Diversity and Inclusion the First Step of Many
How Diverse Workforces Don’t End With Hiring
As we continue to teeter along the precipice of massive social and political change, and in an effort to better reflect the general populous – more and more companies and sectors are taking the necessary and much needed steps to increase diversity and inclusion in their workplaces.
To get directly to the point: Diversity in the workplace is a key to successful businesses. Not only does diversifying a workforce better reflect society and indicate a level of corporate sensitivity towards a customer and consumer base, but it also makes for a better business practice overall. By opening a workforce to a variety of different racial backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, abilities, behaviours and beliefs, workplaces are also opening themselves up for a diversity in thought, perspective, and collaborative problem-solving skillsets. They further open themselves to customer connection, employee motivation, quality improvement and more rounded training practices.
What is important to remember when working to further diversify a workplace is that there is no sure-fire single way to tackle it. Though it may seem like a good start, diversity and inclusion does not stop once the hiring process has been adjusted and after the hire has been made. The act of promoting diversity in the workplace is not the same as executing it successfully. It is more than tokenism, more than a quota to be filled or “boxes to be checked”, and more than a passing trend. Quite simply: diversity and inclusion is not something that needs to be continuously debated – it is an opportunity that needs to be put into action and actively tackled.
The act of inclusion is a long-term dedication to evolving alongside necessary changes in the hiring process. It is the willingness not only to diversify the initial candidate hiring pool, but to create a workplace that is wholly inclusive for a variety of different employees, with strategies to retain said employees and dismantle and rebuild old business mindsets and structures. It is the inclusion of diversity not only in the employee pool, but amidst executives, CEOs, leaders and boards. It is the day-to-day effort to create a healthy, accepting environment for employees and working constantly to eliminate unconscious bias, lumping individuals into categories, and workplace harassment.
In order to encourage and retain diverse hires, businesses must be willing to change and adapt, not only in how they search for said individuals, but in how they organize the workplace overall. This can come in a variety of different forms, including training, the formation of diversity boards, and providing more accommodations. For example, our current situation has demonstrated that remote work is not only achievable, but dynamic and flexible in its results. By continuing to offer the option of remote work even after we begin to re-adapt to a post-COVID world, businesses will be opening further options for accommodation, increasing their hiring pools and giving chances to good employees who may not have otherwise been considered.
Like anything else, businesses should be reflections of society they are in – colourful, diverse and dynamic. The act of diversifying workplaces is not easy, but it is reasonable to say that, now more than ever, it is fundamental.
eBook: Emergence Leadership
Thank you for attending SWAAC and Phelps webinar on Emergence Leadership on Thursday, September 24th, 2020. We hope the event provided you with some valuable takeaways.
Here is a copy of the eBook: Emergence Leadership- Pause, Plan & Prepare
Please contact us if you would like to schedule a one-to-one or a group session with Dr. Jill Birch on the topic of Emergence Leadership.
What’s Next ? The Workplace of the Future
Just recently, I was mesmerized by a photo of a café in Paris. People were spilling out onto the sidewalks – holding hands, laughing, smiling. Life appearing normal again. It made me think wistfully of what the future will look like as Canada reopens.
That’s the question our partners posed to clients in virtual coffee sessions we’ve held over the last few months. We asked leaders how they saw workplaces coming back to life. As we compared notes, three major themes emerged that we wanted to share with you as we prepare our workplaces to re-open.
Change with the Change
I’ll bet you thought the burning issue would be workplace transition. It was up there, but ranked second. The first theme was the most powerful – leaders are recognizing our values have shifted and are considering how these changes will affect everything from retaining employees to culture and productivity.
We heard from leaders the value of protecting families will be long lasting. Concentrating on mental well-being will also be a primary focus. Smart organizations are preparing for what is being called “total burn-out”; a condition affecting employees’ physical, mental and financial security.
And just recently we heard about how pandemic worries have been engulfed by the response to the murder of George Floyd. Preparing thoughtful and collaborative corporate responses to these seismic shifts, signals your organization, recognizing that we live in a changed world.
