Racism: When HR is Part of the Problem

HR professionals are the architects of the employee experience. They’re the ones responsible for ensuring their workplaces are free from unlawful discrimination and racism. They’re charged with nurturing a culture that promotes diversity, inclusion and equity.  In challenging times, when people are confused and hurting and taking to the streets to protest for issues of basic human rights, employees rely on their HR team to communicate and reassure.

Numerous HR professionals are excellent at doing these things.

Others are doomed to fail miserably. 

Why? Because, unfortunately, there are far too many HR practitioners who themselves exhibit a profound lack of either understanding or care and who, to put it bluntly, are racists themselves.

Over the last several years alone I have heard the following

  • “I treat everyone the same; I don’t see color.” – OK; we can work with this one to some degree via education and conversation. Unfortunately, it was followed up (by the white, privileged HR Director) with “there is no such thing as white privilege.”
  • A local HR Director was interested in serving on a board of directors. When discussing roles and committees, including D&I, she explicitly stated, “I don’t believe in diversity; that’s all made up.”  
  • “This is a fun place. And none of ‘those people’ come here.” – spoken by an HR leader/SHRM leader to an out-of-town (white) guest who had traveled to speak at a state SHRM event.
  • “I’m not prejudiced; we had a Black housekeeper who practically raised me. She was like part of the family” – in the category of things that are Southern and problematic; see “The Help”
  • When discussing the hiring process at her company an HR practitioner said “Well, you know she’s Black so guess the only people she will ever hire?” 
  • “I don’t go to that store in that part of town; it’s too “dark” there if you know what I mean.” HR Director, 2020

Oh these HR folks aren’t using the n-word in public but they’re awfully good at using code words and euphemisms like “them” and “those people.” They realize they’re crossing a line though; you can tell that when they ‘whisper’ the offending word. 

And, of course, lots of racist white people figure they can read-the-room. They’re out having a few cocktails with HR peers or sitting at a table with other white people at a SHRM meeting and they assume everyone thinks the same as they do. There’s no holding back. They open the door on their ugly souls. 

So what to do? 

  • We must, if we work in HR, call out our HR colleagues when they say things that are hurtful, inappropriate and racist. 
  • We must continue to elevate the voices and contributions of our BIPOC colleagues EVERY DAY; not just on ‘certain days’ of the year. 

We can do better.

We have to do better. 

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A Few Considerations for Remote “Team Engagement”

remote work from home

Even as we grapple, globally, with the containment and fight of the pandemic, there are many lovely things happening as a result of the ‘Rona. One thing I’ve noticed is how my neighbors on Nextdoor are less passive-aggressive and actually being, well, neighborly! No doubt you’ve seen (or maybe even participated in) activities like:  

  • Group sing alongs in places ranging from balconies in Italy to neighborhoods in Philadelphia
  • Teddy Bear Hunts for the kids in the neighborhood
  • Kids writing letters/drawing pictures to send to residents in nursing homes

On the work front, of course, the deployment of numerous cubicle-dwellers to a new #WorkFromHome arrangement has resulted in:

  • Thousands upon thousands of blog posts and articles about how to “work from home”
  • Massive growth and usage for Zoom’s teleconferencing software and Microsoft’s cloud-computing solutions
  • Lots of snacking and day-drinking

There’s also been a lot of scrambling, by managers of these newly virtual workers, to find ways to maintain a sense of camaraderie and connection for their teams. Tips and hints are shared across social media channels as managers and HR leaders promote holding:

  • Group coffee chats and Happy Hours 
  • Scavenger Hunts (in the house)
  • Game night with trivia, bingo or “two truths and a lie
  • Group lunch gatherings 

The efforts to do these things are lovely and it’s wonderful that managers realize the importance of the human-to-human connection. However, a word of warning is in order.

Just as no one wants to have to be at the office (building) for extended hours, no one wants to have to be at the virtual office for hours on end. Even in the best of times it’s often a challenge for those who WFH to shut-it-down and draw a distinction between work time/home-time. And now, during this strange-new time when people have been sent to WFH, often with no preparation or planning, it’s more challenging than ever. I fear that for many the pressure to be “always available” is already strong, even while emanating from a place of good intentions, and will only increase as our #StayAtHome situation lingers. 

So here are a few tips for managers and HR leaders:

  • Rather than institute a group lunch (“let’s all bring our sandwich and get on a Zoom call together!”), allow your team members to take a REAL lunch break so they can get up from their work station. Encourage them to walk around the block, play with their dog, do a few stretching exercises, or take a power nap. 
  • Happy Hour is fun; for some. Just as when you gather for an in-person Happy Hour, not everyone may want to attend…and that’s….OK.  Make it acceptable for your team members to bow out, no explanations necessary.

Keeping your team connected is more important than ever…but a little team-distancing, just like social distancing, is OK.

*****

Note: the great folks at Workhuman have made their Life-Events and Conversations Products available to all organizations in response to COVID-19 crisis. Check it out here.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Tips for Your Virtual Happy Hour #workfromhome

We’ve been doing virtual team Happy Hours at Peridus Group since WELL before virtual team Happy Hours became the new normal. Now, with numerous people working from home for the first time, they’re finding ways to socially interact from a safe distance. Replicating the joie de vivre that results when a co-worker says “let’s pop down to the pub after work” is an easy way to maintain one’s sanity and promote a sense of normalcy. 

