8 Diversity Recruiting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Diversity in the workplace involves taking a close look at each step within the recruiting process, and companies must commit to their diversity in the hiring process to complete the hiring puzzle. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employers are re-evaluating workplace diversity at their organizations, starting with being more thoughtful about recruiting from a broader range of talent.

"An effective diversity recruitment program involves taking a close look at every step of the recruitment process, from sourcing and recruitment marketing, to screening and interview practices, to how you present an offer," said Matt Marturano, vice president at executive search firm Orchid Holistic Search in the Detroit area.

Companies must commit to their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and hiring is one of the most critical pieces of the puzzle, said Liz Wessel, CEO and co-founder of WayUp, a New York City-based jobs site and resource center for college students and recent graduates. "Most employers think that the reason they aren't hiring enough diverse people is because of a 'top of funnel' problem—not getting enough diverse applicants. However, in most cases, an equally big problem is the funnel itself, meaning they have parts of their hiring process and criteria that don't bode well for underrepresented candidates."

WayUp produced a report identifying eight of the most common barriers to attracting and hiring diverse candidates for emerging professional roles, along with tips for eliminating bias and improving diversity in the hiring process.

1. GPA Requirements

Recruiters can increase the number of Black and Hispanic candidates to their jobs by eliminating GPA minimums.

"By setting a minimum GPA for early-career candidates, companies are inadvertently creating an employment test that disproportionately hurts Black, Hispanic and Native American candidates," Wessel said. That's because data suggest that since Black, Hispanic and Native American students are more likely to come from lower-income households and work longer hours in college, their GPA suffers, she said. She added that data show GPA is rarely correlated to performance.

2. Relocation Stipends

Offering financial support for moving expenses is important to attract diverse, early-career candidates given that low-income students without the means to relocate for a new role are disproportionately Black or Hispanic. Black candidates are almost twice as likely as other candidates to be unwilling to relocate for a position if there is no stipend provided, WayUp found. "This means that Black candidates will be less likely to apply or more likely to drop out of your process or reject your job offer entirely," Wessel said. "Relocation stipends level the playing field for people of all socioeconomic statuses," she added.

Recruiters and hiring managers assume that everyone in college has the financial ability to move to take a job, said Margaret Spence, founder of The Employee to CEO Project, aimed at coaching diverse women to attain C-suite leadership roles. "The reality is that for most minority students, they are existing from a community putting together funds for them to be in school," she said. "They are financially strapped and already working to get by. Recruiters must have cultural awareness to understand that their candidates are coming from different backgrounds."

3. Interview Scheduling

When and how interviews are scheduled can impede engagement with minority candidates. That's because there are millions of low-income students—disproportionately Black or Hispanic—who work while in college, which leaves them less time to schedule interviews during traditional business hours.

"When I was a student, I worked full time as a waitress," Spence said. "That is the reality for many students right now. If you are asking someone to do an interview at 11 a.m., maybe that person is in a class or working a part-time job. It would be better to create a calendar opportunity that allows a student to go in and pick a time when they are available."

4. Interview Technology

The trend toward using video interview technology is growing, but the method presents a challenge to low-income job seekers who don't have access to the technology required. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, only 58 percent of Black respondents and 57 percent of Hispanics reported owning a desktop or laptop computer. And just 66 percent of Black respondents and 61 percent of Hispanics reported having Internet access.

"Leveraging AI or video to help screen candidates seems like an easy win from an efficiency perspective," Wessel said. "But if you're trying to hire diverse entry-level talent, our findings suggest you should rethink that strategy."

The tools and tech-related skills that are needed to be hired are not equally available to everyone, Spence said. "Talent acquisition should get more involved with college career-development programs to teach people how to build a LinkedIn profile and how to apply for a job virtually, instead of just throwing the tech at them. The technology is an enhancement; it cannot be the only tool."

Wessel said the solution is to embrace high-touch recruiting. "Avoid using prerecorded interviews as a method to screen candidates if you can," she said. "Instead, build trust with your candidates by removing bias from the candidate screening process, including the interview itself."

5. Paid Internships

According to Wessel, this one couldn't be more simple: Unpaid internships perpetuate inequality. Most people cannot afford to work for free. The average cost of an unpaid internship for students is $6,800, according to WayUp, and that number only goes up based on the hottest job markets.

Spence shared that a client told her it was having problems getting minority interns to show up on day one. Managers thought they were being ghosted. But when recruiters inquired with the candidates, they realized many people didn't have the money to travel or live as unpaid interns. All the hired interns showed up the following year once the company offered a stipend and housing.

6. Job Posts

A common type of unconscious bias can be found in how job posts are written. "The bias in your job post predicts who you'll hire because the language changes who applies to your job," Wessel said. "Job-posting language can deter diverse candidates, but it can also drive more minority applicants when done well," she said.

"It's been an issue for years now," said Tai Wingfield, senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion in public relations firm Weber Shandwick's corporate practice. "That also goes for unconscious bias in how interviews are conducted and the types of questions that are asked. These biases have the potential to disqualify diverse talent capable of driving significant innovation."

Marturano said it's easy for stereotypes and bias to creep into job-post language, and taking the time to fully consider what job posts say and how they say it "speaks volumes to diverse candidates about how your organization operates and if seeking an interview would be worth their time and effort."

