Remembering Katrina, 10 Years Later

It’s difficult to fathom that it’s been 10 years since Katrina made landfall and wreaked havoc on New Orleans and the surrounding region.

Katrina heading toward the coastline on August 28.

Katrina heading toward the coastline on Aug. 28, 2005.

I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded of the devasting storm delivered to the region. But just in case, here’s a brief excerpt from the August 30, 2005 edition of the New York Times

“Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast with devastating force at daybreak on Monday, sparing New Orleans the catastrophic hit that had been feared, but inundating parts of the city and heaping damage on neighboring Mississippi, where it killed dozens, ripped away roofs and left coastal roads impassable.

Officials said that, according to preliminary reports, there were at least 55 deaths, with 50 alone in Harrison County, Miss., which includes Gulfport and Biloxi. Emergency workers feared that they would find more dead among people who had been trapped in their homes and in collapsed buildings.

Jim Pollard, a spokesman for the Harrison County emergency operations center, said many of the dead were found in an apartment complex in Biloxi. Seven others were found in the Industrial Seaway.

Packing 145-mile-an-hour winds as it made landfall, the storm left more than a million people in three states without power and submerged highways even hundreds of miles from its center.The storm was potent enough to rank as one of the most punishing hurricanes ever to hit the United States. Insurance experts said that damage could exceed $9 billion, which would make it one of the costliest storms on record.”

As we all know, the toll turned out to be a lot worse than those (and other) initial estimates—and, as Gary Rivlin makes clear in his new book Katrina: After the Flood (the release of which was obviously timed for the 10th anniversary), the impact, in many ways, continues to be felt today.

Of course, as far as employers are concerned, Katrina’s 10th anniversary raises the ever-important question, “From an employee and operational standpoint, are we better prepared to respond when a natural disaster strikes than we were 10 years ago?”

I’m not really prepared to address that question in this particular post, but figured it might be as good a time as any to dust off an article we posted in 2011 on HREOnline titled “Being Prepared When Disaster Strikes.” Written by Ann D. Clark, CEO and founder of ACI Specialty Benefits, an EAP and leading provider of student-assistance programs, and wellness, concierge and work/life services, the piece offers employers a road map for navigating natural disasters such as Katrina.

“Too many businesses wait until crisis strikes to act,” Clark wrote in 2011. So as Erika approaches Florida and the nation and world remembers Katrina 10 years later, here are a few of the pointers featured in Clark’s article.

“The Vulnerability Audit”

Before creating a response plan, first take a vulnerability audit or risk assessment. Remember, the workplace can be directly affected through actual physical damage in the event of an earthquake, tornado, tsunami or other natural disaster, and can also be adversely affected by employees having family members or friends impacted by a traumatic event … .

Creating a Plan

An effective plan is one that is well-rounded and capable of responding to any incident, regardless of size, scope or complexity. Make sure the plan addresses up-to-date evacuation procedures, property-damage protection, systems back-up, communication and business contingency.

HR professionals should also consider consulting with first responders and employee-program-assistance providers to ensure the plan effectively covers major areas of concern.

When preparing for an immediate threat such as a natural disaster, safety comes first.

Disaster Training and Communication

The next major step in disaster preparedness is adequate training and communication to ensure the workforce has all the tools necessary to respond and recover in times of crisis.

HR professionals should start by having a meeting focused on disaster preparedness where all of the important information can be disseminated to the entire workforce. At these meetings, topics such as where the emergency supplies are located, where the office safe area can be found and how to respond to each kind of respective emergency can be covered.

Preparedness in Action

In Florida, companies are often threatened by hurricanes and have learned first-hand how preparedness works.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House learned the communication plan was one of the most important pieces of its disaster planning when Hurricane Katrina struck. Without phone lines, the management team was able to locate all but three of 370 employees in affected areas within a few days using text messaging.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the company’s disaster plan also includes pre-hurricane-season tree-trimming around restaurants, an outline of items for each store’s disaster-supply kit and step-by-step instructions on ways to secure the building and food supplies before evacuations.

Turning to Professional Resources

A major part of disaster preparedness is knowing where to turn for resources and support. One of those crisis-response resources is the employer’s employee-assistance program.

