Overcome Stubborns

What Business Leaders Can Do to Improve DEI Efforts in the Face of Backlash

Can corporate America restore its momentum on diversity, equity, and inclusion? DEI initiatives became a must-have for business organizations in 2020, after the killing of George Floyd in May of that year sparked a new wave of civil-rights protest and discourse. That cultural conversation focused partly on workplace discrimination against Blacks and other marginalized people, and it led to countless leaders—some from the biggest groups in corporate America—stepping up with DEI plans to help close disparities in opportunities. For a time, it seemed like those executives were delivering. According to Glassdoor data, DEI job openings grew 55% within a few weeks after the Floyd tragedy. Spending in the category surged, too. A November 2021 report from a top market research company said DEI funding was projected to reach $15.4 billion, more than double the amount it was in May 2020, by the year 2026.While many leaders maintained the DEI programs they enacted within the past few years, a backlash against DEI quickly arrived. A survey of more than 800 HR professionals in various industries, conducted around six months after George Floyd’s death, found that about 80% of companies are “going through the motions” with DEI programming and not holding themselves accountable. Glassdoor research later revealed DEI programming growth stalled in 2022, and CNBC reported last January that, to some in underserved groups, many efforts geared toward tangible change have felt inauthentic. One source for the piece said the DEI programs they’ve interacted with feel more like “branding strategies.” The turning tide against DEI picked up speed in June when the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in higher education, a decision that many speculate will have an adverse effect on DEI efforts across industry. The New York Times reported that experts believe “the ruling will discourage corporations from putting in place ambitious diversity policies in hiring and promotion—or prompt them to rein in existing policies—by encouraging lawsuits under the existing legal standard.”The same issues in place before 2020 persist for Black workers at the office. Gallup polling indicates that employees of color still report discrimination—and those who do also have a burnout rate that’s twice as high as workers who are not discriminated against. DEI strategist Amri B. Johnson (author photo)However, the high court decision and the failings of some organizations does not have to inspire total pessimism for those who are committed to furthering DEI’s progress. DEI strategist Amri B. Johnson, author of Reconstructing Inclusion: Making DEI Accessible, Actionable, and Sustainable, says this is an opportunity for the true advocates in the space to stand up. “We focus a lot on symptoms and we don’t focus enough on systems,” Johnson told From Day One. “Now we need to start building the systems” that will lead to improved, tangible DEI outcomes. He adds that the Supreme Court decision and the pressures that it may put on companies to forego DEI investments could very well be used as an “excuse” to do just that. Eventually, though, “if a company uses that as an excuse not to be mindful, to cast [their] net wide and find people from different backgrounds to bring that insight, and create attention to [their] organization because people see things differently [due to] their embodied experiences, then they should stop” their DEI programs. “If they want to miss out on talent, let them do it,” he says. For those truly well-intentioned corporate leaders and people managers who want to carry on their DEI initiatives—not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it gives their businesses a well-chronicled leg up on the competition—here are some tips on how to ensure such programming can thrive, even in the face of DEI fatigue, and not come off like PR campaigns.Add a “B” to “DEI,” for “Belonging”Throwing money at the situation and writing declarative press releases is not going to solve problems like the ones that DEI programs are designed to address. Real people are affected by the culture that historically exclusionary business institutions have wrought, so it’s going to take person-to-person care and attention to disrupt the presence of outdated workplace management approaches.Johnson says leaders must do “the little things” around the office—real or virtual—to ensure that workers feel a sense of belonging. “Thoughtful gestures can show someone that they are seen and welcomed in the group,” says Johnson. “Instead of sharing a funny story with just your closest coworker, invite the person within earshot into the conversation. When religious or cultural holidays roll around, don’t hesitate to say, ‘Ramadan Mubarak,’ ‘Happy Easter’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah’ to those who observe. The only kind of inclusion system that truly perpetuates belonging is one that centers on humanity, creating conditions for all people to thrive across their differences and similarities.”Creating such a culture where behaviors like that are the norm may take a change in approach and mindset on the part of the leaders tasked with cultivating one. Julie Fink, VP of HR at the University of Phoenix, suggests that organizations think of “DEI” as “DEIB,” where the “B” represents “Belonging.”“Belonging is how employees feel about their company, their boss, their leadership, their peers, whether their organization cares for them as individuals,” says Fink. “If employees feel they belong, they feel safe and more connected to the work and the organization.”To help inspire this sense of security and connection, Fink says leaders should talk and listen to employees with a focus on “not only what they say, but what they don’t say in this area.” Ask: “Do they feel comfortable and safe to speak up in areas that can be improved, or bring forth suggestions or recommendations?”When employees feel a sense of belonging at a job, as Harvard Business Review reported in 2019, they perform better, at a rate of 56%. They also take 75% fewer sick days and are 50% more likely to stay at their job, research showed.Take a Skills-Based Approach to HiringLimiting recruitment hunts to individuals with gobs of experience and college degrees from top-level colleges is exactly how companies have stayed in a rut in which the same types of people are granted opportunities to achieve and advance. But considering skills required for a given position and just the general type of person who might be a great fit for your organization will render such histories of privilege irrelevant.Amanda