Category Archives: training

It’s the Eve of Digital Disruption

As its name suggested, HireVue’s Digital Disruption 2016 in Park City, Utah was, for the most part, all about distrupting HR through technology. More precisely, the vast majority of the content surrounded hiring, HireVue’s roots. But as CEO Mark Newman made quite clear during an opening general session titled “New Wave of Disruption,” the South Jordan, Utah-based firm is no longer just about talent acquisition. It’s now about coaching and developing talent, too.

Rusty Rueff

Rusty Rueff

Though still a small portion of its business, with around 30 clients, Newman noted that HireVue Coach, a recent addition to the firm’s Team Acceleration Software Platform, is already growing at a fairly fast clip. He predicted that it soon will become a substantial piece of HireVue’s overall business. To date, he noted, training has been ineffective; it doesn’t stick. But by leveraging the power of video, he said, employers can now change employee behavior (primarily for those in customer-facing positions) in a fundamental way.

Of course, as you might expect, Digital Disruption (now in its third year), like most user events, was chock full of client success stories. Hilton. United Airlines. Vodafone. Netflix. But it also featured a number of speakers who looked at bigger-picture issues impacting HR.

One who personally stood out for me was Rusty Rueff, a former recruiting executive at PepsiCo and Electronic Arts who now sits on a number of boards and is an investor in several Silicon Valley start-ups. (I personally had an opportunity to meet Rusty a number of years ago at a much smaller gathering of CHROs.)

Rueff, in a general session titled “Craft(ing) of the Future,” suggested that those in recruiting need to stop thinking of recruitment as a profession and begin to think of it as a craft.

“A profession is defined as an occupation requiring prolonged training and a formal qualification,” he said. “Doctors and lawyers are a profession. But a crafts person [exercises a skill] in making something. We make something of people. We make something of organizations. We make something of cultures.”

To illustrate his point, Rueff recounted his days running recruiting at Frito Lay, where he was charged with interviewing candidates all day long, week in and week out.

“One day, I said to myself, ‘I’m the most powerful guy in the company?’ he recalled. “My other voice said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m the most powerful guy in the company! because if I wanted everyone to have green eyes, I could do that. I could screen out everyone who didn’t have green eyes.’ That’s pretty scary, because I’m out there deciding what the organization’s culture is going to be by who I let in and who I screen out.”

Rueff recalled that he believed at the time that the HR function at Frito Lay needed change leaders—so that’s who he brought into the organization.

“I was a lowly little guy [at Frito Lay],” he said, “but I got to change the culture.”

Rueff told those attending that a crafts person needs to be, among other things, agile—someone who is able to adopt new ways of thinking. He added that such a person is like “an actor who can play many different kinds of roles on many different kinds of stages.”

To be successful, Rueff said, those in HR and recruiting are going to need to begin thinking like data scientists. “You don’t have to have a degree [as] a data scientist,” he said. “If you’re good with numbers, you can be one.” In other words, it’s a skill people can learn.

In addition, he said, they have to “think like the software-design architects of today, not yesterday. [People] who are fast and nimble.”

And they need to think like personal trainers, he said. “One size fits one when it comes to talent in the future.”

Speaking to this notion of one size fits one, another presenter, Molly Weaver, offered up a great example during a session titled “Stop Screening Out Great Talent.”

As director of talent acquisition at Children’s Mercy, Weaver said she was saddled by a hiring process that was way “too long” and “cumbersome” for applicants. So about a year ago, Weaver and her team unveiled a unique program called “Interview First.”

Instead of encouraging job candidates to apply for a specific job, “Interview First” enables them to submit a video via the company’s website in which they share something about their background and what they would like to do at Children’s Mercy. (Yes, you guessed it: Children’s Mercy, headquartered in Kansas City, uses the HireVue platform.)

Each day, two recruiters are assigned to review the videos that come in and parse them out to the appropriate recruiters (Children’s Mercy currently has 10 recruiters and jobs are divided into clinical and nonclinical). The idea behind the initiative, Weaver said, was to just give people a chance to tell their stories. By putting these videos at the front end of the process, she said, Children’s Mercy is able to quickly capture a lot of great talent, people who otherwise might have left the process.