When the tragic 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, there were a variety of U.S.-based companies with employees and family members in Japan who needed to be evacuated immediately. Some of ACI Specialty Benefits’ clients turned to the EAP resources for prompt support in ensuring these employees and family members were taken care of. …

In critical situations, EAP services can be invaluable in providing prompt and professional support to address a wide range of business and personal needs, including the provision of on-site counseling support to management and staff.

Advice well worth remembering, I would think, especially as the coast of Florida braces for Tropical Storm Erika, which could possibly make landfall as a hurricane early next week.

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Is Telecommuting Leveling Off?

Earlier this month, Gallup conducted its annual Work and Education poll and made an interesting discovery: while telecommuting has become more common, its growth has appeared to level off in recent years.

“It is unclear how much more prevalent telecommuting can become because it is really only feasible for workers who primarily work in offices using a computer to perform most of their work duties,” states the Gallup report.

Has telecommuting reached its peak?

Not a chance. It’s important to consider that people telecommute in two basic ways: employees who work from home or at favorite neighborhood spots like the local bookstore or Starbucks and those who hold down a traditional office job but then telecommute during evenings or weekends as needed.

Here are some of the results of the Gallup survey, which conducted 1,011 telephone interviews of American adults (at least 18 years of age) from Aug. 5 – 9:

37 percent say they have telecommuted, up from 30 percent from last decade.

  • 46 telecommute during the workday.
  • 55 percent are college graduates while 52 percent have an annual household income of $75,000 or more.
  • 44 percent are white-collar professionals while 16 percent are blue-collar workers.
  • The average worker telecommutes two days per month
  • The average number of workdays that workers telecommute has not changed much since almost a decade ago (2006).

However, people’s views about the productivity of telecommuters may also change its future path. Fifty-six percent of survey participants now believe remote workers are just as productive as those who work in offices compared to roughly 45 percent a decade ago. Approximately 17 percent believe they are more productive while roughly 18 percent say they are less productive.

Another influencer are companies like Yahoo that pulled back the corporate reigns on telecommuting several years ago, changing company policies that now require all employees to work in the office. Bummer.

Still, I have a hard time believing that telecommuting has reached maturity. Due to technology advancements and the ingenuity of the American worker, there’s no telling what will happen next.

As proof, some creative approaches are already being implemented for nonoffice workers. Several years ago, Emler Swim School, which supports nine locations in Texas and Kansas, began using web-based water chemistry control systems that enable the director of maintenance – pool operations to remotely monitor and control the pool’s water chemistry with network-enabled devices like a PC, smart phone, iPad or tablet.

The technology opened the door for nontraditional telecommuting during off-work hours. Although it doesn’t replace the need for manual controls, the director can still make the same adjustments at anytime from home (or anywhere else) as if he was physically standing in front of the controls at the school.

Although some occupations will remain exempt from telecommuting opportunities, ranging from hospital nurses to restaurant chefs or servers, there are bound to be more unusual examples as the line between work and home grows fuzzier.

So expect the number of telecommuters to climb in the years ahead as well as more changes in the types of workers who telecommute. The best scenarios are yet to come.

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Target Pays the Price for Problematic Assessments

You never have to look far for examples of big companies spending big money to deal with claims of discriminatory employment practices.

This week’s cautionary tale comes courtesy of Target Corp.

On Monday, the Minneapolis-based discount chain agreed to pay $2.8 million to resolve charges of discrimination stemming from employment assessments used by Target, which “disproportionately screened out applicants for exempt-level professional positions based on race and sex,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The payout will be distributed among more than 3,000 individuals.

In its investigation of the retail giant, the EEOC determined that the assessment tests Target administered to thousands of candidates—who were ultimately rejected—for upper-level positions were not job-related, and violated Title VII of the Civils Right Act of 1964.

In addition to finding that the assessments unduly eliminated individuals in particular groups from consideration—namely African-Americans, Asians and women, according to the EEOC—the Washington-based agency determined that one of the assessments Target had been using violated the American with Disabilities Act. In this case, applicants were subjected to medical examinations prior to an offer of employment, which, as the EEOC notes, is prohibited by the ADA. Finally, the EEOC found that Target committed recordkeeping violations by failing to maintain records adequately enough to evaluate the impact of its hiring processes.

While maintaining that it didn’t act improperly regarding the assessments, Target did stop using the tests in question during the EEOC’s investigation, and has “agreed to better track its testing process and check for impact based on race, ethnicity and gender,” according to Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder.

