inside duck, inside turkey, organizations make flexibility real when they wrap policies inside of guidelines, inside of a a plan for implementation that’s linked to business objectives:
What does a flexibility strategy "turducken” look like in action? Although every organization is different, here are some highlights by layer:
Flexibility Policies (Chicken): This is where most organizations start and many end. They draft policies that lay out the approval, implementation and review parameters of the five discrete formal flexible work arrangements: flexible schedules, telecommuting, compressed workweeks, reduced schedules, and job sharing. For example:
We define telecommuting as…/ We define a reduced schedule as…/
If you telecommute, the company will/will not reimburse certain expense
Every arrangement must be reviewed initially after 90 days and the every six months thereafter
If the arrangement is deemed unsatisfactory to either the manager or employee, it can be terminated immediately.
But these one-size-fits-all policies are often one-dimensional. They fail to come to life because there’s no way to contextualize the flexibility to the unique realities of a particular business challenge, job or person. This is where the next layer of the flex strategy "turducken” becomes important…
Flexibility Process to Tailor Win-Win Solutions (Duck): This layer takes flexibility to the next level. It provides consistent guidelines to think through what type of flexibility will or will not work for a job or person. Flexibility processes also address issues of fairness. While everyone is not guaranteed the same type of flexibility, everyone does follow the same process for consideration of a request.
Here’s an example of three common levels of guidelines. They build upon one another to harness flexibility and create win-win, tailored solutions:
Level 1—Manager/HR: A process to guide a manager or HR’s approval of a request for one of the five standard, one-size-fits-all formal flexible work arrangements. Managers and/or HR are prompted to consider the performance of the employee, whether it makes sense for the business, etc. This is where most organizations begin, but at some point they make three important realizations:
Managers and HR can’t come up with a flexibility plan that is going to work for each individual person,
The five, one-size-fits-all formal flexible work arrangements are too rigid. They don’t allow the creativity required to tailor a solution that meets the work+life fit needs of the individual and the needs of the business, and,
Most of the time people don’t need to formally change the way they are working. They just want to make small, flexible adjustments in how, when and where they work day-to-day.
That leads to the creation of…
Level 2—Employee Work+Life Fit: A process that helps an employee take the lead to determine what type of formal and day-to-day flexibility will help them manage their work+life fit. These guidelines help them think through how, when and/or where they want to work, how their job will get done, etc before talking to their manager and team.
Unfortunately, in many organizations, these employee-based guidelines only focus on work considerations and leave out personal realities that will also impact the success of flexibility. This incomplete picture is the reason that I wrote my book, Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You. I wanted to help individuals create a solution with the greatest likelihood of success.
The processes in levels 1 and 2 address the individual’s need for flexibility to manage their personal work+life fit. But how do organizations harness this same flexibility to deal with business challenges? This is the next level of flexibility process…
Level 3—Team-based Innovation: A few companies are providing teams with guidelines to help tailor win-win solutions that use flexibility to target business challenges. The process shows leaders, managers and employees how to engage in an ongoing conversation that rethinks rigid ways of working. Together they create flexible, innovative solutions. For example, creating a rotating telework schedule to deal with overcrowding in the office, or a flexible shift schedule for global client coverage to ensure people aren’t "on call” all of the time.
This brings us to the final level of strategic flexibility. You can have the best policies and guidelines, but they won’t have much impact unless there’s a…
Plan for Strategic Implementation (Turkey): This is the piece of the "turducken” that too few organizations develop and execute. Without a plan that creates readiness, links flexibility to other management practices, rewards buy in, communicates broadly, etc. flexibility will not become a meaningful part of an organization’s culture and way of operating. Like laying a piece of paper on top of water, it floats but never penetrates.
Flexibility implementation must be intentional, have a clearly articulated impact on the business and its people, and be able to be measured. Depending upon the unique goals of the organization, it might include:
Creating a shared vision of flexibility that answers the questions "why do we need it?” and "what does it look like here?”
Aligning work processes, management structures and rewards
Linking flexibility to leadership competencies
Encouraging a culture of shared responsibility versus top-down hierarchy
There’s more, but it gives you a sense of some of the key elements for deep and broad buy-in and impact.
Just as a butcher creates a turducken by wrapping chicken inside duck, inside turkey, organizations must link policy, process and strategy if they want to make flexibility real.
Does your organization have all three layers of the flex strategy "turducken?” If not, what’s missing?
For more, I invite you to sign up to receive the "Make Flexibility Real” newsletter via email, to visit my Fast Company blog, and to join me on Twitter @caliyost.
Please click here to read "Beyond Compliance - Strategies for Integrating the Needs of 21st Century Caregivers in the Workplace” from the October 2010 Diversity Workshop.
To inquire about volunteering for one of our Diversity projects, ask a question about diversity trends or would like to share a best practice on this site, please reach out to Sanjeev Panicker, SPHR - Diversity & Inclusion Chair.