Just because they aren’t the right candidate for one particular job, she said, doesn’t mean they aren’t right for something else at the company or an opening down the road.

Once the videos are evaluated, potential candidates are told they should consider applying for a particular position right away, there may be something for them down the pike or they’re not really a good fit.

Weaver pointed out that affirmative-action laws aren’t a concern for Children’s Mercy (a government contractor) here, since these individuals aren’t applying for a specific job.

So how is it working out for Children’s Mercy? To date, 120 positions have filled through “Interview First,” including nine individuals who were rehires. Interestingly, the new hires, on average, had applied seven times before.

Certainly, a pretty good start in disrupting a process that is clearly in need of some serious disruption, I think.

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How Microsoft’s LinkedIn Deal Could Change HR

The HR tech world just got a big new player. Really big.

Once Microsoft closes its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn late this year, the software giant will own a service that has become increasingly important to HR departments around the world. With Microsoft’s resources behind it, LinkedIn could become a massive force not only in recruiting, but in the larger world of HR, experts say.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said as much in an email to his staff on Monday announcing the deal.

Among the business opportunities for Microsoft, he noted, is “expanding beyond recruiting and learning and development to create value for any part of an organization involved with hiring, managing, motivating or leading employees. This human capital area is a massive business opportunity and an entirely new one for Microsoft.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean a Microsoft-backed LinkedIn will be moving into payroll, benefits administration and other bread-and-butter HR applications, though.  Many experts see the company integrating LinkedIn data into Microsoft Office tools, but not moving wholesale into new lines of business.

Under Microsoft, “LinkedIn could become a network for learning and collaboration,” providing HR departments a tool for connecting employees, says George LaRocque, a well-known HR technology consultant. “I think that’s the direction.”

LinkedIn already is a force to be reckoned with. Though far smaller than social-media titans like Facebook, it virtually owns the world of professional connections, with over 100 million active users and four times as many profiles. It’s increasingly necessary for an active business person to have a presence on the site, which has made it a critical resource in many businesses — particularly sales and HR.

The company posted $2.9 billion in revenue last year. About $1.9 billion of that was in its “talent solutions” business, the company says. Most of that came from recruitment services, which include premium search functions, targeted job postings, a referral tool for current employees and company branding. Through its April 2015 acquisition of the online tutorial site Lynda.com, LinkedIn also has a solid presence in training.

Though revenue was up 41 percent from 2014, in other ways LinkedIn has lost momentum, which is what helped make it an acquisition target. After disappointing earnings, the share price had dropped by 50 percent — from over $260 in February 2015.

Many experts say the marriage with Microsoft makes sense because the two companies don’t overlap in services, yet cater to the same audience — business professionals. That opens up the potential for connections between Microsoft productivity tools and LinkedIn’s vast people database.  The immediate opportunities may be in customer relationship management — an area where Microsoft already has a presence with its Microsoft Dynamics software.

The reality, though, is that no one knows what Microsoft plans to do with LinkedIn — likely including Microsoft itself, notes LaRocque, principal analyst and founder of New Providence, N.J.-based #hrwins.

“I think we’re all going to be reading tea leaves for a little bit on this one,” he says. “The opportunities are endless.”

But most experts say Microsoft is most likely to build on its strengths as a provider of tools that business professionals use every day. LaRocque sees the company connecting LinkedIn’s Lynda tutorial videos to Excel, for example, so that users can get immediate help.

He and others don’t see this as a beginning of a move to take over HR technology — or even just recruiting.

“I have a hard time thinking Microsoft is excited about getting into talent acquisition,” though LinkedIn may well stay in that business, LaRocque says. On the other hand, LinkedIn’s networking and communication functions could become another “pillar” of the company’s Office 365 platform. “They’re impacting HR technology in a huge way,” he says. “But they’re not the classic HR player.”

Kyle Lagunas of the IT market research firm International Data Corp. has a similar view. He sees three key opportunities for Microsoft in the acquisition: LinkedIn’s in endorsements, recommendations and posts.