In the same statement, Snyder noted that Target had relied on these tests “over the past decade,” and said the EEOC concluded that “only a small fraction of the assessments … could have been problematic.”

The settlement underscores the “quite risky” nature of the pre-employment assessments commonly used by many employers, says Tashwanda Pinchback Dixon, an Atlanta-based attorney at Balch & Bingham, and a member of the firm’s labor and employment and litigation practice groups.

“It’s important that employers take a very close look at these tests and make sure there is a clear link to business necessity,” says Dixon, whose experience includes focusing on Title VII sex and race discrimination claims.

Ensuring such a connection “is even more critical with tests that seek medical information, because of the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act,” adds Dixon.

In most instances, she says, “a case can be made for business necessity when the position requires manual labor, such as manual lifting requirements.”

In Target’s case, however, “the link to business necessity is not as obvious.”

In light of this week’s settlement, Dixon says that employers should expect their pre-employment assessments to come under scrutiny by candidates and—if brought to its attention—the EEOC.

As such, “employers should also evaluate and monitor whether their assessments have an adverse impact on any protected class,” she says, “including race, gender and individuals with disabilities.”

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Acknowledging Intersexuals in the Workplace

Here at HRE, we like to think we’re pretty well-versed in the labyrinthine lingo associated with the world’s workplace, including all manner of obscure HR term and every form of TLA (three-letter acronym).

So it came as quite a shock to me yesterday to discover a previously unknown — unknown to me, at least — term while participating in my company’s mandatory annual training sessions that addressed (among others) the old chestnuts of drugs in the workplace, IT usage, ethics, and gender, ethnic and sexual diversity.

The term in question? Intersexuals.

After some initial research (mostly the Wikipedia page for “intersex”) I found the following:

Like all individuals, intersex people have various gender identities. Most identify as either a woman or man, while some may identify as neither exclusively a woman nor exclusively a man. Some intersex individuals may be raised as a woman or man but then identify with another gender identity later in life.

That same Wikipedia page also notes that in 2015, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights described intersex people simply as being “born with atypical sex characteristics” that don’t meet “binary sex stereotypes.”

After learning a little more, the questions started popping up in my head: How can employers best accommodate such workers? How many people in today’s workforce actually identify themselves as intersexual? Which workplace bathroom should an intersexual person use?

I’ve reached out to the Human Rights Campaign as well as other experts in the arena of LGBTI issues, hoping to get some clarity on the issue in terms of how organizations can best accommodate such workers, but I’ve yet to hear back from them.

When I do, though, I’ll pass along their answers to you. In the mean time, I suppose I’ll just be thankful that I work for a company progressive enough to already acknowledge intersexuals in its work policies, even if not everyone (including me) may know they even exist.

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Restraining Orders as Legal Arsenal

When an email came my way recently, touting yet another approach to keeping employers safe from liability — restraining orders — I restraining order -- 473612428nearly discarded it, thinking it was surely common knowledge among HR leaders.

But something about the wording, and the invitation to interview a Los Angeles judge who thinks employers and their HR departments must not be privy to this technique, compelled me to look further. So I called him.

Herbert Dodell, Judge Pro Tempore for the Los Angeles Superior Court, thinks if employers really understood how much legal protection they’d be cloaking themselves in by filing restraining orders against potentially dangerous employees and ex-employees, more would be taking this approach. As it is, “maybe 5 percent to 10 percent are doing it today, tops,” he says. He goes on:

“Think about it, if there is an unruly employee or someone who is a credible threat of violence, the fact that [an employer] got a restraining order allows [that employer] to argue it did the prudent thing when confronted with a situation.

“If the employer doesn’t do it, and that employee shoots up the place, that employer will be faced with an argument that it didn’t do anything to protect the other employees or the work environment. In other words, it had notice and was negligent about doing something about it. It is no guarantee, but allows for an argument on liability issues.

“With the proliferation of lawsuits against employers for wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, you name it — all seeking damages, large and small — employers should be looking for ways to defend their actions and minimize damage claims. Restraining orders [can be] valuable tools in that regard.”

Dodell has a pretty good frame of reference for this. Not only has he heard hundreds of retraining-order cases in his judge’s robe, he also has experience as a transactional and trial lawyer, and mediator and arbitrator. So he’s represented people on both sides of these cases and decides them now, too.