Wingfield added that "using words like 'fearless,' 'go-getter' or 'will work around the clock' can be very off-putting to those who are very capable but who struggle to maintain an 'always-on' work culture while prioritizing the education of their children during this time. Think about working parents."

Marturano recommended that organizations integrate diversity imperatives into a mission statement, include diverse benefits in the compensation package, and highlight possible career trajectories and any active employee resource groups.

7. School Sourcing

If your company focuses on the same select schools or only the elite schools for campus recruiting, the available talent pool is already diminished.

"By focusing your recruiting efforts on the same schools every year, you're focusing on the same type of candidates and likely discriminating against diverse students who don't get targeted by your company because they don't attend a top school," Wessel said.

Likewise, she said, employers shouldn't just focus on historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to reach diversity hiring goals. "While HBCUs are incredible schools, we recommend taking a more holistic approach," she said. She noted that Spelman College, an HBCU in Atlanta, has just over 2,000 students, most of whom self-identify as Black, but Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., has nearly 3,000 students who self-identify as Black.

"HBCU outreach is critical, but I was a student at the University of Maryland, where we had more Black students in our undergraduate class than nearby HBCU Howard in Washington, D.C.," Wingfield said. "Yes, companies should look beyond the HBCUs, but diversity recruiting requires culturally competent recruiters. Most large colleges and universities have affinity groups to partner with. I was a part of the Black student union. We held networking events and career fairs. Working with the student chapters of professional organizations on campus will also help recruiters find diverse talent from a broader bench of schools."

8. Technical Assessments

Technical assessments are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to bias in the hiring process, Wessel said. Hiring should never be based solely on one of these tests, she said. "Much like standardized tests, technical assessments are unfair to students who don't have access to training. Many universities, especially wealthier ones, are more likely to teach students how to take coding assessments. The same cannot be said for students who attend less economically advantaged universities." Instead, the technical assessment could be used as a guide to help recruiters and hiring managers determine a candidate's weaknesses and strengths, and point out areas for skilling, she said.

Spence said employers that want candidates to be proficient with certain technical skills should be partnering with schools on curriculum. "To move the needle on diversity in the tech space, employers will have to get more involved in developing the education they're seeking," she said.

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (28 September 2020) "8 Diversity Recruiting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/8-diversity-recruiting-mistakes-how-to-avoid-them.aspx


4 benefits of positive recognition to boost employee engagement

As both employers and employees are facing difficult times both in their work-life and home life due to the circumstances that the coronavirus pandemic has brought into the world, it's important that the negativity does not take place of the positivity needed. Positivity is powerful and can play a critical role in the workplace. Read this blog post for four benefits of positive recognition.


With all that’s happening, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the negativity in the world. Our emotional state is important at work. Positive emotions transform our minds and increase our ability to bounce back from hard times.

The power of positivity should not be overlooked, and recognition plays a critical role in generating these emotions in a modern workplace. Open acknowledgement and expressed appreciation for employees’ contributions can go a long way.

Improve employee retention
The first benefit of positive employee recognition is improving employee retention. In fact, according to industry analyst Josh Bersin, companies that build a recognition-rich culture actually have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate.

Gallup research on recognition also shows that employees who don’t feel recognized at work are twice as likely to quit within a year. In today’s current environment where many organizations are driving more productivity with fewer employees, leaders need to ensure that they’re not forgetting to focus on employee retention. You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that isn’t concerned about retaining top talent right now; top performers will find new opportunities even when they’re hesitant to move.

Creating a workplace where people want to stay isn’t just beneficial for employees; it’s also good for the bottom line. Turnover cost can be difficult to compute, but I challenge you to consider the costs of recruiting, onboarding, training, and the lost institutional knowledge that comes with poor retention.

Increase employee engagement
The second benefit that is particularly important right now is increased employee engagement. Our own research showed that 84% of highly engaged employees were recognized the last time they went above and beyond at work compared with only 25% of actively disengaged employees. We also found that while 71% of highly engaged organizations recognize employees for a job well done, only 41% of less-engaged organizations did so.

Positive recognition is powerful and has a clear tie to engagement. Yet, many organizations still do not adequately measure engagement. When was the last time you measured engagement with your own team? How much opportunity is there to improve through recognition?

Boost employee morale
The third benefit of positive recognition is boosted morale. I already mentioned the transformative effect of positivity, but the simple act of thanking people can make a tremendous difference. When employees were asked about their experience at work,70% said that motivation and morale would improve “massively”with managers saying thank you more.

How did you feel last time you were recognized?

Positivity has an important impact on employees, but it also pays literal dividends to companies that have figured out how to encourage it. Research from author Shawn Achor shows that happiness raises sales by 37% and productivity by 31%. Consider ways you can encourage your team to recognize each other more often.

Leverage peer recognition
It turns out that peer recognition massively outperforms top-down recognition. Peer recognition occurs when individuals give and receive recognition from their peers, managers, and direct reports.

Being recognized by colleagues is incredibly powerful for employees, especially when it’s done publicly. Peer recognition is 36% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition, according to SHRM. Managers can’t see every positive action that occurs, so think about how to encourage everyone to participate in recognition of great work across the entire organization.

SOURCE: Crawford-Marks, R. (14 September 2020) "4 benefits of positive recognition to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/4-benefits-of-positive-recognition-to-boost-employee-engagement


Employers Still Hiring During Coronavirus Pandemic

As many companies begin to temporarily close their doors due to the  COVID-19 pandemic, there are several companies that are beginning to hire mass amounts of employees. Although employers run the risk of hiring effectively, they are in need of employees. Read this blog post to learn more.