In the interest of helping our fellow humans, here are a few of our top tips guaranteed to make your HH rock: 

  • Unless you’re doing your home-office/remote-workin’ from your kitchen (and thus with ready access to the refrigerator), make sure to bring the entire bottle of wine (or liquor and mixers) to your home office. That way, when it’s time to pour a fresh one, you don’t even have to step away from the festivities!
  • Put someone in charge of music; assign a walk-in tune to each team member and play it when they enter the chat room. My preferred walk on tune is “SexyBack” by JT.

  • A fun game to play is “let me show you my neighborhood/backyard/favorite restaurant down the street.” Give someone screen sharing capabilities, pull up Google Maps, and take a virtual tour of BFE!

  • Props and costumes add a certain pizzazz to any Happy Hour. We have one team member who occasionally dons a tiara and another that we like to make put on her super-hero cape. Lots of LOLZ!
  • Give new hires a thrill when they realize the invite to “drink alcohol on the clock” comes from the HR lady! (actual quote” “wow! I never worked anywhere where HR planned and coordinated the Happy Hour!”) 
  • Play a game together – live! For our virtual holiday party this past December (eons ago…), I created a holiday trivia quiz (somewhat NSFW) using Kahoot. Everyone downloaded the app and we played together (20 seconds per question!) with the ability to watch the leaderboard while sipping our adult beverage of choice.

Raising my glass to everyone – stay safe, wash your hands and CHEERS!

Photo by Yutacar on Unsplash

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OnBoarding The Newest Member of the Team

Eddy von Schooling

We’re dog people in the Schooling household. Oh sure, we’ve had cats over the years (RIP Liza, Cleo and Sasha) but as far as we’re concerned there’s nothing like the unconditional love that emanates from a canine companion. 

At one stage we had four dogs at once (found, rescued, inherited…so how could we say “no?”) but sadly in 2018 we lost Libby (sweet girl) and Marley (good boy) and thus down-sized to just two. For the last 15 months or so, Frank Lapidus and Mr. Crumples have had the run of the house. 

And then, as I knew was inevitable, we felt the tug. After a visit a few weeks ago to a Rescue, Rehome, Repeat of South Louisiana adoption event, Eddy von Schooling came to his forever home. Y’all – I totally forgot how exhausting a puppy can be! 

At 12 weeks old he didn’t bring a lot of experience with him which is a good thing/bad thing. In the negative column, of course, he needs to be potty-trained. On the plus side of the scorecard however he doesn’t have a whole lot of bad habits to ‘unlearn.’  

So we’re going through family member onboarding and it’s eerily similar to the employee onboarding experience; minus a paycheck of course. Little Eddy needs to quickly (and smoothly) adjust to both the performance and social aspects of his new job life so, as always, I’m focusing on the 4 C’s

Compliance – Eddy’s been learning the basic rules, policies and expectations of the Schooling organization. After completing his paperwork (shots, neutering visit, registration and micro-chipping) he was ready to become a productive member of the family. 

Clarification – We’re sort of sitting in this step now as Eddy gets clarity on both his role and his responsibilities. There’s regular feedback, both affirming and correcting: ranging from “who’s a good boy!!!?!” to “no!” At this stage his introductory period is going well but we shall see how he does when it’s time for the formal 30-day performance evaluation. Will he score a “1” or a “5?” “Needs Improvement” or “Kicking Ass?” 

Culture – Within moments of Eddy arriving on Day 1 we did the tour and explained how things work around here. We clarified our family values and, through examples and in-person demonstrations, clearly linked those values to expected behaviors. This included things such as “here’s when and where you eat” and “no; we do NOT drag the kitchen rug around the house.”

Connection – Obviously, in order for Eddy to succeed in his new gig he’s going to have to develop meaningful and productive relationships with the rest of the team. I’ve assigned Frank Lapidus as his mentor (he’s a whole lot more responsible than Mr. Crumples) and we spend lots of time together so the boys can all navigate the complexities of the social landscape. I think it’s working because there’s face-licking and group snuggles happening and I’m hopeful that one day the toy-sharing will improve. 

I have a good feeling about this. We made a smart and well-informed selection decision (hired well!) have a well-defined onboarding plan, are well-equipped for ongoing performance management and offer a stellar rewards (treats!) and recognition program. 

I just wonder when Eddy’s gonna hit me up for a compensation review……

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Employee Experience: More than a Buzzword

Employee Experience (EX) is one of those phrases that, if one were so inclined, could fill a “Buzzword Bingo” card at most any HR conference/event over the last few years. We’ve been talking about it for a while now so, inevitably, there are folks already casting about looking for the next shiny-object-du-jour.

I say hold up; our understanding of the importance of the employee experience, and our ability to make improvements, is nowhere near the “check it off the list’ phase.

So what is it… exactly? One easy definition is “employee experience is the “user experience” of your company — it’s the intersection of employees’ expectations, their environment and the events that shape their journey within an organization.”

It includes understanding the moments that matter – for all employees. It requires HR professionals to step outside of their interaction with the experience (a process and interaction THEY created!) and put themselves in the shoes of the end-users (employees). It’s about nurturing a workplace environment where every individual can feel a sense of belonging and be successful.

It’s something we should continuously discuss – and we’re going to do just that next week!

Join me on next week’s #MercerChats (on the twitterz!) on Tuesday, 11/26 at 10 AM ET when we discuss “Who’s Driving the Modern Employee Experience?”

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