Cultural Intelligence: Bringing Inclusion That’s Natural Rather Than Forced

BY Susan Kelly | June 21, 2022

Talent management these days can feel like an endless cycle of attracting and welcoming new hires into the workplace, only to be followed by frustration when those employees leave just as it seemed they were settling in.

The Great Resignation, which goes by many names, has seen record numbers of Americans quit their jobs over the past two years, even as employers spend billions developing programs to encourage them to stay.

High on the list of reasons why workers move on from an organization is a feeling of not belonging, Keyla Waslawski, a VP of sales and marketing with the Cultural Intelligence Center, said in a presentation at From Day One’s June virtual conference on bringing more inclusive approaches to diversity.

Waslawski advocates for a strategy that uses the framework of cultural intelligence to tackle the challenges of employee retention. That calls for confronting one of the thornier, unintended problems employers are coming up against: diversity fatigue.

U.S. businesses spend an estimated $8 billion a year on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training, in hopes of unlocking the potential of those crucial goals. But some of those efforts are falling flat, because to employees they often they feel forced, uncomfortable or, worse yet, polarizing, Waslawski said.

Keyla Waslawski, a VP of sales and marketing with the Cultural Intelligence Center (Company photo)

“We recognize the importance of building the right culture, one that promotes inclusion, and yet we still see record high resignations, we still have managers who are burned out, we still see our talent leave as fast as we find it. As leaders, then, it’s up to us to change our approach so that we can build effective inclusion programs,” she said.

Programs that focus on evaluation, rather than on bringing people together, increase feelings of polarization, Waslawski said. Initiatives that emphasize awareness and facts rather than adaptability and action can lead to mechanical, unnatural interactions between colleagues because they reinforce stereotypes instead of allowing unique individuals to get to know one another.

Systematic inclusion, however, can be hard work. Burnout among managers often stems from efforts to bring together, in a productive way, a group of people who think and work very differently.

Waslawski shared her own story of frustration involving a team member who never followed through with an approach to a project once it was agreed upon in a meeting. The employee would nod in agreement, then go in a different direction afterward. “It was driving me nuts,” she said. “I was expected to finish projects as the leader of the department, and I couldn’t seem to get on the same page as my team.”

By researching the employee’s cultural values, Waslawski found that her team member preferred a chain-of-command hierarchy and was uncomfortable expressing an opposing view in a group. She asked her colleague after a meeting to follow up with an agreement in writing. “This simple change changed everything. It allowed her not to disagree in person, but in the safety of our one-on-one interaction,” Waslawski said.

Waslawski drew upon her own cultural intelligence to solve the dilemma she faced when running her staff meetings. “I learned not how to manage those meetings differently, but rather how to leverage the different voices I had at the table,” she said.

Cultural intelligence, said Waslawski, values the uniqueness and authenticity of the individual and supports belonging within a working group without forcing assimilation. It allows people to engage effectively with others from different cultural backgrounds, encompassing nationality, ethnicity, age, gender and even function.

“To be a truly inclusive culture,” she said, “we have to approach our initiatives in a way that supports uniqueness and belonging simultaneously. If we want our talent to stay, we need to ensure our people are accepted and accepting.”

Waslawski outlined four components of cultural intelligence:

Drive: The motivation and confidence to engage with others who are different.

Knowledge: The understanding of cultural differences.

Strategy: Considering and preparing for cultural differences before an interaction.

Action: Behavioral flexibility.

“When pulling all four of these together, cultural intelligence allows us to build the foundation of an inclusive culture, where individuals and teams feel they belong as who they are, because it taps into what’s personal in each of us–our own motivations, knowledge, our values,” she said.

A slide from Waslawski’s presentation (Courtesy of the Cultural Intelligence Center)

To use cultural intelligence to retain talent, learning should focus on differences beneath the surface rather than on those that are obvious–such as skin color, gender and age–and tend to be polarizing. “If we focus on differences at the core, how we’re raised differently, even in our own homes neighbor to neighbor, it allows us to take a culturally intelligent approach and focus on who we are, not how we look,” Waslawski said.

Build organizations by adding what’s missing from the culture, she advised, rather than bringing in people who fit in or add more of what’s already working.

Leveraging the capabilities of cultural intelligence can develop unconscious inclusion that is flexible and focused on the needs of others, fostering an environment of trust in complex, multicultural situations, Waslawski said. The flexibility of the approach aims to move people beyond awareness and into action.