When one door closes, even temporarily, another often opens. As people practice social distancing to avoid contracting COVID-19—the disease caused by the coronavirus—restaurants, bars and retailers across the U.S. are closing their doors and laying off tens of thousands of workers. But needs must be met, so online sellers and a host of other businesses are mass hiring for delivery, security, warehousing and distribution personnel.

Amazon announced a push to add 100,000 workers to address customer need. National grocery chains are ramping up hiring for delivery staff, Walmart is looking for more than 1,000 distribution-center workers, and health care providers are ramping up hiring to address the expected surge in patients. Retailers and pizza chains are boosting their payrolls to meet takeout and delivery demand, even as their locations are closed to guests. A security company just announced mass hiring to fill full- and part-time security vacancies to help provide public-safety services.

The challenge for these organizations will be to hire quickly and effectively at scale, without putting recruitment professionals and the public at risk. Technology is driving the effort. Online applications, video interviewing, online onboarding and more are being leveraged to enable fast, effective hiring.

Meeting the Need—Safely

Josh Tolan, CEO of video-interviewing company Spark Hire, said, "Technology gives hiring pros a huge leg up in their processes. Especially during this pandemic, tools like video interviews and online applications achieve the goals of continuing recruitment efforts, learning more about applicants and speeding up the hiring process—all from an appropriate social distance."

Amy Champigny, senior product marketing manager at Deltek, a software provider for project-based work, said that competition for workers may require employers to actively self-promote. "Organizations should focus on posting job requisitions online and focus on boosting their LinkedIn branding, as well as employer presence, during this time," she said. She recommended that employers, along with making sure their brand is visible, move candidates through the hiring process as quickly as possible. "Businesses should consider candidate pools to speed up recruiting cycles for all roles and especially critical, hard-to-fill positions."

Many companies are practiced in mass hiring, said Peter Baskin, chief product officer at recruitment software company Modern Hire. "Similar to mass hiring for seasonal positions, companies should adopt purpose-built, on-demand text and video interviewing tools," he said. "This will allow them to reach a larger audience of candidates, provide candidates with the information needed about the open jobs, allow for both parties to complete the interviewing process quicker, and, in return, roles can be filled at a faster rate."

From Start to Finish

Effectively employing technology in hiring begins with an online application process that's seamless and at scale. Baskin suggested that recruiters work from home whenever possible, utilizing on-demand text and video technology instead of scheduling in-person interviews.

"HR teams must ensure any technology they use—whether for recruitment, prehire assessments or video interviewing—is purpose-built, not only for the task at hand, but also for the specific company and industry in which they operate," he said.

"From home," Tolan said, "candidates can conduct one-way video interviews that they record on their own time and the hiring team can review at their convenience, as well." Further along in the process, he added, "live video interviews allow the hiring team to connect with the candidate face to face without the handshake and any potential exposure to the [coronavirus]."

Good Hires vs. Fast Hires

Even when time is of the essence, quality can't be ignored. Many organizations use prehire assessment questions, which a candidate can answer during the video application process. These allow recruiters to quickly make a determination on moving the job seeker through to the next step.

For some organizations, artificial intelligence is being leveraged to boost hiring metrics. "Data-driven insights can predict hiring success by measuring personality traits and problem-solving skills," Tolan said, "and compare candidates to job benchmarks customized for your company."

Onboarding at Scale

When candidates are selected, onboarding at scale is the next hurdle for organizations. "Onboarding needs to be standardized and repeatable to help organizations onboard a greater number of candidates during periods of growth or at scale," Champigny said. "Comprehensive [applicant tracking system (ATS)] solutions include onboarding portals to help companies provide a consistent experience for new hires, while ensuring that those new hires have a good experience as they come through the door."

SOURCE: O'Donnell, R. (29 March 2020) "Employers Still Hiring During Coronavirus Pandemic" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/Employers-Still-Hiring-During-Coronavirus-Pandemic.aspx


Bad managers are costing employers their workforce

Although poor management can create a difficult work environment, there ways that organizations can create a more effective manager as well as a more engaged and productive workforce. Read this blog post to learn more.


Most employees have had an encounter with someone they would describe as a “bad boss,” a manager who makes things more difficult through bullying and incompetence. These ineffective leaders can cause employees significant stress on top of the pressures they are already facing.

At some point in their careers one in two employees has left a job to get away from a toxic manager, according to a Gallup study. Poor managers aren’t just an issue for employees; a bad boss can have a powerful impact on company cost. Indeed, companies lose about $7.29 per day for each poorly communicating manager in their organization, according to Vital Learning, a management and leadership training program provider.

“Managers have a profound impact on the well-being of employees,” says Laura Hamill, chief people officer at Limeade, an employee engagement company. “That just makes sense — how could you feel good and have a sense of purpose if your manager works against you? We know that our feelings about work can play a huge role in our overall quality of life — it can be a main source of stress or something that brings purpose to our lives.”

A good manager can be identified by three qualities, says Alexander Alonso, chief knowledge officer at the Society for Human Resource Management. First, they are someone who is in constant contact with employees, providing engaging, open and transparent communication. Second, a good manager is focused on performance management, meaning that supervisors need to prioritize evaluating each employee's personal growth, and their role within the team, so there is consistent productivity.