If properly leveraged by Microsoft, LinkedIn endorsements — in which users rate each other for various skills — could be used internally “to map influence across various subject matters, skills and capabilities,” he notes in an email.

Recommendations shared among LinkedIn users could provide a powerful tool for recruiters, he says. And companies could track posts on LinkedIn’s Pulse service to help workers develop — and demonstrate — expertise.

Another HR tech expert agrees that the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal will lead to new tools for HR departments, but not fundamentally change the landscape.

Kathryn Minshew, CEO of a career site called The Muse, notes that the two companies both target established white-collar professionals. She doesn’t see that changing with Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn — leaving plenty of room for businesses like hers.

“I think this acquisition is a great thing  for the industry — it validates the core role that HR has,” Minshew says. ” Companies are starting to realize that products and platforms in the human-capital space have a much broader impact.”

Muse, with 50 million site visitors annually, serves a diverse population of workers with an average age of 29, and 60 percent female. Those people, she says, may keep their resume on LinkedIn, but The Muse “is where their heart is.”

“I don’t know that the human-capital space is ever meant to have a single winner-take-all,” Minshew says. “There’s a lot of room for those who want to take a different approach.”

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Two Tough Lessons on Training

New commercial truck drivers must cover thousands of miles with a trainer before they can work on their own. For women, that means ThinkstockPhotos-57533192spending weeks in close quarters with a boss who most likely is a man.

What could go wrong?

A pair of recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cases suggests the situation is every bit as risky — both for drivers and employers — as you might think.

The cases involve two trucking companies that got in trouble over sexual harassment of female trainees. One escaped major sanctions and may even recover legal costs from the agency, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lawyers call a victory for employers.

The other … let’s just say it didn’t go well.

That company, Missouri-based Prime Inc., is one of the nation’s largest long-haul truck companies. After a female trainee charged the company with sexual harassment and the EEOC sued, the company in 2004 adopted a new procedure: women trainees were paired only with female trainers.

But in the end, the new procedure apparently did far more harm than good.

Because the company had only five women trainers, according to the EEOC, women trainees had to wait a year or more to get in. Men, however, were accepted immediately.

In 2011 the EEOC sued again, and U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Harpool didn’t have much trouble concluding the training practice was discriminatory. In April he signed a consent decree ordering the company to pay $2.9 million to 68 women who had applied to the company’s training program.

The settlements, which include back pay and compensatory damages, ranged from about $29,000 to nearly $92,000 each. The company also agreed to hire all the women immediately. In addition, the company paid $250,000 to another female driver trainee who had brought the complaint to the EEOC.

On top of that, the company — which finally ended its same-sex training policy in 2013, two years after the EEOC filed suit — promised not to reinstitute the practice.

Was Prime’s 2004 training policy a well-intentioned response to the first complaint that accidentally led to a second one? Or a passive-aggressive jab at women who had complained? In a final order in the case dated May 26, the judge says he can’t tell.

“While Prime’s same-gender training policy was illegal, misguided, and ill-advised, the court is not willing to find … [it] was evil or malicious,” Harpool writes.

The other trucking company fared better in its battle with the EEOC. On May 19 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that Iowa-based CRST Van Expedited Inc. may be entitled to $4.5 million in legal expenses it incurred battling the agency over another sexual-harassment case.

The case stems from a 2005 claim by a female driver trainee who said she was sexually harassed. Two years later the EEOC filed a class-action suit on behalf of 250 women whom it said had been victimized. Most of those plaintiffs were dismissed, however, after the court found the EEOC had not properly investigated their claims.

Employment lawyers lauded the Supreme Court’s ruling as a victory for employers.  The ruling “has made clear that a defendant may be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees even absent a victory on the merits,” write Lindsey M. Marcus and Michael A. Warner Jr., partners in the employment law practice of Franczek Radelet in Chicago.

Though the outcomes were very different, the lesson for folks in HR is the same: Training, like trucking, can be a risky business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A ‘Love Letter to [all the Bad-Rapped] Managers’

Who hasn’t heard and read the reports in the last few years on the real reason employees leave their employers? Bad managers, right? 522472388 -- managerNo doubt anyone visiting this site has seen and heard them.