Work you can undertake to calibrate your organization are to revisit your vision, mission and values. Facilitate open conversations to clarify your organization’s position; don’t’ just talk about it, but demonstrate equity by engaging as many diverse voices as possible. Set timelines to ensure timely responses; wait too long and it will reflect poorly.
What we saw in our clients was that drawing strength from the guiding principles of humanity and humility went a long way to helping employees feel secure, respected and welcome when they return.
Help Employees Connect
A second theme leaders felt essential was frequent return to work communications coupled with the importance of broadcasting support for pandemic efforts.
When it comes to workplace transition, the second theme, leaders underscored consistent and frequent return to work communications were essential. In the next breath, they spoke about the importance of broadcasting support for pandemic efforts.
The work of Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar, was cited as a glowing example. Linda helped scale up production of ventilators, used the trucking division to help food banks and harnessed supply chains to provide much needed PPE (personal protective equipment) to front line workers. These are the proud stories employees and customers will remember long after the pandemic has ended.
It’s vital to concentrate on internal communications. One idea is to plan water cooler events during weekly huddles by opening video calls 15 minutes before and keeping them open 15 minutes after. These opportunities, as well as setting up special instant messaging help employees stay connected.
Intriguing Decisions Await – But not for the Faint of Heart
A third theme centred on making balanced strategic decisions in five areas.
- Trade-offs between technology investments and the other two biggest financial commitments – employees and rent
- Redesign of organizational footprints and structures, reimagining workflow and compensation
- The need for open, flexible and agile thinking to parse out ever-moving compliance targets
- Reimaging strategy when rule books have been thrown out of the window
- Pushing the pause button before re-introducing cumbersome practices that slowed down organizational decision-making and innovation
As you prepare your re-opening and re-boarding plans, size up and audit everything that’s been touched by the pandemic. Don’t be surprised when practices that evolved during the pandemic work better than older methods. If you haven’t already, engage diverse enterprise wide teams to give you the straight goods on what could and should change. Embrace the “3S” mantra: streamline, shortcut and sustain. If there ever was a time for evidence-based decision making, this is it.
To help you navigate over the next few months, the Phelps team has assembled an expert panel who will be sharing their perspectives on what the future of work will look like. From a digital perspective we will be welcoming Rashmi Swarup, VP Digital Learning, TVO and Simon Chan, VP Talent Academy and Future of Work at Communitech. Weighing with a human resources lens, they will be joined by: Carrie Pond, CHRO, Trillium Health Partners; Kurt Webster, Director of Human Resources, Scepter; and, Mary Madigan Lee, whose broad experience crosses the health, retail and financial sectors.
So get the coffee pot on, and be sure to join us for an insightful Zoom conversation on June 25 at 10:00 a.m. for “What’s Next?: The workplace of the future”.
Leaderships Next Normal
I was speaking with a client last week and we had a good chuckle when she told me her crystal ball was broken. We were chatting about how things might evolve as more of our economy opens up. The only thing we could determine is the next eighteen months would be unlike anything we’d ever seen. Will the economy be shaped in a “J”, a “U”, a “W” or an “M”? No one really knows where the answer lies in this alphabet soup.
As we ended our Zoom, she shared “This isn’t about the “new normal”; it’s going to be all about how we shape the “next normal”.
She went on to say, “How the coming year unfolds is going to significantly impact the kind of leaders we need”. Her last comment stayed with me.
As the Phelps’ team works with clients to map out their leadership strategies, our approach has evolved. We’ve become scenario based and find the flexibility and responsiveness of this method supports the needs of differing client requirements. Our approach is anchored in four frames, each supported by a question to help you reconsider your leadership development needs.
Frame #1 – Do your homework: We’ve been scouring e-book summaries, devouring studies, tire-kicking predictions and watching webinars until our eyes burn! I’m sure you have too. This is the time to absorb and analyze every bit of intelligence you can lay your hands on. As you synthesize this data, find the threads that will help you weave your findings into your current strategy. Next, we pull these threads through into budding scenarios. We pay particular attention to how these threads intertwine with sector and organizational culture attributes.
As you’re making sense of this data, snap the missing puzzle piece into place by posing Frame #1’s question, “How are our current leaders being relentlessly responsive in applying their learning to the forces now impacting us?