“The third thing is not making a mess and not falling into a hornet's nest of a mess associated with people management,” Alonso says. “There are some basic things that are just absolutely critical. Don't be the person who tells an inappropriate joke or who tells somebody that you don't like them.”

A team leader with all of these qualities can have a significantly positive impact on employee mental health and well-being.

A good manager can empower, challenge, educate, enable employees to feel part of a team, and find opportunities for professional and personal development, says Patricia Elias the chief legal and people officer at ServiceSource, an outsourced go-to-market services provider that delivers digital sales, customer success and renewal solutions to B2B enterprises.

“Of course, a bad manager does the opposite — at best, creating a disengaged team, and at worst, destroying confidence and potential,” Elias says.

While a poor manager can create a difficult work environment for employees, there are steps organizations can take to create a more effective manager and a more engaged and productive workforce.

There are five skills employees say people managers could improve to create a more positive work environment, according to the SHRM survey: communicating effectively (41%), developing and training the team (38%), managing time and delegating (37%), cultivating a positive and inclusive team culture (35%) and managing team performance (35%).

“There is no relationship in the workplace more powerful than the one between people managers and employees," says SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor. "As working Americans challenge organizations to manage and lead differently, those that don't will find themselves left behind. By skilling up managers, HR can spend more time strategizing, cultivating culture and delivering bottom line results.”

Bad managers tend not to recognize that quality in themselves and employees typically don’t report these incompetencies to upper management out of fear of retaliation or of losing their jobs. So it is up to HR to identify and fix these issues.

“Where HR really comes in is their one-on-one interactions with the managers,” Alonso says. “Bad managers tend not to be self reflective, and one of the things that stands out is, they will not hear the things that they say. And HR plays an important role in sort of parroting back what it is that they need to do.”

Another tactic HR can utilize to deal with this issue is interviewing the staff beyond the onboarding and exiting processes, Alonso says.

About 84% of American workers say poorly trained people managers create a lot of unnecessary work and stress, according to the SHRM survey. A further 57% of American workers say managers in their workplace could benefit from training on how to be a better people manager. Half of those surveyed feel their own performance would improve if their direct supervisor received additional training in people management.

“Unfortunately, many of us have had bad managers and have learned how we don’t want to manage others — so we’ve rejected those approaches and embraced a more human management style,” Limeade’s Hamill says. “But it’s hard to be effective without also having positive manager role models and the psychological safety in our organizations to stand up to traditional command-and-control models.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (20 August 2020) "Bad managers are costing employers their workforce" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/bad-managers-are-costing-employers-their-workforce


3 steps to optimize intern onboarding and training

Internships are often used to help students form a decision of where they may want to continue their career, or what field they may want to pursue. Read this blog post to learn three steps on optimizing interns and their training.


HR leaders face myriad challenges in crafting a positive candidate experience and establishing a strong culture across organizations, and there's an added twist when it comes to internship programs: this must be achieved in an exceptionally short amount of time.

"As much as Facebook is evaluating interns for their long-term potential as future employees, we know for certain that interns are also evaluating whether Facebook is where they want to launch their career," Oscar Perez, diversity recruitment and programs manager at Facebook, told HR Dive. "Interning allows college students to make more informed decisions about the type of company they want to work for and helps them crystallize a vision for the type of employee they want to be."

The intern experience trifecta

Multiple academics and learning experts echoed Perez's sentiments to HR Dive, generally suggesting that HR can find success with three steps: a short, formal onboarding; building in mechanisms for continuous skill-building; and a focus on the value of exposure to the business world.

Some formal onboarding

While some experts suggest that employee onboarding plans should cover at least a new hire's first 90 days, that's obviously not feasible for an internship that may last only 90 days.

"Something on the order of 10 to 15% is not unusual," Brooks Holtom, a management professor at Georgetown University told HR Dive. "Two or three days of up front training, and then maybe two hours a week on a Friday helps to increase both the capacity of the people but also the probability that they enjoy the work and they come back."

Still, an employer's onboarding for traditional employees may provide a roadmap, especially when it comes to the early days. This should include administrative tasks, introductions and acclimation to tasks.

"For all interns [at Facebook], the first day of their internship is spent in New Hire Orientation," Perez shared. "Where you get to hear from employees around the company on guiding principles that we anchor in as a company, critical logistical information that you'll need to navigate your time as an intern, [and] get an understanding of the other interns that will be your ‘home-base' community during your time at Facebook."

From there, interns meet their teams and learn more about the scope of their internship project, Perez continued. They also attend role-specific training on tools, expectations and critical concepts for both their role and beyond.

It may help to think about onboarding in three parts — pre-boarding, orientation and ramping up to productivity — according to Leslie Deutsch, director of learning solutions at TEKsystems. Deutsch previously shared a model for onboarding traditional employees; a similar, albeit more streamlined, structure can help when thinking about interns, she said.

"You want to give them exposure to your organization," Deutsch told HR Dive in a February interview, adding that it's important to make clear company values, mission and vision. Although, if interns are there to support a specific project or initiative, it may need to be more detailed, she said.

Pre-boarding can also be valuable, both as a way to engage the intern as a high-potential full-time candidate and to ensure they are learning as much about the company as they can before their first day. "I've seen pretty commonly [that] the onboarding and training actually starts before they even formally start the job. It's about building the relationship," Nicole Coomber, a professor of management at the University of Maryland, told HR Dive. "There are a lot of smaller interactions that happen before they come on board so that they have a lot of clarity on what they're actually doing when they get there."