Because it is malleable, cultural intelligence is a skill that is in each individual and can be improved upon. It’s an approach that does not need to be driven from the top down to succeed, and it is focused on development, not evaluation, Waslawski emphasized. Two decades of research shows that people with higher levels of cultural intelligence are more adaptable, make better decisions and negotiate more effectively, she said. The result is more innovation, creativity and sharing of ideas.

“In other words, cultural intelligence allows us to unlock diversity’s promise to us,” she said.

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Cultural Intelligence Center, who sponsored this Thought Leadership Spotlight.

Susan Kelly is a freelance business journalist based in Chicago.


Holistic Wellness for Women: Supporting Health in Every Life Phase

When Shauna Murphy Cour, the vice president of employer sales at Ovia Health, had her three kids, she was working for a tech company. From the outside, it looked like she had all the right benefits to support her journey through pregnancy and early motherhood.“I had 20 weeks paid leave, but the culture, at the time, had me sneak out of the back door [for family obligations and for doctors’ visits], I’d be pumping in the storage closet,” she told journalist Kelly Bourdet during a From Day One webinar on fertility and parental benefits titled “Why Fertility and Maternity Care Management Are a Perfect Pairing for Workers and Their Employers.”And while stigma for conditions such as mental health and fertility issues has decreased, the truth is that many still consider women’s health a niche benefit, even though it’s an extremely vast industry with different goals and facets. In the case of fertility, there is an overall lack of awareness on the matter, which is a missed opportunity in terms of proactive family planning and early detection.A platform like Ovia, a maternity and family-planning benefits solution for employers and health plans, allows patients to explore all paths to parenthood, including ART, adoption, and the collaboration with a gestational carrier. That’s where Cour eventually landed, and she currently leads Ovia’s sales team. “I was fed up with the lack of focus on women’s health.”A Proactive Approach, Before the Family-planning StageOvia’s platform includes preventive care, such as preservation, but it can also include the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. “In terms of treatment, most of us think of IVF, but there’s also medical treatments: drugs, IUI, it can also include donor sperm for male infertility, which involves 30% of infertility cases,” says Dr. Leslie Saltzman, Ovia’s chief medical officer.Other benefits also include gestational carrier services. That’s the competitive advantage of a platform like Ovia, an exclusive focus on fertility care as opposed to preventive care and assistance through early parenthood lacks understanding of what can happen downstream. “The thing about fertility service is that there’s all types of data: all types of medically assisted reproduction, including taking medicines, make pregnancies higher risk,” says Saltzman.It’s not an assessment based on gestational age, but it’s the result of the comparison of an unassisted vs an assisted pregnancy among women of the same age. Other higher-risk factors include: multiple gestation, preterm birth, preeclampsia, abruption, and C-section delivery. “We also see other types of risk factors: Black women using ART have higher rates of infant mortality,” continues Dr. Saltzman.The leaders from Ovia Health were interviewed by journalist Kelly Bourdet (photo by From Day One)Still, it all starts with preventive care and a proactive approach to reproductive health. “We’d prefer that a person with PCOS and endometriosis be diagnosed earlier, so they can learn how to best maximize their chances,” she explains. “And because these pregnancies are higher-risk, it’s good to have the resources.” Such an approach will, ideally, avoid using unnecessary technology, and prevent high-cost outcomes because people are supported through their pregnancy.Support in All Stages of Life“What happens, often, is that when you try to get pregnant, you try to jump into the deep end,” says Cour. “By that point, you should have been monitoring for many years, and we have women starting at age 18.” On the other end of the spectrum, last year Ovia added perimenopause focused care, which has historically been massively underserved, both in terms of research and science. “Like many things, we’re told to muscle through it,” says Cour. “That’s where we have people come in. We understand where they’re at, what they’re looking for. We’re that source that’s there.”This also means supporting patients in their day-to-day management of their fertility and family-planning journey. “It can feel dark and isolating, but after a few appointments, appointments happen very frequently,” says Betsy Akins, Ovia’s VP of client success. “It’s all based on your ultrasound schedule, and when you’re attending with someone else, it’s also difficult for their schedule.” This means it’s also important to be empowered to learn what benefits are readily available: sometimes you’re unaware that you have, say, 10 free sessions of therapy, or mental-health screenings. And, ideally, when people are aware of their suit of benefit, they can help their coworkers, by pointing out something that they were unaware of.Benefits as a Catalyst for Gender Equity in the WorkplaceMaking fertility benefits accessible is essential. Especially in an era where women’s representation in the workforce is lower than in the 1980s. “Now it’s about DEI and retaining talent: how do you make it real, so that’s tangible and quantifiable?” Cour asks rhetorically. That’s when fertility and family-planning benefits become huge: women start trying later, and might want to freeze their eggs to keep options open. “Having alternative pathways has become such an important benefit,” she says.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Ovia Health, for sponsoring this webinar.Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Boston and Milan.