Frame #2 – Be tenacious: Like you, I’ve been puzzling through a myriad of conflicting predictions in retail, sports and entertainment. The death of Neiman Marcus last week was certainly a jolt. But many analysts pointed out there were issues long before the pandemic. As quickly as we hear traditional retail like NM is dead, we learned about yesterday’s reopening of Hong Kong’s Hermes store – a store that rung up $2.7 million in just one day, representing the largest in-store daily sales figure, ever. That’s doesn’t sound like the end of retail. It sounds like a new beginning!
Frame #2’s question is “How can we support our leaders to develop an innovation culture to take advantage of current market conditions?”
Frame #3 – Engage in robust scenario planning and treat this process as you would managing a multi-responsive financial portfolio. The old ways of strategizing using SWOT and Michael Porter’s Five Forces, assume a stable environment from which you can plan. These models won’t work as well now and you want to give yourself as much agility and room to manoeuvre in peak and valley situations. Regional differences in epidemic impact, for example, are reminders that diverse views, those closest to the source of action are essential. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, no one size fits all.
Frame 3’s question urges the development of a key leadership capability: “How can we become more active listeners to gather insights and apply them to scenario development?”
Frame #4: Apply past learning to Next Normal scenarios. Although his April 1 opening was dashed, Michael Wekerle’s re-imagining of the venerated Toronto night club, the El Mocambo, anticipated more people would want to stay at home and be entertained. While he did expand physical capacity, he was prescient in building a live streaming model as part of his services for stay at home fans. Diversification in business modelling and channel marketing will be key to many organizational re-births.
Frame 4’s question is: “How are we helping our leaders develop foresighting and digital capabilities to apply learning to our own situation?
Mapping out the Next Normal for your organization will be crucial as the economy begins to reopen. The reality is that the kind of leader who brought you success in 2019 might not be the same leader you need for 2020 and beyond. Difficult questions will need to asked. Innovative scenarios will need to be created. We need the right people with the right capabilities leading these crucial portfolios.
As you consider the questions posed in the four frames, we hope you will join us on May 21 for a conversation on Emergence Leadership with Dr. Jill Birch, who will begin by sharing five key competencies leaders will want to embrace during and post pandemic. After Jill’s remarks, we open the conversation up to learn from each other and share how our organizations are preparing leaders to excel in a world that will be markedly different as we begin our emergence.
We look forward to seeing you then!
Did You Pass the Test?
Mea Culpa. My last blog, on the importance of pivoting your human resource strategy, went out under the subject line “This is just a test”. Meant to be a preview for our team, the email was inadvertently sent out to everyone!
If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, we were amazed by how many clients wrote back wanting to know what “the test” was and if they had passed “the test”.
After a good laugh, your comments got us thinking. There are many “tests” we are facing together during the pandemic. As the days slowly tick on, our stress levels are being tested; deprived of seeing family, friends and colleagues every day, our spirits are being sorely tested, and as we make ever more crucial long-term decisions our leadership is being tested.
Living daily in isolation leaves many leaders feeling stressed.
With that in mind, here are some of our recommendations:
- Finding an extra hour here and there to devote to learning a new skill not only makes time fly but it’s highly rewarding. I have friends who are creating works of art, writing books and learning new languages.
- Reducing stress by aiming to stay physically fit is another aid. Take a look at your week ahead and plan for as many daily 30-minute blocks of exercise as you can fit in. From walking the dog to taking a light run, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel for it.
- Lifting spirits by finding a supportive network is key. A few weeks ago, the Phelps team started a Friday afternoon Social Hour to catch up and connect. This week, we asked everyone to share a story about themselves and we learned so many great things about each other; things we would likely have never learned in our pre-pandemic lives.
As I speak with many clients, one of their biggest stress factors, relates to how leadership will change as they continue to stare down the pandemic. We’ve been investigating what these new behaviours might look and invite you to join our Webinar on “Emergence Leadership during and after COVID-19”.
We’ll begin with insights from Dr. Jill Birch, who will be sharing five key competencies leaders will want to embrace during and post pandemic.