Continuous, experiential training

Following formal onboarding, HR will want to focus on continuous learning, according to Holtom.

He noted that such efforts are good for building capacity and making sure that interns feel they are gaining from the experience. There are a lot of ways to deliver this kind of training, however, and it does not need to be formal or in-person; it can be worthwhile, for example, to make learning opportunities experiential.

"[Students] want to gain the experience that prepares them for the next professional opportunity and the chance to build relationships with other professionals in their field. That really sets apart a positive internship experience from a negative one," Rachel Loock, associate director of career services at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, told HR Dive.

For graduate school interns, experiential learning can be particularly valuable because they are already experienced professionals that may be making a career switch. They may need to get up to speed on certain software or business concepts to successfully make that switch.

"MBA internships are often used as a ‘bridge' to pivot from one industry or function to another,  Doreen Amorosa, associate dean of career services at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business, told HR Dive. "Successful internships allow MBA students to demonstrate newly acquired academic skills which enable those career transitions," she said.

SOURCE: Kidwai, A. (13 April 2020) "3 steps to optimize intern onboarding and training" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/3-steps-to-optimize-intern-onboarding-and-training/576014/


Viewpoint: 3 Steps to Make Learning Part of Company Culture

Workplaces are constantly changing, and so is the world of work. Where things are constantly changing, culture is changing as well. Read this blog post to learn helpful tips for learning company culture.


As technology transforms the world of work, learning is moving from the periphery to the core of corporate strategy. Upskilling is quickly becoming a business imperative, and hiring managers are teaming up with talent developers to ensure that business leaders have the talent they need to thrive.

With good reason, LinkedIn Learning's 2020 Workplace Learning Report shows that nearly all of today's talent developers have no problem securing executive buy-in, and CEOs now spend 20 percent more time learning soft skills than their employees spend. But in a workplace where the pace of change continues to accelerate, it takes more than just buy-in to build a learning culture that companies need today. As we work through the pandemic, an agile learning culture is needed now more than ever—one that enables employees to demonstrate their ability to quickly adapt to new environments, new protocol and shifting market demands.

Over the last year, Kraft Heinz's embrace of ownership—a principle that is core to our DNA as a company—has helped us to spark a learning transformation at Kraft Heinz. Here are three practices that can help you do the same.

1. Own your learning.

It's no secret that great leaders lead by example, and it's no different with learning initiatives. Learning champions must inspire and encourage others throughout their organization to pursue learning. That's difficult to do without first fully embracing learning themselves.

As chief learning officer, I needed to put myself in my learners' shoes. I couldn't tell them it was possible to carve out time in their busy lives for learning without first doing so myself. So, in February 2019, I made a commitment to learning something new every day. As part of that daily learning commitment, I completed a variety of learning experiences through our company's corporate learning platform, Ownerversity, and began sharing what I learned through our internal messaging app, the KetchApp.

Using the hashtags #LearnLikeAnOwner and #MakeTimeForLearning, my colleagues were able to follow along on my daily learning journey, picking up work-relevant lessons, tips and insight and—most importantly—seeing just how much I personally valued learning. They saw what was possible. A year later, learning has become a cultural conversation topic across the organization.

2. Build and keep building.

Taking a grassroots approach to building excitement for learning has helped inspire a movement among our employees. But we also knew that movement had to actually lead our workers somewhere worthwhile. For us, it was not a matter of "if you build it, they will come." It was the inverse: The employees were already on their way, and we had to ensure we continued to build and enhance a learning ecosystem that could truly support their aspirations and learning goals.

It started with making a commitment to learning at every level and ensuring that the learning was ongoing and democratic. Anyone who wants to learn can have that opportunity, every day. Requiring more than a one-and-done approach, this initiative needed a team dedicated to developing the tools to make sure that can happen.

Our learning offerings allow for active learning, encourage continuous reflection and help employees see the impact learning can have on their careers. Those offerings include custom courses, as well as access to thousands of LinkedIn Learning courses and other digital resources focused on business, technology and creative subjects to help employees build the skills they need throughout their careers.

3. Activate ambassadors.

One person alone cannot champion learning across an entire company. Learning champions must create a network of like-minded ambassadors at every level who can inspire and encourage their co-workers. Building a learning culture cannot simply be a top-down mandate; it must be a ground-up movement.

We expect all of our employees to seek out high-impact learning experiences, commit to learning—even if for just a few minutes—every day, and encourage others to do the same. On some days, that could be dedicating time to an e-learning course, but on others, it could be listening to a podcast, attending a live learning event or reading a magazine article. Last year, to help promote this goal, we created learning-commitment categories to help guide employees in setting aside time to learn from September through the end of the year. The goals included 15 minutes per month, 15 minutes every other week and 15 minutes per week. Even our CEO and chief people officer pledged to make one of these commitments.

Some employees have become especially invested in this new culture of learning. We recently invited 20 dedicated learners to a #LearnLikeAnOwner retreat, rewarding their commitment to learning, and also providing them with tools and resources they need to inspire others. They returned to their roles within the organization with the knowledge and confidence of being official learning ambassadors. Other employees know they can turn to these learning ambassadors for the inspiration, encouragement and guidance they need to pursue learning every day.