Hahn, chief marketing officer at HireVue, a talent recruitment and hiring platform, says a growing number of employers are “exploring alternatives to their traditional hiring habits,” with a mind toward better DEI outcomes. HireVue recently published a report covering global trends in hiring, which included surveys of more than 4,000 talent leaders and found that nearly half (48%) are adopting a skills-first approach to talent acquisition, “forgoing educational and past work experience unless they’re actually relevant to the job at hand,” Hahn said. “In doing so, they’re widening their overall talent pool, increasing the number of qualified candidates they attract and charting advancement paths for employees based on less-biased or fairer, objective data.”And once interviews start—or maybe even earlier than that—prioritize the character of the candidates. Hiring teams should think about the culture of their organization and what kind of personality traits they’d like to find in the people they bring on board.“When you hire someone, you hire the entire person, not just their output,” said Fink. “You cannot think that a person is just an employee, and worse yet, a commodity producing widgets. Every person is an individual and made up of a variety of elements and you need to ensure your policies, and more importantly your actual practices, speak to this.”Amanda Hahn, chief marketing officer at HireVue Advises Johnson, the author and DEI strategist: “Make sure you have designed your talent attraction and candidate experience to attract talent from and across a broad spectrum of identities and lived experiences. And, don’t stop there. Once you attract a diverse group of committed people, create paths for growth, development, and thriving to keep them. If you are unsure of how to do so, ask them.”Hahn notes that greater integrations of technology can also help organizations expand the candidate pools each of them are accessing, while also providing hiring teams with greater insights into the types of individuals they might soon hire.“There’s a misconception that technology is replacing human roles. Instead, it’s fulfilling mindless work, boosting employee productivity and allowing talent teams to focus on the most impactful parts of their job,” says Hahn. “Our report found that in the past year alone, two in three talent teams have implemented video or virtual interviews to boost hiring productivity. When asked what benefits talent teams saw from these changes in interviewing, respondents reported time savings, greater flexibility and a bigger pool of diverse talent.”Don’t Base DEI Success Strictly on NumbersThe true impact of DEI can’t ever be completely quantified on a spreadsheet or in a PowerPoint. Sure, there’s the aforementioned impact a greater sense of belonging can have on the bottom line and other data on DEI return on investment, but measuring a culture—an atmosphere about the workplace—and levels of individual contentment is impossible. DEI should ultimately be done because it’s good for people and their copmanies. “There are several areas where employers can make mistakes when beefing up their DEI programming,” says Fink. “The first is to think that DEI is just about the numbers and the typical race/ethnicity categories. Second is to tie bonuses or incentives to DEI metrics. This can drive compliance rather than commitment and possibly not the best decision for the business. We need to make the expected behavior clear, then reward or showcase that behavior. Set the example and shout it from the rooftops.”Johnson says that limiting DEI focus to “single identities” is actually counterproductive to its mission. “Yes, it is very important to make the workplace welcoming for groups that historically have been pushed to the fringes—people of color, LGBTQIA+, the disabled, older employees, women,” said Johnson. “But true inclusion includes everyone, even those with longstanding power and privilege.”Which is why people leaders should…Avoid Playing the Blame GameWhile changes to workplace culture and people management to enhance DEI of underserved people are needed, don’s create new discrimination in the process. Furthermore, excluding members of an employee base that may have benefitted from now-outdated systems does not align with the values associated with DEI initiatives in the first place.“Be sure you are not making your DEI efforts feel divisive or punitive,” said Johnson. “Everyone in the organization needs to feel welcome to join in the discussion, but no one should feel singled out. Pointing fingers only perpetuates division. We need collective accountability without attempts to determine who is right.”Accept Realities and Normalize Social TensionsPracticing mindfulness and acknowledging grounded truths about the state of things might be the most crucial step of all if people leaders want their DEI programs to achieve desired outcomes while fostering a real sense of belonging for all members of an employee base. Thinking any initiative will be rolled out perfectly and solve all a company’s ills is a sure route to failure, DEI experts assert.Johnson says DEI work will not remove social tensions—nor should it. Conversations that are open and honest will need to continue, and if they do, people will be bound to disagree or not reside on the same page with their colleagues. He adds that “tension is necessary” and not a bad thing in and of itself. “The danger comes when you don’t know how to navigate the tensions and complexities that come from those differences,” he said. One way organizations can ameliorate tension around the subject of DEI is to actually calm expectations around the adoption of what Johnson calls “complicated jargon” that is inaccessible for many. Terms like “heteronormative,” “transphobia,” “BIPOC” and “unearned privilege” can be difficult for workers to understand and “may even raise employees’ defenses,” Johnson said.“If you are speaking about DEI-related concepts and a term is introduced, explain the term, and make sense of it with the person or people you are engaged with,” he advised. “If you read a word that you are unfamiliar with, look it up, ask someone more familiar, and learn to explain it in a manner that is clear for you.”Allowing people to be themselves, which includes displays of not only their strengths but also their blind spots, is the ultimate goal of DEI. Accept where voids in understanding lie, fill them up and move on—one step closer to greater harmony.Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at MichaelStahlWrites.com, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.(Feature photo-illustration by Vadym Pastukh/iStock by Getty Images)