We’ve certainly written our fair share, from criticizing managers’ reluctance or inability to truly promote career development to pinpointing the need for managers to grow their big-data skills to lamenting the unhappiness and decimation of the middle-management ranks in general, which of course supports the theory that unhappy managers make for bad bosses.

Which might be precisely why this recent post by Maren Hogan on the HR Examiner site, My Love Letter to Managerscaught my eye, an eye that’s always on the lookout for something counterintuitive (warning, she doesn’t hold back on some of her descriptors). That or the fact that I am a manager, so a love letter to me … well … what’s not to like?

Counterintuitive does seem to be the operative word here, when you consider all that’s been said about retention and turnover, and the especially egregious part managers play. As Hogan puts it,

“Retention issues? It’s the manager’s fault.
Productivity problems? Blame the manager.
Engagement dipping? Someone get management in here!

Can this really be true? After all, many of these problems have roots in giant, macro issues. The economy, changing workforce dynamics, an always-on mentality spurred on by technology advances. It’s sort of simplistic to blame the manager, isn’t it?”

I especially like what she says about this mega-trend, if you will, of citing management as the reason people leave work, hate work, aren’t engaged and aren’t productive. She thinks this trend “could be part of a blame culture that has slowly seeped into our workforce over the past couple of decades.” In her words,

“Whether we’re blaming millennials for the faster pace and fancy [results-only-work-environment] perks, or blaming executives for the glaring inequality between them and us, or blaming managers for every issue in the workforce, very few seem to be stepping up to take personal accountability.”

She’s got some helpful suggestions for employees who might be prone to disparaging their managers, such as considering how they, themselves, might change the situation before blaming their direct supervisor; doing better and faster work if they don’t like what’s been assigned to them so they can prove they’re capable of taking on something more interesting; taking self-assessments of their most-productive times during the workday and building their reputations as team players; and even getting better at confronting difficult and destructive employees themselves, so managers aren’t blamed for failing to take action.

So why am I sharing this with you? Well, first, I kind of agree with Hogan that managers have taken a bad rap for far too long for the ills of corporate culture.  More importantly, though, I believe employers and their HR leaders could go a long way toward curing some of those ills by paying more attention to the workloads and expectations placed on their managers.

They might also consider committing serious capital to training all employees in personal accountability, starting with Hogan’s list above.

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Can Sexual-Harassment Training Backfire?

An article in the British newspaper The Guardian has sparked new debate in HR circles over whether sexual-harassment training can cause more harm than good.

The article recounts research suggesting that training may make some men less sensitive, not more, to appropriate boundaries in the workplace. Among others quoted in the piece is Lauren Edelman, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley :

“Sexual harassment training may, in fact, make it less likely that males will recognize situations that are harassing … Sexual harassment training may provoke backlash in males.”

Some of the research pointing in this direction is more than a decade old. One often-cited study from 2001 concluded that men who had training were less likely than those who didn’t to recognize or report sexual harassment.

But some research is more recent, suggesting the problem is not going away. In one 2012 study, a sociologist interviewed workers and sat in on training sessions. Justine E. Tinkler, now at the University of Georgia, concluded that they often resisted the message:

“Gender stereotypes are used to buttress perceptions that sexual-harassment laws threaten norms of interaction and status positions that men and women have an interest in maintaining.”

sexual harassment

Related research has found that sexual-harassment training can mostly inspire fear among workers.

This is a hot topic with many in the HR field. Many who weighed in online acknowledged the problem, but argued it’s less of an issue if the training is of high quality.

Writing in Slate, Nora Caplan-Bricker cites a 2013 study that, she says, “suggests that it is possible to teach people how to identify sexual harassment — and to convey how company policies treat it — without inciting a backlash effect.”

Studies suggest that training that lasts at least four hours, that is interactive and led by an expert or direct supervisor, rather than an HR specialist, are most effective, Caplan-Bricker writes.