What I've learned over the past year as chief learning officer at Kraft Heinz is that leading by example paired with creating an environment of excitement and inspiration can truly fuel a cultural change.

SOURCE: Bassey, P. (21 May 2020) "Viewpoint: 3 Steps to Make Learning Part of Company Culture" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/viewpoint-3-steps-to-make-learning-part-of-company-culture.aspx


Working from home has improved employees’ connections to their pets

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many employees to work from home for months. Many of those employees have found that working from home has improved their connection with their furry friends. Read this blog post to learn more. 


Richa Namballa, a data scientist and project manager with software company SAP, has been working from home since mid-March due to the coronavirus. She and her 14-year-old dachshund-mix Miles, are living with her parents as they wait out the pandemic. Miles has an enlarged heart and congestive heart failure, so he requires a lot of attention, but working from home allows Namballa to provide him with the care he needs. But Miles isn’t the only one who is benefiting from this arrangement. Having her beloved dog at her side while she works has been a boon to her productivity and mental health.

“Miles has definitely made working from home a lot more enjoyable,” Namballa says. “He's a good distraction once in a while, when you're kind of starting to burn out a little bit. It's definitely nice to be able to talk to him, pet him and take care of him.”

Being at home with Miles also helps to alleviate the worrying she typically does while at the office, as Miles’ vast healthcare needs can be distracting.

“I've had him since he was eight weeks old, so he's been here for a really long time,” Namballa says. “Being at home has also been good because I'm not as worried about him as I was when I was at work.”

Pets have played a huge role in improving a person’s physical and mental health, both pre-pandemic and throughout the coronavirus crisis. Owning a pet can reduce depression and improve a person’s mood, as well as lower cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure, according to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute.

For employees now working from home, those who are doing so with a pet have said they feel a greater bond with their pet and have felt more positive since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey by Banfield Pet Hospital.

Being able to work alongside a pet has “really helped create a sense of well being [during] this pandemic,” says Melissa Marshall, vice president of people and organization at Banfield Pet Hospital. “Pets actually being by our side creates a decompressive environment and it's been very positive.”

That bond has grown as employees spend more time at home. Twenty percent of the surveyed employees say they prefer working alongside their pets over their human co-workers.

And the pets are benefiting too: One-third of owners believe their pets appear to be happier (38%) and more playful (35%) during this time. Pets are also receiving extra love, with 65% percent of owners saying they are showing them increased affection.

However, employees are already preparing to transition back to the office as coronavirus restrictions lift, and are grappling with increased anxiety over how to manage without their pets at their side. Seventy three percent of people are concerned about going back to the office and spending time away from their pets, with 59% worried their dog or cat may suffer from separation anxiety once their new work schedule begins, according to the Banfield study.

For pet-owners anxious about what the future has in store, Marshall has several strategies employees can utilize to make the return to work as easy on their pets as possible.

For instance, employees should ease their pets into a new routine, so there isn’t such a shock for the animal when the owner isn’t there on a 24-hour basis anymore. Another tactic would be to give the pet their favorite distraction leading up to the moment of departure to pivot their attention on to something else.

“There's an element of fear. You've been spending all this time with your pet, and you have to go back to your [pre-pandemic] normal, so it shifts that human-pet bond that's been created,” Marshall says.

Employers are now tasked with figuring out how to incorporate the needs of their pet-owning employees into their return-to-work plans. Pet benefits are currently offered by 15% of organizations, and employers like SAP, Wolverine Worldwide, and Microsoft all offer employees a pet benefit such as dog friendly work environments, dog daycare or pet insurance.

Employers like SAP have recognized the role pets play in employees’ lives during COVID and beyond, and as such have enhanced their pet benefits. Recently, SAP teamed up with retailer Petco to offer a discounted wellness benefit and additional pet insurance coverage for accidents and illnesses, preventive care, and discounts on supplies and services at Petco.

“We recognize that pets are often important members of the family and can help our employees feel safe and secure — especially during times of stress,” Jason Russell, head of North America total rewards for SAP, says. “Offering pet insurance and pet bereavement leave aligns with our overall goal of supporting SAP employees and their families at work and in their everyday lives.”

Pet-friendly benefits like SAP’s pet insurance have helped Namballa afford the extensive medical bills for her dog Miles.

“I don't have to worry about if there's a huge medical expense, like an emergency room visit, because that's going to be covered. It also covers some preventive care,” she says. “I would have never thought about signing up for pet insurance before it was offered as an employee benefit.”

The benefits have also helped Namballa feel appreciated and seen by her employer, especially during times of high stress and anxiety.

“I struggled with mental health problems pretty much my whole life, and having a pet is one of the best therapies that I can think of. Pets are members of your family and they do give you unconditional love,” Namballa says. “I really appreciate it when employers acknowledge how important pets are to their employees. Pet insurance and pet bereavement leave are some of the most important benefits to people like me, and it's just it feels really reassuring when your employer recognizes that.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (23 June 2020) "Working from home has improved employees’ connections to their pets" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/working-from-home-has-improved-employees-connections-to-their-pets


Keeping Up with Professional Development During the Pandemic

As many state and local governments recommend and require social distancing, many professionals are looking at other ways to continue growing and developing. Read this blog post to learn more.


Many employees need to accumulate credits to keep their professional credentials, and they may look forward to large gatherings with their peers each year where they can learn about the latest developments in their industry. But the coronavirus pandemic is changing the way employees and businesses are approaching professional development, with many opting—at least for now—for online learning.