Granted, he says, it won’t stop the violence (although it could deter it). “If someone has it in his or her mind to shoot up the place, he or she will shoot up the place,” he says. While such incidents were rare decades ago, he adds, they have been on the rise in recent years — perhaps the most recent being the February shooting at a Moorestown, N.J. security company that left one man dead and another injured.

Hard to say just how much they’re going up. Here‘s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s word on that. But as a legal record of steps an employer takes, and as proof in a court of law that “the employers had some concerns and took action, that employer would be far more protected from liability than most are,” says Dodell.

“I’m convinced HR people and employers don’t understand how this works or far more would be doing it,” he says. (He’s not even sure enough risk managers know how effective and simple this is.)

Filing a restraining order, he says, is not a difficult procedure — “basically, a six-page form [that entails mostly] checking the boxes.” Judges like himself “don’t even come out of chambers for temporary restraining orders; then you have a hearing in 21 days; then, if it’s issued, it’s good for three years.”

The thing to remember, he says, is you don’t have to be right about a perceived threat. You simply need to present your concerns to the court in the form of a fact pattern — “this is what happened and this is what we think might happen.” If the judge concurs, you are, in essence, right, and you — and possibly your employees (if the order does serve to dissuade the violent behavior) are protected for three years.

These documents are not complicated and they’re not expensive, says Dodell, and they make a whole lot more sense than what he’s sadly seen far more often, “where companies simply transfer unruly employees to other departments” to the detriment — and sometimes injuries or murders — of other employees. What’s more, he adds:

“The terms of the restraining order can be ‘manuscripted’ for the court to approve.  I often tailor the relief to the need. In wrongful termination cases, it is invaluable to have a finding made by a judicial officer that there was a reason for the termination or conduct by the employer to refute arguments of discrimination, etc.

“In cases where an employee or former employee disrupts the operation of the business or causes damages such as a shooting at the place of business, the obtaining of a restraining order, before something happens, shows due diligence and goes directly against allegations of negligence. Insurance companies should love it when there is a restraining order in place.  It can then be shown that a neutral judicial officer found a sufficient basis, by the applicable standard, that the employee or former employee was unstable and that the employer sought to do something about it.”

So there you have it: When in doubt (or concern), file those restraining orders.

I don’t usually take over someone else’s soapbox here, but thought I’d err on the side of safety.

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Not So Fast in the Race to Innovate?

Is innovation overrated? Well, if we’re to believe researchers from Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business who have studied Formula One racing teams, the answer could very well be “yes.”

ThinkstockPhotos-184766512OK, Formula One racers wouldn’t be the first place I would look either to better understand the workings of innovation. But academic researchers at the school recently pored over data from 49 teams over a period of 30 years of Formula One racing and found that those innovating the most (say, making radical changes to their cars) weren’t usually the most successful on the course.

“We found that it wasn’t always good to be the aggressive innovator,” according to Jaideep Anand, co-author of the study and professor of strategy at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. (The study, titled Driving Performance via Exploration in Changing Environments: Evidence from Formula One Racing, is featured in the current issue of the journal Organization Science.)

In other words, he says, the “conventional wisdom that companies need to embrace change is often wrong,”

But isn’t it a bit of a stretch to equate the kind of innovation occurring on a race track to business?

Not according to Anand.

Forumula One racing, he says, is actually a very good venue to study the value of innovation in business, because it’s an innovation-intensive industry with teams of engineers, drivers and sponsors who all have to work together to succeed.

As an OSU press release issued yesterday puts it …

“The independent governing body for Formula One (FIA) imposes changes to racing teams’ environments by releasing a new set of rules each year, which is similar to the changes in the regulatory and business environment that businesses face on a regular basis.”

OK, I sincerely doubt  many business leaders are going to instruct their innovation teams to slam their foot on the brakes in light of these findings. But that said, I suppose it’s never a bad idea to revisit what you’re doing on the innovation front and see what kind of impact it’s having. Who knows, maybe a tune-up might be in order?

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Let’s Get the Career Conversation Started

Even the best managers don’t always look forward to talking with employees about how they can be better at their jobs.

But your people are craving these conversations, which, unfortunately, don’t seem to be happening at many organizations.

Take Mercer’s recent Employee Views on Moving Up vs. Moving On survey, for example. The New York-based consultancy polled 1,520 employed workers in the United States and Canada, finding more than half (51 percent) of these respondents saying they receive “no input” or “input only once in a while” from superiors on how to perform better in their roles. In addition, 78 percent of employees indicated they would stay with their current employer if they had a better sense of their career trajectory with the company.

