In HRE’s most-recent annual “What Keeps HR Executives Up at Night” survey, HR leaders ranked attracting and retaining diverse talent sixth on their list of top concerns, just below driving culture change and aligning people practices to business.
Of course, it’s hardly a surprise attracting and retaining diverse talent would be a significant concern, considering the obvious benefits of employing a diverse workforce. But that said, there’s also little question employers have a lot more work to do on this front.
The link between diversity and business performance was one of many topics address during the i4cp 2015 Conference, held this week at the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale, Ariz.
In his opening remarks, Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp, referenced a recent research report produced by the institute titled Diversity & Inclusion Practices that Promote Market Performance.
The research found high-performance organizations shared the following characteristics as far as D&I is concerned, including:
- They make D&I part of the organization’s DNA;
- They ground their D&I efforts in metrics, thereby spurring greater leadership buy-in;
- They place greater emphasis on inclusion;
- They have leaders who “seek awareness of differences” and “take action to establish relationships” that bridge gaps and build an understanding of differences.
Later in the morning, a panel featuring diversity leaders from CVS Health, W.W. Grainger and Lincoln Financial participated on a panel titled “Business Impact Diversity & Inclusion.”
Jacqui Roberson, senior director of inclusion and diversity for Grainger, noted that far too many organizations still operate in silos. In order for D&I initiatives to succeed, she said, employers need to get people to “cross over the lines.”
David Green, vice president of diversity at CVS Health, noted that having a CEO who gets it certainly doesn’t hurt. Referring to CVS Health’s recent decision to remove tobacco from its store shelves, Green recalled how, soon after the decision was announced, his CEO came to him and said, “ ‘Just so you know, we need to make sure we’re thinking about what this means in helping [employees] quit tobacco. We need to be focused on multicultural communities, youth communities and lower-income communities.’ … I didn’t have to go knocking on his door to say, ‘What do you think about all those diverse communities.’ ”
At CVS Health, Green said, diversity operates as a separate function, but works closely with HR to ensure shared goals are in place and each group knows what the other is doing.
Altimeter Group Founder and Principal Analyst Charlene Li also explored some key themes from her new book (released Tuesday, the day of her talk) during a session titled “The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Digital Transformation.” (Her book shares the same title as the session.)
Technologies are changing the nature of relationships, Li said. Yet many leaders, she added, continue to be stuck in the old ways of doing things.
If organizations are going to thrive in the new digital era, she said, that’s going to need to change.
“Technologies come and go,” she said, “but leadership is [always going to be around] and something you need to have a long-term strategy about.”
In her talk, Li shared several examples involving companies that are using technologies to strengthen the link between leaders and employees.
One story she told involved the introduction of a new burger at restaurant chain Red Robin. Soon after the launch, she said, leaders at Red Robin learned through the company’s internal social network that the burger wasn’t very good. Employees were saying on the site that “people were complaining about it” and “the burger was falling apart,” she said.
Listening to that feedback, Li said, the organization quickly realized it had a problem and leaders went back to employees for more details. “They then took [that feedback] back to corporate headquarters, cooked up a new recipe and brought it back to the restaurants in 30 days.”
To put this in context, Li said, “it usually takes 12 to 18 months to change a recipe and get it back to the restaurants, but they did it [in this case] in 30 days!”
As a result, she said, Red Robin didn’t just change the recipe. By recognizing the value these employees were delivering to the organization, she said, “they were able to change [the company’s] relationship with those employees.”
Value—or more precisely the “lack of it”—was one of the reasons behind Sears Holdings Corp.’s decision to begin to seriously revamp its performance-management system last year.
During a session titled “The Rise of the Crowd: How Social Platforms Can Drive Performance and Democratize Performance Management,” two Sears Holdings Corp. HR leaders detailed the retailer’s efforts to transform the way it does performance management.
Aimed at salaried workers, the new initiative is based on the work of Neuroleadership Institute Director David Rock and others.
“The old process was cumbersome and annual reviews were happening three or four months after the year had ended—so by the time we were having the conversation, things were stale,” recalled Phil Menzel, vice president of HR for SHC.
In contrast, Menzel said, the new system is much more agile and responsive.
Using a tool developed internally called GameOn, associates every quarter now sit down to identify up to five objectives for themselves.
The new system also features an online feedback tool called Soundboard, which is accessible to associates. “People can go on the tool and request feedback from anyone in the company or provide feedback,” said Chris Mason, head of strategic talent solutions at SHC. “It gives people something they can take action on right away.”
The final part of the new process is a quarterly “check-in” component aimed at facilitating a more meaningful dialogue between associates and managers.
Martin noted that associates now have to prepare as much for the check-ins (which includes a one-page worksheet) as their managers.
Though still very much a work in progress, the new system has already shown some good traction, according to Menzel and Mason.
Introduced last August, the Soundboard tool already has 10,000 active users and has resulted in 40,000 pieces of feedback. “When we surveyed people, 75 percent said they took the information and actually made a change in [their] behavior,” Mason said.
The new system officially launched in February.