"We've seen a large shift in the manner in which these things are being done," said Melissa Peters, an attorney with Littler in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Since March 31, the U.S. State Department has advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to COVID-19. Within the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had urged residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to temporarily halt nonessential domestic travel and asked people everywhere in the country to carefully consider the risks before traveling.

"Some employers are going further and recommending that employees cancel or postpone all nonessential travel," observed Douglas Brayley, an attorney with Ropes & Gray in Boston.

The White House and many state and local governments have either recommended or required people to practice social distancing through April and even beyond—which is causing some business and professional associations to find creative alternatives to their in-person meetings.

Going Virtual

A webinar or videoconference may be a good alternative to an in-person meeting, Brayley said.

Elizabeth Wylie, an attorney with Snell & Wilmer in Denver, noted, "Many companies are bolstering their remote conferencing access to ensure it is adequate to meet the anticipated increase in needs in the coming weeks."

Kathleen Sullivan, chief human resources officer at law firm Clark Hill in Pittsburgh, said her firm is using webinars, videoconferencing and phone conferencing technologies. "Our goal is to continue to provide excellent client service while we ensure we are taking care of our employees," she said.

In response to limits on travel and social gatherings, some licensing bodies have eased up on their e-learning limits. For instance, the Indiana Supreme Court and other state high courts have temporarily waived distance-learning limitations for attorneys seeking continuing education credits.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has transformed its 2020 Talent Conference & Exposition to a virtual experience so attendees can stay current and earn professional development credits without leaving their homes.

"We've been working with public health officials and collaborating with the conference venue and vendors to make an informed decision based on the latest science, local public health guidance, and our ability to provide the HR community with the best event and professional development experience you've come to expect from SHRM, in a safe environment," SHRM said on its website.

Should Employers Reimburse Nonrefundable Expenses?

"There is not a uniform practice in terms of [employers] reimbursing for canceled or postponed trips," said Mark Keenan, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg in Atlanta. He said organizations need to make such decisions based on:

  • The health and welfare of their employees.
  • Whether such trips can be rescheduled or postponed with limited incidental additional expense.
    "However," Keenan said, "most organizations would still reimburse such trips as an appropriate business expense, and therefore should reimburse nonrefundable costs as they would with any other itinerary change."

If the employer paid for the professional development and travel in the first place, any cancellation costs would generally be absorbed by the employer, said Susan Kline, an attorney with Faegre Drinker in Indianapolis. "If it's something the employee signed up for as a personal matter for a weekend or vacation, employers might treat it like any other vacation."

She noted that some states, such as California, require employers to reimburse reasonable business expenses.

Peters said employers are making difficult business decisions as they struggle with the economic impact of COVID-19. "There are legal aspects, but whether or not you want to reimburse people for professional development should be aligned with the company's philosophy and business needs."

The best practice for each business is highly dependent upon its business needs, industry and workforce, Wylie said, and is subject to change as the recommendations of public health agencies evolve.

Stay Updated

"The employer community seems to be very proactive in communicating updates on the coronavirus and the impact on their workforces," Keenan observed. For now, he said, the best practices are to not panic and to monitor the CDC's website.

"The situation is evolving rapidly," Sullivan said. "It is important to stay up-to-date with the current information."

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L. (13 April 2020) "Keeping Up with Professional Development During the Pandemic" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/keeping-up-with-professional-development-during-the-pandemic.aspx


COVID-19 at-home testing kits can make returning to work safer

As many begin to return to the workplace, both employers and employees are fearful of bringing the COVID-19 virus into the workplace. A company has produced an at-home testing kit for those returning to work. Read this blog post to learn more.


While access to wide-spread coronavirus testing is still a barrier for millions of Americans, computer software company Appian is partnering with Everlywell, a digital health company, to offer COVID-19 at-home testing kits for employees returning to the workplace.

“Everlywell was founded to give people access to high-quality lab tests that can be taken at home,” said Julia Cheek, founder and CEO of Everlywell. “We are proud to support Appian’s customers in providing FDA-authorized COVID-19 testing to help keep them safe.”

Since March, more than 50 million coronavirus tests have been reported to the CDC, of which 5 million were positive. But as states reopen their economies and infection rates increase, there are growing concerns about supply chain problems, according to Politico. Reopening has increased demand for testing, causing samples to pile up faster than labs can analyze them, which is lengthening turnaround times for results — complicating efforts to contain the virus.

Everlywell’s at-home lab tests seek to streamline the process of testing for their employer clients. The COVID-19 test will be integrated within the Appian Workforce Safety solution. Through the partnership, people using Appian’s return-to-site solutions will be able to request home delivery of Everlywell’s COVID-19 testing kit by taking a screening questionnaire based on CDC guidelines. Each test request will be reviewed by an independent physician from Everlywell’s third-party telehealth partner. Test results can be delivered to the test-taker’s mobile device in 24-48 hours after the sample arrives at an authorized lab.

The lab tests have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The testing used by the company and its lab partners meet the FDA’s performance criteria for COVID-19 test accuracy, and telehealth consultations are included for those who test positive.

“How much you know as an organization is how much you can protect the members of your organization,” says Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian. “This is the fastest way to get information on infection. We've seen that high amounts of testing can help minimize COVID-19. Knowledge is power, so we're trying to get [employers] as much knowledge as possible, as quickly as possible, and provide them with another tool to keep their employees safe.”