Many employment lawyers seem to agree. One is Richard Cohen, a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles. He writes:

“After conducting my fair share of harassment trainings, and studying, critiquing and/or sitting in on numerous others, I come down on the side of those academics who believe that harassment training is helpful and productive when done right.”

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Safe and Secure, or Not So Sure?

The good news coming out of a recent CareerBuilder survey is that the overwhelming majority of employees (93 percent) feel their office is a safe, secure place to work.

A few other findings from the Chicago-headquartered employment website and HR software provider’s poll of 3,031 full-time, United States-based workers are less encouraging.

Some of these same employees, it seems, are less confident that their employers are adequately equipped to address specific threats in the workplace.

For example, 17 percent of those surveyed by CareerBuilder said they do not feel their workplaces are well-protected in case of a fire, flood or other disaster, and 26 percent don’t think their companies have an emergency plan in place should such events occur. Nineteen percent indicated their workplaces are poorly safeguarded from weather-related threats, and 26 percent don’t believe their organization has an emergency plan for responding to extremely severe weather.

In addition, 31 percent of respondents said they don’t feel their workplaces are well-protected from a physical threat posed by another person, and 41 percent said their company has made no provisions for handling such an attack.

This past February, I spoke with Michelle Colosimo, director of Black Swan Solutions, a Waukesha, Wis.-based provider of crisis management technology and services, about what employers can do to prepare workers for threats to their physical safety while on the job. More specifically, we talked about the importance of putting plans in place for an active shooter event in the workplace.

I sought Colosimo’s insight for an hreonline.com piece focusing on some of the tools and resources available to help employers equip employees to react should such an unthinkable scenario ever unfold in their office. (Incidentally, an expanded, more in-depth feature on this topic is set to run in our May print issue.)

HR leaders are faced with “a huge undertaking” in the event an active shooter descends on the workplace, said Colosimo at the time.

“Accounting for everyone is a big challenge. So, [HR] has to coordinate all of these things beforehand—What do you need to prepare for? And, what will you need to do when and if this does happen?”

Earlier this week, I reached out to Michelle for her take on the results of this CareerBuilder survey. She reiterated the need to have processes in place to potentially prevent an active shooter incident, and to provide employees with ways to anonymously report concerning behaviors or comments from another individual.

“If a report is made, the organization needs to have a threat assessment team in place to review each threat, and determine appropriate action needed to address the potential concern,” she says.

But, even the best, most comprehensive plan may not thwart an attacker, unfortunately.

“So, it’s critical that the organization train employees ahead of time on steps they need to take, as an individual, to protect themselves if an incident were to [take place],” she says.

Conducting realistic drills and active-shooter simulations and providing workers with practical tools and steps to follow also helps create “better muscle memory” in employees, she says, “so they take proper action when a crisis occurs.”

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DOL Gives a Holiday Gift to Parents

I’m not usually one for repeating content here one week to the next, but I simply had to share news of this pretty sizable gift while we’re all in the midst 510042321-- parents & newbornof the gift-giving season.

In an announcement last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor put significant money — up to $25 million in grants — where President Obama’s mouth has been in his support of working families struggling with today’s workforce realities.

Essentially, the grants will support public-private partnerships that bridge gaps between local workforce-development and child-care systems. Funded programs will enable parents to access training and customized support services needed for jobs primarily in information technology, healthcare and advanced manufacturing, though not necessarily confined to just those three.

The money, according to the DOL, will become available to these partnerships beginning in the spring and will be aimed at helping parents obtain affordable, quality child care so they can “pursue education and training opportunities leading to good jobs in growing industries.”

As U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez puts it in his announcement of the initiative:

“For too many working parents, access to quality, affordable child care remains a persistent barrier to getting the training and education they need to move forward on a stronger, more sustainable career path. Our economy works best when we field a full team. That means doing everything we can to provide flexible training options and streamlined services that can help everyone in America realize their dreams.”