Leave workers in the dark about how to improve and advance at your own risk, warns Ilene Siscovick, partner and North America talent and career leader at Mercer.

“Clearly, lack of communication from managers along with a lack of transparency about career progression within the organization is impacting employee loyalty and hampering retention efforts,” said Siscovick, in a statement.

The aforementioned percentages are significant, but maybe not all that surprising when you consider some other recent research.

A Right Management report from July, for instance, finds that two-thirds of the individual performance drivers employees consider most important are tied to career conversations.

Earlier this year, Right polled 616 North American workers, 68 percent of whom said their managers aren’t actively engaged in the career development of their employees.

These Right Management figures help form the foundation of a feature that’s set to appear in our September issue. “Creating Coaches” focuses on a handful of organizations that excel at helping managers become coaches for their employees, and at making employee development a critical component of supervisors’ jobs—and a key performance measure for managers.

For that story, I spoke with Bruce Tulgan, founder of New Haven, Conn.-based management training and consulting company Rainmaker Thinking Inc.

Since 1993, Rainmaker has conducted research based on interviews with more than 200,000 managers, says Tulgan, who estimates that nine out of 10 “fail to regularly and systematically engage” in a regular, structured, one-on-one dialogue with their direct reports.

Some managers, he says, may be “naturally gifted in terms of being the kind of supportive, developmental leader that helps his or her employees with building themselves and their careers.” But becoming an effective coach for employees “isn’t about being a natural.”

Rather, “you really need to have regular, structured, substantive dialogue with your people that includes talking about how they’re doing their work and how they’re continuing to learn not only technical skills, but broader, transferable soft skills as well,” he says. “This is all part of a coaching style of management, and it has huge implications for employees’ career growth.”

HR, of course, has a responsibility to help ensure that managers grasp the importance of nurturing their employees’ development, adds Tulgan, who serves as an executive-level coach and advisor, and has written multiple books on effective management.

“I try to make a very strong business case to managers for doing this. It’s what managing is. The career development part is just the outcome of doing the hard work of managing people well in a substantive way.”

He also urges spelling out the concrete actions you expect managers to carry out in terms of coaching their reports.

Managers, for example, must understand how often they should be meeting with their people, how long those conversations should be, and what they should be talking about, says Tulgan.

Because, much like the employees they’re charged with leading, “you can’t hold managers accountable if you don’t tell them exactly what’s expected of them.”

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The High Cost of Warm Fuzzies

I admit the following with a recently delivered dash of remorse: I am an avowed Amazon Prime customer and I always get a “warm fuzzy” when a product I ordered in the morning arrives on my front porch before I even get home from work.

With that said, reading the New York Timesrecent in-depth look at Amazon’s corporate culture definitely left me with a “cold prickly,” or what the company calls the feeling customers get when they are informed their packages will not arrive as scheduled.

In case you haven’t read the piece yet — and I highly recommend you do — the Times “interviewed more than 100 current and former Amazon employees, including many who spoke on the record and some who requested anonymity because they had signed agreements saying they would not speak to the press.”

One of the few employees Amazon allowed to speak on the record (via email) for the piece was its vice president of HR, who defended the company’s attitude toward open confrontation in the workplace:

“We always want to arrive at the right answer,” said Tony Galbato, vice president for human resources, in an email statement. “It would certainly be much easier and socially cohesive to just compromise and not debate, but that may lead to the wrong decision.”

The story about the company that has just been valued at $250 billion has generated enough controversy that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who declined to be interviewed for the original story, nonetheless felt compelled to push back against some of the more damaging claims made in it, according to a follow-up piece by the Times:

In a letter to employees, Mr. Bezos said Amazon would not tolerate the “shockingly callous management practices” described in the article. He urged any employees who knew of “stories like those reported” to contact him directly.

“Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero,” Mr. Bezos said.

The NYT piece quotes Jason Merkoski, a 42-year-old engineer, who worked on the team developing the first Kindle e-reader and served as a technology evangelist for Amazon, who left the company in 2010 and then returned briefly in 2014.

