Q&A From Our Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Webinar

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The live Q&A session from our Diversity & Inclusion Programs Backed by Data webinar sparked valuable discussion and advice from our guest speaker, Doug Harris, CEO of the The Kaleidoscope Group.

Listen to his responses to questions about how to handle the challenges of D&I initiatives. Audio clips broken out by question.

Q: “We notice that candidates for management and higher level jobs are not being filled with diverse people. How can we get more diversity while hiring the most qualified person for the position?”

A: “We have something called the “Musts/Wants Process”.  The Must box says here’s the requirement for the job, and the Want box says here are the additional things that add value. In most scenarios, what comes out of the Want box is comfort and fit, e.g. “I have a good gut feeling for that guy.” But what does that mean? What often happens is that we find ourselves putting higher standards on those that are different. … You should never lower qualifications, but you should realistically look at your qualifications and understand if it is a mindset or a reality. … and acknowledge that we have unconscious bias towards others that we aren’t aware of. …”

Listen to full response below (2 min 4 sec)

Q: “As a company who wants to diversity our employees, is consciously trying to hire women or people of color okay? Is it okay during a hiring process to only look at qualified candidates that are only women or people of color?”

A: “The first answer was yes. It is okay to be conscious around underrepresentation. The concept of looking at only candidates from certain background is a great ground for a lawsuit. We have this term called “reverse discrimination”, but there’s no such thing – discrimination is discrimination. … But it is okay to focus on areas of underrepresentation. The reasoning has to be crucial – it’s not that “I just want different people”; it’s “I think I’m missing out on having the best talent, and I have a large body of the world not being represented in my organization.” This work started from a regulatory standpoint … now we are in a place of equality. “I want the viewpoints – not only the background and talents – but the experiences from everywhere to drive the highest level of results.” …”

Listen to full response below (1 min 44 sec)

Q: “I notice in most conversations, diversity is not inclusive of individuals living with disabilities. … Do you have thoughts on how to measure and improve in this area?”

A: “Historically, in that area, the main focus has been inclusion and not as much around diversity. … The underrepresentation piece has not nearly been as big as [opportunities once on the job]… So I have seen data being used around their experience in the environment, but not used as much [for hiring]. Some of that is that there are so many types of disabilities among persons with challenges — how do you break that [data] down? It’s a challenge. It’s getting a lot more emphasis … and I’ve seen improvement, but we still need to do more analysis and get more information from these people to get insights … about how to create a more equitable environment from everyone. …There can be a disconnect in onboarding too. Part of onboarding should be utilizing the data that you have to accommodate individuals with disabilities, e.g. ensuring their workspace is suitable. This means involving them in the process instead of assuming what they need …”

Listen to full response below (3 min 13 sec)

Q: “A lot of people won’t report race/ethnicity/gender in their application process. What are some of the reasons why people would or would not share that data? Are there things you can do as a company to make people feel safe sharing that information?”

A: “We’re dealing with a major trust issue across society now. People don’t believe data is going to be used in a helpful way. … What you have to do to get genuine real data is present yourself and back it up as far as using it in the appropriate manner. … Create a culture of appreciating the truth, using the truth to get better, and letting people know this is going to help us become a better organization. One of my biggest objectives when I go to clients is to create a truthful environment. People will end up telling the truth or not based on how well it’s going to be utilized to make a difference. …”

Listen to full response below (2 min 9 sec)

Q: “How can employees build trust with their coworkers, especially when someone is afraid to speak up? What are ways we can encourage people to feel safe to speak up.”

A: “It’s tough because people are afraid to speak up because they’re uncertain about how it will be received. The reality is that if you don’t speak up, it’s not going to change.  One of the foundations of that is courage.

A couple of things are key here. When people speak up, they want to get the answer they want versus the answer they get. When they speak up, they want you to love what they say, and that’s not the real world. I often say “we have a truthful mouth but we have lying ears.”  … When we’re speaking up to people, we want to speak up to them in a way that will help them grow, versus criticizing them. I don’t believe in correction; I believe in growth. … The other piece is history and the history of speaking out not working well. Get over that history. It’s not easy, but the world needs your voice…”

Listen to full response below (2 min 38 sec)

Q: “What are your thoughts about comparing an organization’s demographics against what’s common in the industry or the geography where the company is based to establish a baseline?

A: “One of the things we have to consider is available workforce. One company said “we want 50% African-American engineers.” Sounds good… but you have to look at the real world, and that’s both available talent and concrete profile of success.  Many organizations create a profile of success that make it hard for many people to meet. Some of the profiles were set 20 years ago … you’re stuck on old criteria. So you have to look at current criteria and look at the available workforce. The biggest piece of work right now is pipeline work. When areas are underrepresented, you have to go look for it… earlier.  You have to prepare people early on to be an engineer …”

Listen to full response below (2 min 25 sec)


To get more tips about how to do better with your D&I programs, listen to the webinar recording.

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