After Jill’s remarks, we open the conversation up to learn from each other and share how our organizations are preparing leaders to excel in a world that will be markedly different as we begin our emergence.
The Search Must Go On
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I have been speaking with many Board Chairs and CEOs to share best practices and insights regarding recruitment practices during these unprecedented times. Some wonder about how to maximize our new virtual work world and how to ensure important hires are still made while much of the country is under lockdown.
Many leaders have asked me if they should launch a new search or continue with an existing search in their organization. The questions have caused me to pause and reflect on our current situation and what’s at stake. After additional investigation to learn more from CEO’s and their Executive Teams, I concluded that in almost every case, the search must go on.
If you are currently recruiting a key leadership position, no matter where in your organization today, consider these three lenses before you make the decision to delay recruiting.
The first centres on where we find ourselves on the current crisis curve. We are through the initial confrontation and shock of what COVID-19 means to our families, organizations and our world. Our lives have changed, how we work has changed. How we see the world has changed.
We are beginning to put the pieces together of what this new world might look like. With daily updates, very loose timelines are starting to form in minds. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, lead member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force recently said, “the virus makes the timeline, not us”. Ever changing contexts mean we need a consistent flow of information that drives sense making in our organizations. We need more hands on deck, not less, to help inform and assess the effects of decision-making.
This leads to the second lens – The need for leadership teams to embark on detailed and purposeful preparation. Now is the time to ensure knowledge transfer, to conduct virtual on-boarding and to develop short, medium- and long-term strategies. Having key positions absent from your table means crucial information, insight, experience will be lost.
The third lens is the north star we all have our sights set on: human capital rejuvenation. We know employees are suffering. We need to nurture a culture of strong support, led by leaders who are trusted and empathic. As I speak with leaders, they’ve shared that the leadership attributes they once contemplated for key positions have now changed as a result of this crisis. Using these three lenses may be helpful as you as contemplate the new forms of leadership your organization will urgently require in the coming months. The road ahead for all us will mean rebuilding our organizations, innovating services and tailoring processes to meet any number of scenarios ahead.
The Phelps team is working on innovative approaches in all of these areas right now. We are here for you to virtually facilitate all types of strategizing from bringing new people in to fill crucial talent gaps (Interim or Executive Search) through to equipping your leaders with the tools and skills to emerge through the current crisis. We will do whatever it takes to support you as you reignite your leadership.
The Phelps 101 Guide to Effective Remote Workplace
As we’ve all pivoted quickly into remote workplace environments, we wanted to share some practices that have worked for our colleagues at Phelps so other teams could benefit from these accelerated learnings.
Jill Birch | National Director, Leadership and Strategy
Never stop learning about how your role and industry are changing in the face of COVID-19. It’s easy to fall into the trap of streaming COVID-19 news 24/7. While keeping up-to-date is important, it’s just as vital to scan for trends and news directly impacting your sector. Explore themes that rise to the top and ask yourself, how can I use this information to contribute to my organization? Join future “virtual water-coolers” at work and share what you have learned and hear what others are sharing. If we all do our part to keep current, it not only helps our own work but can provide innovative ways to respond to upcoming workplace challenges.
Jayson Phelps | Partner
Fluidity – as our professional lives blend with our personal lives more during this period of isolation, fluidity is an important consideration. Keep your patterns similar to going into the office every day, but take advantage of no commute or leaving to get a coffee during the day and integrate your schedules more openly. Look at your day as a fluid period between personal and professional. Work a few hours, take a bit of a break and spend some time with family and then work again for a few hours and take a break. The traditional work day of 9-5 can be flexed. Maybe it means working until mid-afternoon and taking a break for an hour or two (get outside and do some yard work or a walk) and then sit down again in the evening to work for another 1-2 hours.
Diana Rucchin | Research Coordinator
For me, keeping my home office in the same manner as when I’m working in the office really helps. I use 2 screens when working at the office, my laptop and my monitor. Bringing both of them home with me was a really good decision as it keeps me working at the same speed. As well, keeping my area free of distractions is important because it’s easy to get sidetracked when working from home by the news, chores or others who are at home with you. Overall, I think maintaining routine and best practices as if you were in the office including getting ready for work adhering to a dress code, being punctual and ensuring some breaks away from the computer throughout the day.