Among the many disheartening stories of uncaring — or even malicious — co-workers, Merkoski’s quote perhaps best sums up the queasy essence of how work gets done there:

“The sheer number of innovations means things go wrong, you need to rectify, and then explain, and heaven help you if you got an email from Jeff,” he said. “It’s as if you’ve got the CEO of the company in bed with you at 3 a.m. breathing down your neck.”

Jason Averbook, CEO of The Marcus Buckingham Co., and one of the top thought leaders in the space of HR, workforce and enterprise technology — as well as being named as one of the 10 Most Powerful HR Technology experts by HRE — says the Amazon story offers a few powerful lessons for HR leaders everywhere.

“We need to be able to understand the pulse of employees much better than we do today,” he says. “It should never get to the point where employees see news media or social media as the only resort.

“And for a metrics-driven organization such as Amazon, it’s a shame and a shock that neither Bezos nor team leaders across the organization have quality people data that shows what’s at work in their teams. Because of this dearth of people data, we cannot truly know what their culture is like, and this situation emphasizes the need for reliable, real-time measures of team-level data for companies of all sizes.”

Averbook adds that companies need to “be doing a much better job of putting tools into the hands of team leaders themselves to empower them to take action.”

With the volume of millennials entering the workplace — even in managerial roles — “we need to provide both the training and tools to allow them to lead effectively,” he says. “It’s a reminder for companies to take a look at their current processes and identify how they need to improve now.

“This is the kick in the pants HR and companies need,” he adds. “If there was ever a question about the return on investment of HR tools and processes, the Amazon debacle should resolve those concerns as long as they are the right tools and processes.”

But, despite the public-relations black eye the story has caused Amazon, it certainly appears the company will continue to grow toward being the first trillion-dollar retailer in history, regardless of how we feel about the way our packages and products ultimately get to us.

Indeed, in Seattle alone, according to the piece, “more than 4,500 jobs are open, including one for an analyst specializing in ‘high-volume hiring.’ “

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Intel’s Diversity Progress is Now ‘In the Book’

Considering all the steps Intel’s leaders have been taking to improve diversity at the giant Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker, it should 79084610 --diversity in techcome as no surprise that the company’s first mid-year Diversity in Technology Report released last week shows considerable progress.

Details of that progress — mentioned in a blog post by Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell and a public letter to employees from Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich —  include the fact that Intel is now “tracking to 43 percent of its diverse hires in 2015,” exceeding its U.S. goal for 2015 of 40 percent, according to the report.

Also, it says, more blacks and women are now working at Intel than were at the beginning of the year. Of new employees this year, 35 percent were women and 5 percent were black, well above Intel’s current workforce representation. In addition, according to the report, more women and minorities are in leadership today at Intel than at the beginning of the year, with an 11-percent increase for senior women employees and a 19-percent increase in senior leadership for blacks. In her blog post, Hudnell touts her organization’s commitment, from the top down, to improving these numbers:

“Our team has used the same laser focus that has brought innovation to the world [around] the issue of diversity and inclusion.  And while we have strengthened our focus in our programs, systems and measurements, the game changer has been the level of accountability driven from the top.”

Indeed, in January, Krzanich announced plans to make Intel more representative of the U.S. population by 2020, with some $300 million dedicated to the effort. Four months later, he unveiled some impressive movement in that direction that I blogged about at the time.

More recently, on July 29, the company announced it would double its referral bonus for employees who help the organization diversify its workforce. Specifically, as Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine blogged the next day, employees who refer a woman, underrepresented minority or veteran who is ultimately hired will receive $4,000.

Mind you, Intel is not alone among Silicon Valley’s tech companies to address this, or to open its books for the public to see exactly where it stands when it comes to women and minority hiring. Way back in May of 2014, Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations for Google, came clean with the public on his company’s numbers in an effort to move the needle, according to this blog post by Editor David Shadovitz.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama issued a call to action to the tech industry, asking companies to step up their game on workforce diversity. Seven of the 14 companies responding to his challenge — including Intel — have agreed to try out something called the Rooney Rule, which was implemented in 2003 in the National Football League by Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.

Basically, according to the rule (which Rooney was applying to head-coach hiring), at least one woman and one minority must be considered for every open position. This Fortune.com story goes into far more detail about the rule, and its pros and cons.

I think what impresses me the most about what’s happening in the Silicon Valley around diversity in technology is the transparency serving as a kind of foundation to it all. Bock’s unveiling was a breath of fresh air. And now, at least according to Krzanich, Intel is sharing “more data than any company in our industry,” specifically “more information that [what’s] available on the EEO-1 form or [what’s] been reported in the past for our U.S. workforce.”