As employers make their strategies for returning to work, workplace safety is of top concern. Antibody screening, thermal cameras and on-site nurses are all methods being considered to help employees stay safe. Digital health is playing a major role in helping employees self-report their risks, whether that be the employee taking the subway, or living with someone who’s immunosuppressed. It can also help employers scalably monitor and assess people's symptoms on a daily basis, ensuring that sick employees stay at home and quarantine. Workplace changes may also include desks and workstations being spread further apart, and stricter limitations on large meetings and gatherings in the office.

Appian’s platform helps employers centralize and automate all the key components needed for safe returns to work. Through the platform, employers can process health screenings, return-to-site authorizations, contact tracing, isolation processing, and now, COVID-19 testing.

“A lot of people would rather work with an employer who goes the extra mile, who’s willing to offer and pay for tests if necessary for their own employees, and to quickly deploy it, where there’s even a suspicion of transmission,” Calkins says. “It’s a responsible gesture and a serious signal that the employer cares about the health of their workforce, and employees are reassured that their colleagues are more likely to be healthy.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (30 July 2020) "COVID-19 at-home testing kits can make returning to work safer" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/covid-19-at-home-testing-kits-can-make-returning-to-work-safer


Why continuous listening is the key to a smooth transition back to work

Returning to the workplace during this time can be difficult for many, especially with employers who are being faced with the question of how to create and keep a safe and comfortable workplace scene. Read this blog post to learn more.


As states and businesses reopen in the U.S., many employers are faced with a difficult decision: Should their employees go back to the workplace? And if so, when? Amazon told their workers they likely wouldn’t return until October, while Google announced that their employees wouldn’t go back to the office until 2021. Twitter and Facebook decided most employees could work from home forever.

But once employers do make that decision, they’re then confronted with a more formidable one: How do they get their employees back in a way that is both safe and comfortable for everyone? In short, how do they successfully manage employee experience?

Most companies have coordinated COVID-19 task forces charged with making those decisions and helping their employees navigate the global pandemic. And whether they realize it or not, those task forces are broken down into two different functions: operational and experiential.

When COVID-19 first hit, the task forces had to deal with the operational challenge of moving massive workforces home overnight, and they worked to ensure employees had the equipment and software needed to function remotely. And soon after, many realized they also had another responsibility on their plate: employee mental wellbeing.

Leaders recognized they’d have to find new ways to keep their people sharp, productive, and happy. In fact, their employees’ experience with remote work was a central component in making that big operational move successful.

The same will happen as task forces bring people back to the workplace. In fact, managing employee experience will become a task force’s most critical responsibility. To ensure employees feel comfortable returning to the workplace, company leadership needs to know how they feel about coming back and what safety concerns they may have. Then leadership must act on that information.

But the current situation (and their employees’ feelings) can change rapidly. That’s why a method called “continuous listening” is essential to managing employee experience. At least once a day (if not more), employees should be able to respond to a few questions about how they’re feeling, and leaders can use that real-time information to successfully take care of their teams.

A large retail bank in North America has set up an always-on feedback channel for retail branch employees to identify safety concerns in different branches. The bank recognized that, when it came to health and safety concerns, employees might need to offer feedback immediately rather than waiting for a survey that came around once a day. Other organizations have used pre-screening tools that allow employees to self-report each day so company leadership can decide whether they should come into the workplace.

Continuous listening helps leadership communicate with employees, and vice versa. If there’s ever been a time to listen to your people and manage their employee experience, it’s now.

A Qualtrics study conducted at the beginning of May found that two out of three workers in the United States didn’t feel comfortable returning to the workplace. In fact, nearly half of all workers said they didn’t expect to go back to work until August or later.

Most respondents said they want assurance from public officials like the Centers for Disease Control or state and local governments before returning, while about half said they’d feel more comfortable once a treatment or vaccine is available. Nearly 70%, though, said they trust their company leadership to make the right decision on when to come back.

Once leadership makes that decision, however, employees expect them to enact policies and procedures that will protect workers’ safety. Almost 75% said they want their work facility to be thoroughly and regularly cleaned and disinfected, while 62% said they want strict policies about who cannot come to the office, including those who are sick and have recently traveled. Nearly 60% said they want masks available to everyone who wants one, while the same amount said they want all employees to be required to wear a mask at all times.

A majority expect their company to require those who travel to self-quarantine for 14 days, prohibit handshakes and hugs, and set safety measures around communal food. Almost 40% said they want employees to be brought back in phases instead of all at once.

Employees also want the freedom to take action themselves. Over 60% said they want to be able to wear a mask and maintain social distancing at work, and half said they want more flexible sick-leave policies that employees are encouraged to use, even with minor symptoms. Nearly the same amount said they want to be able to limit the number of people they’re exposed to in workplace meetings, and almost 40% said they want to be able to skip work without penalty or continue working from home if they feel unsafe.

These findings provide companies with a general idea of what their employees want to see before coming back to work, but gathering data specific to each organization is even more helpful. Before and after companies begin their initial return, they’ll need to listen closely and continuously to their employees and should increase emphasis on employee feedback.

After all, employees are an organization’s best ambassadors. Invest in them, and they’ll invest in you.

SOURCE: Choi, J. (27 July 2020) "Why continuous listening is the key to a smooth transition back to work" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/why-continuous-listening-is-the-key-to-a-smooth-transition-back-to-work