Margie Peskin | Senior Research Consultant
We have four people all working from home so we try to huddle in the morning to figure who needs quiet at what points of the day (exams, video calls, etc.) and then agree where that person will work undisturbed. We also are trying to stick to routines and plans for the day as much as possible.
Shanaya Dheda | Social Media Strategist
Not being in the physical space of my regular work environment that I am used to has been the biggest adjustment. I find there can be many distractions when working from home – sometimes it is even too quiet. Our new ritual of early morning huddles every day of the week are quite refreshing – they help us to all stay connected and on top of priorities. As a team, we outline our daily agenda identifying any areas we need cross-collaboration and additional expertise. Many times throughout the day, we will “video” call each other to discuss a project – again this is a great way for us to collaborate and share ideas.
Nayely Figueroa | Marketing and Operations Manager
Because working remotely is now the norm, being aware of phishing and other cyber security threats out there is essential. If something sounds fishy, it probably is. Check the validity of a suspicious request directly with your IT experts before opening a questionable link, running an unknown program or forwarding sensitive information to someone. Stay alert and keep your team’s and organization’s digital work space safe.
These are challenging times and our Phelps team are here for you. One of our core values is ‘Nimbleness’, and with our bespoke and virtual model of doing business, we are agile and able to pivot to meet your evolving human capital needs.
#PhelpsWhateverItTakes #PhelpsIgnitesLeadership #StayAlertStaySafe
Addressing the Cyber Security Talent and Leadership Gap
Cyber security expertise and know-how are critical not only to a company’s competitive advantage, but also to ensuring a safe and secure society. But as new technologies are developed and new threats emerge, Canada and the rest of the world face a chronic cyber security talent shortage. That talent gap is not only risky, it’s also expensive.
In Canada alone, cybercrime comes with a $3 billion annual price tag, according to the National Cyber Security Action Plan 2019-2024 Report by Public Safety Canada.
The 11,000 professionals currently working in the Canadian cyber security industry are not enough to meet the demand, which is expected to grow by 66% by 2021. This means an additional 8,000 cybersecurity roles will need to be filled by the end of 2021.
How do we as practitioners in the Human Capital Management industry address this chronic cyber-talent shortage?
Three Key Human Capital Gaps
To better understand the future shape of this emerging work force, Phelps has identified three key human capital gaps, within the cyber security sector:
1. Skills Gap. The cyber security industry needs very well-rounded individuals who can contribute effectively in teamwork situations, balancing the right mix of technical, analytical and soft skills.
2. Experience Gap. Future employees will need to hit the ground running. Closer ties to post-secondary programs, partnerships and competitions will be needed to bridge this experience gap.
3. Leadership Gap. We must ensure our most brilliant engineers, coders, and scientists have developed the leadership skills required to take on these key roles beyond their technical expertise.
Although great efforts and strides are being made by education and business to close all three gaps, more work and investment will be needed for the long haul.
New Kind of Leadership Resiliency Needed
Today’s landscape of escalating cybercrime demands a new kind of leadership resiliency. Cyber leaders must be equipped to not only protect organizational data but also take on advanced leadership capabilities of making critical decisions, mitigating risk and advancing policies to respond to future disruption scenarios.
Ironically, while the cyber security industry is fueled by technology, I believe our focus needs to be human-centric. We need to anticipate how we will support future workers, create cutting-edge training and development, and find organizational flexibility. This will require a cyber security recruiting strategy centered on higher level competencies and broader leadership and management capabilities.
Today’s cyber security professionals tend to be predominantly male and come from an information technology background. This narrow profile suggests there may be significant untapped potential to address the cyber-talent shortage through greater diversity and inclusion. According to our survey results, the average Canadian cyber security team is only 29% female.
In some respects, this is a positive finding since it is much higher than the global average of 11 percent. However, there is still significant room for improvement – especially at the executive level.