That has to be the best road to the kind of sweeping, mammoth demographic change being called for here — to openly admit reality in order to create a new one. Hudnell’s post certainly speaks to this. As she puts it, Intel’s intention “is to do all we can to collaborate and share openly so that what we all desire becomes the reality.”

Not a bad rule to live by, whatever business change you’re trying to effect.

 

 

 

 

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How Wellness Programs Must Evolve

Last month a diverse group of experts gathered in New York for a roundtable discussion on “redefining workplace wellness.” The group spanned academia, the health professions and corporate America and while their conclusions weren’t necessarily groundbreaking, they were nonetheless insightful and thought-provoking. The Global Wellness Institute organized the meeting and they’ve just released a report summarizing the discussion — I’ve included some of the highlights below:

1. It’s Time to Get Past “Unscientific Mud-Slinging on ROI.”

The argument over return-on-investment is one of the great bugaboos bedeviling wellness. But the roundtable participants agreed that in the future companies will shift their focus on ROI to a “wider ‘return on value': not just lower healthcare costs, but important gains in retention and productivity.” “Critics are misusing this ‘ROI science’ to castigate critical, fledgling workplace health efforts,” said participant Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, clinical professor of medicine at UC-San Francisco and the University of Arizona. “These critics are also imposing a ‘standard of evidence’ that doesn’t exist for any other workplace investment — like a software upgrade. Successful companies — Google is a shining example — have moved well beyond ROI, to embrace total value on investment, and workplaces where a culture of health is the norm.”

2. Take Seriously That Technology-Enabling 24/7 Work Is “Killing Us.”

Those midnight calls to discuss project updates with the team in Dubai or Singapore? No good, conclude the experts: “Technology has suddenly spawned new, global work realities: imprisonment by screens, and a powerful erosion of the line between now always-on ‘work’ and ‘life.'”

James Brewer, workplace consultant at Steelcase, said large companies could learn a thing or two from their much-smaller counterparts: “Start-ups appear to be more proactive in implementing policies that help their employees define when it is OK to ‘turn it off’ and disconnect … these types of policies are largely absent in larger companies.”

Paul Terry, president and CEO of Staywell, said so-called “resilience” and “high-performance cultures” may just be colloquialisms for “high endurance cultures.” In the future, the experts agreed, tackling this 24/7 version of work will become a focus of wellness programs, possibly including a redefinition of “productivity.”

3. Embrace the Tech

Innovations like telemedicine let workers connect with doctors in ways that don’t involve a disruption to their work schedules, the experts noted. And wearables may look very different in the future, according to Dr. Pelletier: “invisible, ingestible nanotechnology, wireless Bluetooth, and the next generations of the Apple Watch will capture a broad spectrum of employees’ biometric data effortlessly and around the clock.”

4. Don’t Forget the Remote Workers

Employees working remotely may suffer more loneliness and a lack of peer support in their work and their health, the experts note. Smart wellness programs will shift from “workplace programs” to “total workforce solutions.”

“Sustaining a culture of health across the increasingly remote workforce will be utterly key in the future,” said Dr. Fikry Isaac, chief medical officer at Johnson & Johnson. “And in order to impact these remote and at-home workers, smart companies will touch on, and include, the family, significant others and the communities where they live.”

5. Mental Health Must Be a Greater Priority

Most global wellness programs have focused on physical health, the experts noted. However, the rampant “do more with less” approach to work along with the aforementioned 24/7 nature of many jobs means “we have a once-silent, but now getting louder mental health, stress and ‘burnout’ epidemic on our hands.”

“More stressful jobs and lives mean emotional well-being is taking a toll from East to West. Twenty percent of the U.S. population (at any given time) has a diagnosable mental health issue, and the research on the state of employee mental health/stress in places like Asia is sobering.”

This has led to more addictions — sleeping and anti-anxiety pill use keeps climbing, the experts noted.

There’s hope on the horizon, they also noted: research around neuroplasticity, and studies on the effectiveness of approaches like positive psychology, meditation and mindfulness is “exciting,” and the near future will bring more innovative strategies for addressing mental health and stress, and “not just for Silicon Valley and Wall Street executives.”

There’s plenty more in the report, and it’s a worthwhile read.

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