By Franklin Reed
“In terms of HR tech, no tool is effective unless coupled with unbiased human behavior. You need people who can suspend their own bias, or you will continue to make biased-based decisions.”
As an HR leader who believes in “leveraging differences”, Franklin Reed, director of diversity and inclusion, TEKsystems, speaks on why inclusion and diversity is about helping the organization succeed, only when its people succeed. He joins us on this edition of HR Talk to discuss why organizations must seek to understand the role unconscious bias plays in everyday decisions.
Red focuses on the strategies HR leaders should employ amid protests to continue hiring and promote diversity. He lays down a roadmap on how organizations should respond to large-scale, diversity related events to help employees feel safe and protected.
Key takeaways on how diversity and inclusion technology can overcome biases:
- Give your employees the opportunity to be heard and to listen.
- Host listening sessions but do so through multiple mediums, such as face-to-face and email.
- Elevate inclusion and diversity to a strategic level with sponsorship of the most senior leaders.
Here’s the edited transcript from our exclusive interview with Franklin Reed:
1. Does HR tech really get diversity? What are the top 3 D&I tools that are helpful and popular in sourcing the right talent?
In terms of HR tech, no tool is effective unless coupled with unbiased human behavior. You need people who can suspend their own bias, or you will continue to make bias-based decisions. Therefore, organizations must seek to understand the role unconscious bias plays in everyday decisions. Last year, we introduced bias training to our leaders, and we are accelerating our plans to expand that program in 2020. You need people who understand their unique impact bias and work to intentionally mitigate it.
Ultimately, the most effective sourcing strategy is referrals. People are the biggest value proposition—good people know good people. If your organization is dominated by one identity group and most of your new hires come through referrals, your sourcing strategy almost does not matter. Why? Most people’s networks are homogenous and if the dominant group is doing most of the referring, you are going to continue attracting the same people. So, for us the most effective tool is identifying diverse pools to source from and being intentional about expanding our personal networks.
Another tool is exploring non-traditional talent pools, like workforce development programs, boot camps, community-based organizations, and community colleges. We work closely with Per Scholas and Creating IT Futures. Look to non-traditional talent pools that cater to a diverse population.
2.There is more than one pandemic affecting U.S. citizens today with racial injustice exacerbating things. What steps organizations should take to respond to large-scale, diversity related events to help employees feel safe and protected?
Large-scale, diversity-related events undoubtedly impact the everyday lives of people across the country. Give your employees the opportunity to be heard and to be listened to. Host listening sessions but do so through multiple mediums. Some may not want to talk face-to-face; some want to send an email. Within those first several days of protest, we encouraged our leaders to provide these listening opportunities to their teams, and they were well-received. But more importantly, these opportunities and conversations need to be ongoing. We were already planning regular moments for our teams to connect; these plans were accelerated due to the social injustice and civil unrest. We will come together as a company to explore a variety of topics germane to our people. So, have options that enable your employees to share their experiences, listen to one another and respond appropriately, and keep those opportunities and conversations ongoing.
3. Which strategies HR leaders should employ amid protests to continue hiring and promote diversity?
Consider your organization’s core values and amplify them during this time. Find where there is alignment in your values and what is being protested and talk about it. Share externally where you stand but perhaps more importantly ensure your employees know where you stand. They will talk about it and be your strongest assets to promote your company’s values externally.
4. How would the racial inequality protests change conversations around diversity and inclusion in the workplace? What are some of ways in which HR leaders can address these challenging discussions around D&I?
What is happening socially impacts how people show up to work every day. People do not separate their personal lives when they enter our offices; they bring all the things impacting their lives to work every day. If we are not playing an active role in evaluating what is happening and the impact on our people, it is not only a missed opportunity, but it’s also being naïve. There is a direct connection between an individual’s productivity and the impact that societal issues, such as racial inequality, have on them. They are not mutually exclusive.
5. Programs designed to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace often fail, according to the Harvard Business Review’s 2016 article. Among the company policies and programs, what concrete steps leaders seeking to create an inclusive environment, need to take to empower the workplace of tomorrow?
