DCI Consulting Group (DCI) had representatives attend the SHRM Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) conference held October 25-27, 2016 in Austin, TX. A draw for the conference was to hear from business leaders on D&I initiatives, such as aligning D&I strategy to business objectives and attracting and retaining diverse talent by striving for an inclusive culture. A recap of the conference sessions, in which DCI was present and deemed to be a direct relation to both D&I and compliance, can be found within this blog.
The Business Case for Hiring Military Veterans: Strategies, Approaches and Best Practices
Nathan D. Ainspan, Ph.D., of the Transition to Veterans Program Office (TVPO) Department of Defense, spoke to attendees about initiatives to attract and retain veterans in the workplace. With approximately 200,000 annual transitions from the military, there is ample opportunity to improve and bridge the transition process for this skilled population. Dr. Ainspan has partnered with the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology and the Society of Human Resource Management for education, training and research in this field.
He outlined the skills veterans have that are in need as identified in a literature review, concerns by veterans transitioning (i.e., may be considered more of a career change than a transition which may take 6 months to a year for placement), as well as successful practices for attracting and retaining veterans (e.g., effective on-boarding, mentoring programs, and affinity groups). In addition, Dr. Ainspan noted the following resources:
Resources for Hiring
- Local Installation Transition Office;
- American Job Centers; and
- Hiring Our Heroes.
- DoD SkillBridge Program;
- DoDs Transition Assistance Program; and
- VA’s Veteran Employment Toolkit.
Creating an Inclusive Culture in Your Organization
Lauren Aguilar, with Paradigm, summarized empirical evidence supporting an inclusive culture in this session. She covered the following concepts and shared how to optimize each for a more inclusive organizational culture:
- Physical environment (e.g., cues in the environment)
- Growth mindset (e.g., learn from mistakes)
- Team communications (e.g., impact of interruptions)
- Psychological safety (e.g., interpersonal risk taking)
- Feedback (e.g., delivery and focus of feedback)
Managing D&I: Religion and LGBTQ Issues in the Workplace
Michael S. Cohen of Duane Morris LLP discussed the legal and practical implications of organizations addressing issues that arise related to LGBTQ status and requests for religious accommodation. This session included discussion of:
Response Options to Religious Accommodation Requests
- Accommodation denied due to employee not holding a bona fide religious belief
- Accommodation not available or poses undue hardship on the employer
- Accommodation not needed, as request has no conflict with employment requirements
- Accommodation offered (which employee may accept or reject)
- Effect of local laws on practices and policies
- Level of inclusiveness in organization policies
- Environment and culture
- Demographics of leadership
Invisible No More ® – Seven Realities of the Invisible Becoming Visible
In a session focusing on invisible disabilities, Wayne Connell, founder and president of Invisible Disabilities Association based in Denver, CO, highlighted some points to keep in mind when working with individuals with invisible disabilities inside and outside of the workplace:
- 74% of individuals with severe disabilities do not use assistive devices
- 24% of Americans have 1 or more chronic illnesses
- You can support individuals with invisible disabilities by:
- Acknowledging their situation – do not assume that because you cannot see what they are going through that it is not real. Believe them first.
- Acknowledging their losses – many people with invisible disabilities have had to alter or completely change the way they live their life as a result of their disability
- Respecting their boundaries and limitations – ensure they have equal access/invitation to positive opportunities at work (i.e. just because they say no to participating in an activity once, do not assume they never want to be invited again or are always unable to participate)
- Showing them you are listening – they are the best person to show you what they need to succeed
- Showing them you are willing to help – maintain a friendly and open orientation toward assisting them with daily activities
Everything You Wanted to Know About Gender Transition in the Workplace but Didn’t Even Know to Ask
Grace Stevens, President of GVET, described her experience transitioning in the workplace and provided employers with best practices on supporting transgender individuals in their organizations. Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Educate transgender employees that it’s OK for them to set boundaries (e.g., to not go into detail with others about their transition unless they want to)
- Educate non-transgender employees to accept and respect the boundaries set by transgender coworkers
- Advise employees going through transition that it may be beneficial for them to write a “coming out” letter to coworkers to address common questions (e.g., pronoun use)
- HR should create and make publicly available (e.g., dissemination from top leadership recommended) a policy promoting the inclusion of transgender employees in the workplace and highlight resources available to transgender employees and how to access them.
What the #%!*: Political Correctness in the Workplace
In this session led by Marc Scheiner, attorney at Duane Morris LLP, discussion surrounding the issue of navigating political correctness in the workplace took stage. “Political correctness,” according to Scheiner, can be more applicably interchanged with “treating people with respect,” which is the ultimate goal of any harassment prevention program. Scheiner reminds us that we need to not only train managers on dealing with obvious inappropriate conduct (e.g. patent racism or sexism) but also less obvious forms such as:
- Requests for dates
- Pop culture references
- And even more subtle forms such as:
- “Positive” stereotypes
- Unconscious bias
While HR’s focus should be on managing and preventing inappropriate behavior and harassment, the focus of organizational leaders should center on creating a culture that encourages openness, promotes listening and mutual respect, and supports a learning environment.
The Neuroscience of Mitigating Bias and Elevating D&I
David Rock of NeuroLeadership Institute provided advice to employers based on research conducted at the Institute on understanding and breaking bias. The model he proposed using consisted of:
- Accepting that brains are biased
- Labeling the bias you are dealing with
- Mitigating biases with brain-based strategies
Instead of raising awareness of the exclusion of particular groups, David Rock suggests employers build new habits that create inclusion, focusing on the smallest possible set of behaviors to shape in these new habits.
DCI staff look forward to networking with you at the 2017 D&I conference! Stay informed of DCI’s D&I initiatives (e.g., D&I program evaluations, trainings, employee life-cycle diversity dashboards and metrics) through our bi-weekly blogs.
By Keli Wilson, Principal Consultant; Jana Garman, Senior Consultant; and Jeff Henderson, Associate Consultant, at DCI Consulting Group