Angelica Frey | June 09, 2023

Saving Money and Empowering Employees: The Value of Fertility Benefits

In today's competitive job market, companies are constantly seeking ways to retain their current employees and attract top talent. One powerful tool that has emerged in recent years is the inclusion of fertility benefits in the company's standard package. Fertility benefits not only contribute to the overall well-being of employees but also have a significant impact on the company's bottom line. By offering support throughout the family-forming journey, including infertility treatment, adoption, and menopause, companies can demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) while improving employee retention and reducing the costs associated with turnover, as well as keeping costs of medical claims in check.Taylor Padalino, an account executive at Carrot Fertility, spoke during a From Day One virtual conference about how her own personal experience of infertility drives her belief that these benefits should be part of a company’s core offering. "If you've considered fertility benefits in the past due to employee demand, it's likely that DEI goals and employee retention were among the key driving factors for considering them,” she said during her thought leadership spotlight.Fertility Benefits For AllFertility benefits have become increasingly crucial in promoting diversity and inclusion within the workforce. They speak to different age groups, genders, and sexual identities, she said. They go beyond traditional notions of family planning, encompassing a wide range of needs such as supporting the LGBTQ+ community, single parents, and women going through menopause. By providing access to fertility treatments, adoption resources, and menopause support, companies can create a more inclusive environment and foster employee loyalty.Padalino used real examples to illustrate how they can help employees. Susie and Cara, a same-sex couple planning to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF), are concerned about the financial implications of needing multiple rounds of IVF to create the large family they imagined. They figure they’ll harvest multiple embryos to increase the chances of having twins. But because education is a key component of their fertility benefit, they learn that there are increased risks and costs for birthing twins or triplets. They are more likely to be born early or need time in the NICU. In the end, they opt for a single embryo transfer and give birth to a healthy baby.The average cost of a multiple birth can be more than $150,000, compared with $21,000 for a single birth. Padalino said that she has seen claims of more than a million dollars for twin and triplet pregnancies and birth.Michael and Nick, another same sex couple, seek to build their family through adoption. They figure they’d go through an agency, which can cost $30,000 to $60,000. But their family building benefit hooks them up with an expert who tells them about self-guided adoption, where they create a profile and connect with expectant mothers. The cost for this can be $10,000-$15,000. They save a substantial amount of money while fulfilling their dream of becoming parents.Being Mindful of MenopauseMenopause, often overlooked in the workplace, is an area where companies can provide much-needed support. The costs related to lost productivity, absenteeism, and even resignation related to menopause symptoms runs into the billions of dollars per year. Padalino told the story of Rebecca, a VP of finance, who starts experiencing night sweats, sleep interruption, and increased anxiety when she’s 49. She’s been with the company for 15 years, and her expertise has great value, but over the next year, her symptoms worsen and she’s fatigued, has trouble focusing, and is struggling to complete tasks she knows by heart.Taylor Padalino led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)Her primary care doctor, like most, doesn’t have extra training in menopause and hormonal changes, and tells her the symptoms are part of life and will eventually decrease. She tells Rebecca that hormone replacement can increase her risk of cancer. Rebecca considers changing to work from home, despite her love of the in-office experience. At least she could sleep later and avoid the commute. But she learns about a menopause benefit that can connect her with experts who have extensive training in endocrinology as it relates to older women. There is also a support group of her colleagues where she can exchange information and simply feel seen. Once she talks to the expert, she starts HRT, the risks for her are lower than she thought. Her symptoms quickly subside, and she is able to stay in the office and return to peak performance.Supporting Your WorkforceStatistics reinforce the importance of fertility benefits. Globally, one in six couples face infertility, Padalino said, noting that she knows personally it is one of the most emotionally devastating experiences I’ve had.” Nearly two-thirds of the LGBTQ+ community express their readiness to start a family, and 80% of people would consider changing jobs for access to fertility benefits. In the United States alone, 1.3 million women enter menopause annually, highlighting the need for comprehensive support in this area.When implementing fertility benefits, it is crucial to ensure clinical oversight and a program that incorporates current best practices. For example, having a single embryo transfer policy in place can result in better outcomes for both mother and baby while mitigating high-cost claims associated with multiple births. At Carrot Fertility, their 93% single embryo transfer rate surpasses the national average by 20%. A plan should also explore first-line interventions and less invasive options before pursuing expensive treatments like IVF. Think fertility testing, nutrition counseling, and precise ovulation tracking, which can help increase the chances of natural conception and reduce the need for costly interventions.Padalino told the audience that including fertility benefits in a company's package is a strategic decision that aligns with both employee well-being and cost containment goals. By supporting employees throughout their family-forming journeys, companies can demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion while simultaneously reducing turnover costs and attracting top talent. Fertility benefits have the potential to make a positive impact on individuals, families, and the company's bottom line.Editor's Note: From Day One thanks our partner, Carrot Fertility, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Lisa Jaffe is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her son and a very needy rescue dog named Ellie Bee. She enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and trying to get better at ceramics.