This move by the government certainly underscores the attention employers and work/life experts have been paying to the needs of working parents lately. A search of this HRE Daily site, starting with my post last week lamenting the slow motion paternity leave seems to be in, along with this search of our parental-leave news analyses on our magazine’s HREOnline site, shows this push — some might even call it competition — by organizations to prove they’re family-friendly will be a hot agenda item heading into 2016.

Hopefully, employers and government agencies can come together and really start engaging in a national dialogue as opposed to each entity trying to outdo the other.

This move by the DOL seems to be a step toward that coming-together idea. It stipulates that grants up to $4 million will be awarded to partnerships that include the public workforce system, education and training providers, business entities and local child-care or human-service providers; more importantly, the release states, “all partnerships must include at least three employers.”

Personally, if this truly does lead to my kids, and my kids’ kids, having more at their fingertips than I did to survive the chaos of young parenthood coupled with work and the constant struggle to get ahead, then the gift is for me too.

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HR, Training and the ‘Gig’ Economy

New survey data finds few organizations are investing in their employees’ training and development these days, and I’m beginning to think the “gig economy” may have something to do with it.

Saba, a global provider of talent management solutions, just released additional findings from its spring Global Leadership Survey, in which it found that a mere 13 percent of companies worldwide invest in talent-management programs to further employees’ growth and career path.

For those companies that are providing training, only 35 percent are offering career development opportunities online. And, according Saba, the majority of employees (57 percent) are simply getting their training from “on the job” experience.

“Understandably, companies are focused on bottom line growth and results,” said Emily He, Chief Marketing Officer at Saba. “Unfortunately, many organizations don’t consider the career development of their employees a part of that growth equation — but they should. ”

However, a piece in today’s New York Times titled “Rising Economic Insecurity Tied to Decades-Long Trend in Employment Practices,” shows how the rise of the “gig economy”  (think Uber or Lyft, for examples) is changing all sorts of expectations — including compensation and training — on both the employers’ and workers’ sides.

According to the NYT piece, tens of millions of Americans are now involved in some form of freelancing, contracting, temping or outsourcing work:

The number for the category of jobs mostly performed by part-time freelancers or part-time independent contractors, according to Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., a labor market analytics firm, grew to 32 million from just over 20 million between 2001 and 2014, rising to almost 18 percent of all jobs. Surveys, including one by the advisory firm Staffing Industry Analysts of nearly 200 large companies, point to similar changes.

So perhaps it’s no wonder that companies are devoting less time to training programs when they only expect to use such workers for short-term projects:

Since the early 1990s, as technology has made it far easier for companies to outsource work, that trend has evolved beyond what anyone imagined: Companies began to see themselves as thin, Uber-like slivers standing between customers on one side and their work forces on the other.

The piece also includes David Weil’s — who runs the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Labor Department — description from his recent book, The Fissured Workplace, of how investors and management gurus began insisting that companies pare down and focus on what came to be known as their “core competencies,” such as developing new goods and services and marketing them.

Far-flung business units were sold off. Many other activities — beginning with human resources and then spreading to customer service and information technology — could be outsourced. The corporate headquarters would coordinate among the outsourced workers and monitor their performance.

“In the past, firms overstaffed and offered workers stable hours,” said Susan N. Houseman, a labor economist at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. “All of these new staffing models mean shifting risk onto workers, making work less secure.”

The NYT piece notes that, while only representing a limited corner of the nation’s approximately $17.5 trillion economy, other types of workers are watching with trepidation how organizations are moving toward the “gig economy” model.

Indeed:

…[E]ven many full-time employees share an underlying anxiety that is a result, according to the sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg, author of Good Jobs, Bad Jobs, of the severing of the “psychological contract between employers and employees in which stability and security were exchanged for loyalty and hard work.”

While outsourcing and “gigging” jobs may cut organizations’ short-term costs in some areas (such as training and development efforts)  Saba’s He nonetheless emphasizes the need for companies to invest in training their workforce if they expect to succeed in the long run:

“Not only is talent management and training an integral part of workforce development, it’s proven to be a driving factor in the long-term growth and success of an organization.”