We will need to be creative and purposeful to attract the right candidates. Deloitte has identified seven cyber security personas that will be required for this brave new work – strategist, advisor, defender, firefighter, hacker, scientist, and sleuth. We see this as a helpful starting point in creating a new recruiting framework to close the ever-growing cyber-talent and leadership gap.
Real and meaningful change in the cyber industry requires a new human resource discipline – one that advances connectedness, inclusivity and organizational flexibility.
It will require bold collaboration on the part of government, educational institutions and businesses. But with all stakeholder working together, Canada has the potential to emerge as a world leader in cyber security.
Lead Like Your Life Depends on It
What a difference a few months makes. Were you like me on New Year’s Day? Excited about the prospect of a new decade, eager to dive into work, optimistic this decade would be different…well, we got one of our three wishes. It’s different alright. Leading through COVID-19 will be unlike anything we’ve experienced.
Who would have guessed the most vital capability today would be leading at breakneck speed, slowing things down while getting ready to run a marathon? The key learning from previous epidemics is you can never move fast enough. Planning, however, takes time. Leaders are drinking from firehouses of intel, fuelling decisions that have unknown consequences.
Leaders are acquiring a whole new way to lead. Leaders are becoming compression experts.
Take the example of Singapore, regarded as a country ahead in flattening the curve. Their secret weapon? Multi-faceted rapid deployment response in travel controls, patient protocols and distancing measures.
But there’s a chink in their armour: The problem? With all that methodical control, they couldn’t convince citizens to stay home. Twenty-three new cases were reported March 17. The majority are people returning home from infected areas. Another page now needs to be added into their playbook.
As leaders grapple with the world crisis, here are four watch-outs and the accompanying questions you can ask as you stare down COVID-19.
Assess your readiness to lead. As we think about brave leaders from frontline healthcare to leadership teams working in eerie silence, I couldn’t help but remember a saying my mother would use when us kids faced tough challenges: “forewarned is forearmed”.
This is the time to take stock of what you bring to the party. It’s the moment to identify where you are strong and where you need help. It’s not a time to fool yourself. Look back. Where did you shine, when did your temper run short, when did you have self-doubt? Put those same lenses on those who work with you.
The vital work here is to identifying expertise, experience and capabilities you may not have, but need. It’s the most brutal form of authenticity – admitting we don’t know it all, can’t do it all.
Let the past inform the present – but not too much. We are living in a time of known unknowns. Remember back to when you launched out into the unknown. Ask yourself “What previous crises have I faced like this?” Times where you were literally teaching yourself in the moment. This is one of those times. Play the movie in your mind of those moments. Recall mis-steps. Map out the similarities and differences between then and now. Next, study your actions. What were the results? What would you have done differently? Document these and share them.
Become a student of the virtual voice: You will grow tired of repeatedly saying the same three key messages. But they must be said, and often. Check yourself by asking “How do I instill urgency while reducing panic?” Begin with humanity, channel your values – and mean them.
Meet people where they are. Old-fashioned phone calls are back (!) alongside Zooms and LinkedIn forums. Share stories and learn from each other to ease the tension. Jettison the idea of best practices, move to “next practices” that flesh out scenarios.
Rethink power: At times of crisis, the top of the house tends to grab the reins, stripping decision-making from those less senior, no matter how capable they may be. Don’t fall into this trap. This is the time to see problems by from every angle. Ask “Who’s missing from the table?” Unearth and engage those most qualified to work the problem. This is where databases like RBC’s employee skill inventory pay handsomely.
Reach back into your memory and out into your networks. No doubt, these colleagues are in the same @#!% spot you’re in.
Is COVID-19 like SARS? Yes and no. SARS was driven by exposure to infected individuals but did not spread with the ferocity of COVID-19. Simply replicating what we did in 2002 will be not enough. As you prepare for tomorrow’s leadership, assess your strengths and reach out like you never have before. It’s not trite to say we all need to lead like our lives depend on it…because this time, it does.
An article by Dr. Jill Birch
Dr. Jill Birch is a leadership adviser, writer, researcher and facilitator.
To read more insightful articles from Dr. Birch, visit her blog: https://birchgroveinc.com/blog/