Lisa Jaffe | June 08, 2023

Embracing a New Era of Talent Assessment

Leonardo da Vinci gets credit for inventing, among other things, the parachute, the armored car and the resume. Some 500-plus years later, employers still use the resume to assess job seekers’ potential.That’s a problem, accelerated today with resume-scanning algorithms that can introduce biases and exclude many aspiring job candidates.“Resumes don’t predict a damn thing,” Scott Dettman, chief executive officer of Avenica, said during a presentation in May at a From Day One conference in Minneapolis.Dettman should know. He helped prove that resumes have no predictive value while working at ManpowerGroup. A massive study there, done with Google and Cognizant, concluded that resumes cannot forecast how a job applicant will perform. Or even whether someone will get hired.Using resumes to assess job candidates, therefore, amounts to an act of “collective insanity,” Dettman said. “People are so much more than a resume.”Besides resumes, Dettman contended, another obstacle to job seekers is human nature. Under the diffusion of innovation theory, which looks at how an idea or product spreads over time, only 15.5% of people are innovators or early adopters, including hiring managers.“When we think about early career or entry-level people from different backgrounds or experiences, we are looking at basically 15.5% of hiring managers who are likely to bet on somebody who doesn’t have a proven track record of experience, a proven track record of doing a certain thing,” Dettman said.Dettman defined potential as latent characteristics or “hidden superpowers” that, if developed, will lead to later success. Inherent within that definition is the idea that potential needs some kind of catalyst to kick start it. That’s less likely if the hiring manager is a laggard one rather than an innovator or early adopter.“To achieve our potential, we need to have opportunity,” Dettman said. “But that opportunity is going to be greatly diffused based on who we get a chance to talk to.”At Avenica, Dettman is leading efforts to find a better way to help job seekers unlock their potential. In his view, that means moving from resumes and an employer-centered, demand-side search for talent to an inclusive, supply-side focused method where candidates demonstrate their potential and develop skills as they advance in their careers.Avenica, an entry-level career matchmaking company based in Minneapolis, gets 300 to 500 applications a day, Dettman said. Candidates have the opportunity to progress through levels on the company’s platform.Scott Dettman, the CEO of Avenica, led the thought leadership spotlight (photo by Cassandra Sajna for From Day One)This self-directed process doesn’t filter out job seekers based on experience or where they went to college. Rather, it enables candidates to show that they can follow directions, be responsive, do what they say they’re going to do, pay attention and communicate effectively.“For the vast majority of entry-level jobs in corporate America, those key kinds of attributes are the pillars of success,” Dettman said. “If you can do those things, you’re going to learn how to do all the other stuff through the process of exposure and experience.”The platform’s levels include various “micro-experiences,” such as watching a video about a company and writing an email that summarizes key points, Dettman said. Candidates who prove “their level of grit, their level of tenacity and also their level of proficiency” get invited to schedule a meeting. That meeting is “more like therapy than it is like an interview,” Dettman said. Job seekers may get asked, for example, about challenges they’ve faced, what they do for fun, what friends say about them or what their guilty pleasure is. “We get to know these individuals, we get to hear their story, then we get to help them craft that narrative in a way that they may not even be comfortable with yet,” Dettman said.Candidates explain what makes them unique and describe the “superpowers” that underscore their potential. That puts them in charge of whether they get access to an opportunity.Using its approach, Avenica has launched more than 2,000 careers in recent years, Dettman said. Candidates stay with their employees for three times longer, with many getting promoted. Some 62% of candidates were Black, Indigenous and people of color.“The secret behind every great company is great people,” Dettman said. “Today, too many great people are being missed, are being ignored or are just flat out rejected because of words on a resume. We can do better.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Avenica, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Todd Nelson is a Minnesota-based journalist who writes for newspapers in the Twin Cities.

Todd Nelson | June 07, 2023