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Choosing Between Faith and Work

By now, most everyone has heard of or read about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision in favor of Samantha Elauf, the woman who brought suit against clothier Abercrombie & Fitch, claiming the company did not offer her a job because her religious identity violates Abercrombie’s “look policy.”

In the opinion for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:

“An applicant need show only that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, not that the employer had knowledge of his need.”

While the Court’s decision may introduce changes in the way employers screen and hire applicants in future, Simran Jeet Singh, the senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition and a PhD candidate at Columbia University, writes in an opinion piece for the Washington Post that the ruling also serves as an opportunity to “improve existing legislation on workplace discrimination and religious freedom.”

Singh says Elauf also demonstrated that she recognizes her case would have bearing for a number of different communities. “I am not only standing up for myself, but for all people who wish to adhere to their faith while at work,” she said, following the oral arguments. “Observance of my faith should not prevent me from getting a job.”

Indeed, according to Singh:

Americans are one step closer to not having to choose between their faith and their work.

On the employer side, however, the decision “dramatically” changes the standards that apply to employers, says Michael Droke, a Seattle-based partner at the international law firm Dorsey and Whitney’s labor and employment division, because it removes the requirement that an employee or applicant request a religious accommodation, if the employer’s motive is later deemed a violation of Title VII.

“The Abercrombie decision calls into question common provisions in many employee handbooks. Employers should immediately review their handbooks and policy manuals to determine those issues which could cause discrimination,” Droke says.

He also says the decision “reinforces the importance of involving the human resources function any time a protected class is, or could be, involved in making an employment decision.”

Droke notes the Abercrombie decision also reinforces the importance of manager training, all the way down to the lowest level in-store supervisor.

“Manager training is particularly important for companies with employees in a large number of locations,” he says. “Geographically dispersed companies, like Abercrombie & Fitch, often require location or regional management to make key employee decisions.  This case reemphasizes the need to give management the employee relations tools and knowledge they need to make lawful employment decisions.”

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Here’s an Overnight Cure for Bias?

Here’s a question you might want to ponder … or maybe even sleep on. Can we snooze our gender and racial biases away?

ThinkstockPhotos-163819282Well, apparently researchers at Northwestern University, the University of Texas at Austin and Princeton University thought enough about that question to conduct a study. And guess what? They found that biases can indeed be counteracted while people sleep.

In the study, posted this week on the Science magazine website, researchers found that information recently stored in the brain can be integrated with other information during sleep and transformed into stable representations through a process known as systems-level consolidation.

“Taking into consideration the role of sleep in memory consolidation, we adapted procedures for reducing implicit social biases and reactivating this training during sleep,” the researchers said.

You can read more about how the study was conducted at Science. But cutting to the chase, the researchers “reactivated counterbias information during sleep using subtle auditory cues that had been associated with counterbias training.”

In the study, electrodes recorded the brain activity of participants as they napped. Then, during periods of deep sleep, one of the sound cues from the association test was repeatedly played.

As Xiaoqing Hu — postdoctoral fellow at University of Texas at Austin and one of the study’s researchers — writes in a piece appearing on The Conversation: “Prior research on prejudice and stereotyping shows that extensive counter-bias training can lessen automatic stereotyping. Building on this bias reduction and sleep-based memory consolidation research, we aimed to test whether people can further process such counter-bias memories during sleep. Can such learning reduce long-lasting stereotypes and social biases?

The researchers found that pre-existing stereotypes associated with the sound cue replayed during sleep were significantly reduced when the participant woke up …

 “We were surprised that this sleep-based intervention was so powerful when participants woke up: the biases were reduced by at least 50 percent relative to the pre-sleep bias level. But we were also surprised at how long the effect lasted. At the one-week follow-up test, the sleep-based intervention was still effective: bias reduction was stabilized and was significantly smaller (approximately 20 percent) than its baseline level established at the beginning of the experiment.”

As you might expect, those involved in the research acknowledge more work is needed. So, at least for the time being, you might want to hold off retrofitting your nap room—for the few of you who  have one—to include this kind of intervention or adding a sleep component to next year’s bias-training program.

Let’s hope your bias-training efforts don’t already induce said sleep.

 

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