There are concrete steps that leaders can take to create an inclusive environment:
- Elevate inclusion and diversity to a strategic level with sponsorship of the most senior leaders.
- Commit to understanding the impact of bias from the top down.
- Define specific goals and the actions to achieve those goals.
- Have conversations with action about inequities that exist in your organization and how you’re going to remove them.
- Establish and maintain channels of communication with people. People want to be heard, the workforce of tomorrow wants to know their voice is being heard and considered by the organization.
6. Which top 3 diversity initiatives do you rely on at TEKsystems to assist employees working from home?
- We’ve utilized our existing employee resource groups (ERGs) and employee networks (ENs) to create platforms for people of similar backgrounds, interest or experiences to connect. ERGs and ENs foster an inclusive workplace, no matter where people are located. We have an ERG for parents that has been especially helpful for employees during this time (work from home).
- Employee networks are effective tools for any D&I team. In the past couple months, we launched three new employee networks because of the value they bring with connections to our people, particularly in this remote environment.
- We have devoted efforts to educating and training our leaders around expanding the concept of inclusion. For example, working from home is an inclusion issue, how do we maximize the potential of our employees who have different needs. It is so much more than a technology or skills issue; working from home is an inclusion issue.
7. According to IBM research, there are more than 180 human biases in today’s AI systems, which can affect how business leaders make their decisions. What are some of the use cases that highlight how imperative it is to create transparent algorithms, policies on biases, and explainable decision-making?
The most effective way for organizations to mitigate bias beyond individual responsibility and embracing new behaviors is to examine and dissect the systems where bias shows up: the talent life cycle systems, including hiring, performance reviews, advocacy and sponsorship, mentorship, promotions, access to decision-makers, etc. Introduce objective criteria within those systems with the appropriate oversight and audit mechanisms.
8. What trends do you see in the diversity and inclusion space in 2020 and post pandemic that employers need to take a note of?
I see two trends: The first trend is action. Gone is the idea of figuring out what you are going to do, what matters is what is it that you are doing to cultivate inclusion and create a more equitable culture. Employers need to be thinking about creating space to have conversations that matter. People need to know that they are seen and heard. I have seen organizations taking and expressing clear stances around specific issues, and that is the right thing to do. Storytelling is good, but the time for just telling stories is over. What are you going to do? People want to know what you stand for. Neutrality is not an option.
The second trend is genuine work-life integration. Moving forward, I think companies need to evaluate their request for work-life integration. We cannot make this request only to allow our people to integrate who they are up to a certain point. We cannot ask people to bring their authentic selves to work but do not talk about the social causes or issues that are important to them. Life includes people having personal opinions and feelings about social issues. We also must recognize that we are literally inside the homes of our people. Sometimes interacting with their families (kids), viewing their books, art, décor, etc. So much of these things speak about what is important to them, and now that we were forced to work this way, we simply cannot go backward.
About Franklin Reed
A leader with a deep passion for inclusion and diversity, Franklin Reed drives the enterprise strategy partnering closely with TEKsystems’ executives and business leaders to align organizational priorities that impact the company’s people and business. Externally, he consults with clients to explore opportunities that empower them to achieve their diversity hiring, compliance and supplier goals. These engagements enable TEKsystems to outperform industry averages for placement of diverse technology talent across 6,000 clients. Franklin has been with TEKsystems for over 19 years and understands the critical role a diverse and engaged workforce plays in achieving company objectives.
Partners in transformation, TEKsystems help clients activate ideas and solutions to take advantage of a new world of opportunity. As an industry leader in Full-Stack Technology Services, Talent Services and real-world application, the company works with progressive leaders to drive change. TEKsystems is an Allegis Group company.
About HR Talk
HR Talk is an interview series that features top people and talent leaders from HR tech and Fortune 500 companies who are redefining the future of work. Join us as we talk to these HR tech and people analytics experts to get in-depth insights, and some pro-tips on how HR tech can best work for you and your people.