BY Michael Stahl | November 30, 2023
Overcome Stubborns
By Mary Pieper | December 04, 2023

Tech-Powered Ways to Recognize Your Team

When Magdalena Bugallo, director of total rewards experience at VCA, opened an ecard on Boss Appreciation Day this year, she was moved to tears.“There were words of appreciation from my team, and for me that was amazing because I built this team from scratch. We had been getting to know each other for the past year. And it filled my heart and made me cry,” Bugallo told journalist Lydia Dishman, moderator of the recent From Day One webinar titled “How Tech Can Boost Engagement and Recognition.”In this new hybrid and remote work era, using tech to recognize others can be as simple as that. This is good news because employees who think their company will recognize them are 2.7 times more likely to have high engagement at work, according to Zippia.But business leaders also need to know which technologies and practices are motivational and informative versus fatiguing or counterproductive.Recognizing Team Members in the MomentOrganizations are already using communication tools to effectively recognize employees immediately, instead of waiting for their performance review or a big corporate event.Supriya Bahri, vice president of global total rewards at Roblox, says whenever one of her direct reports has a work anniversary, she writes one or two short paragraphs on the team’s Slack channel to acknowledge the event. Those individuals have begun to do the same for their direct reports.“If it’s the first anniversary, it’s a three or four-line story about how we met and how we’re so excited looking at how far we’ve come,” Bahri said. “And if it's the year three anniversary, it’s reflecting back on the year and thanking them for it.”Microsoft Teams has a function that VCA uses to celebrate employees in a team chat or via a private message, says Bugallo.“It has visuals like a unicorn that means, ‘You’re amazing,’” she said. It also allows managers to recognize employees when they display values such as leadership or courage, Bugallo added.Recognition For AllEveryone is different regarding how they like to be recognized, and respecting that difference is critical, says Katrina Hall, director of human resources at VSP Vision.For example, Hall had a team member she wanted to recognize for the extraordinary way she faced adversity. Hall planned to praise her on a company-wide platform, but the employee told her she disliked recognition on the platform and found it disingenuous. She told Hall, “the people who really appreciate me will tell me directly. I don’t want the fanfare.’”On the other hand, “I have other people on my team that need that larger recognition,” Hall said. “You have to lean into your team and ask, ‘How do you want to be recognized? What’s important to you?’ In knowing that, then you hit the mark every time.”Everyone’s Voice MattersOne essential way to recognize employees is to make them feel like their opinions matter, which can be challenging to accomplish in a hybrid workforce, says Bahri.During Covid, everyone worked remotely, so “we were all a box on the screen. It was leveled,” she said.Now some employees are physically present in a room while others are still boxes on the screen. Bahri says some in the latter group weren’t actively participating in meetings, so she told the team leaders to “watch out for the quieter people, and as we are asking for input from the room, if we haven’t heard from employee A and employee B, let’s ask them, ‘Hey, we haven’t heard from you. How do you feel about it?’”Lydia Dishman, senior editor for growth & engagement at Fast Company moderated the webinar (photo by From Day One)Barhi also recommended companies take advantage of Zoom’s breakout room feature to allow remote workers to meet in smaller teams “because some people are more comfortable discussing an idea among three people versus 15.”Employee engagement and recognition can be challenging for large corporations with team members across the globe.“We’d like to have a little bit of fun. Who doesn’t?” said Seema Bhansali, vice president of employee experience and inclusion at Henry Schein.That’s why the Henry Schein Games began. Employees were randomly split into two teams: Team Henry and Team Esther, Esther referring to Esther Schein, co-founder of the company. Each team was given the opportunity to engage through competition and surveys on topics such as how they volunteer. The company set up a specific website for the games where employees can check the leaderboard, post pictures, and engage with each other. A few Henry Schein sites even held field days for in-person competition.“It was amazing to see the transformation from some of the most serious people in our organization, just getting into the fun and chatting on teams with one another,” Bhansali said.The company also has various clubs where employees worldwide can bond through shared hobbies such as gardening or gaming.“It’s an appreciation for the team to say, ‘Hey, jobs well done,’” Bhansali said. “You also need to unwind. It’s a focus on wellness and connection in a time when we are a little bit disconnected because of the way that we work.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Achievers, who supported this webinar.Mary Pieper is a freelance reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.

Overcome Stubborns
By Matthew Koehler | November 29, 2023

How to Focus and Accelerate the Hiring Process for a Better Experience

Amy Onori, senior vice president of talent acquisition at Publicis Media, was frustrated with the traditional hiring process, which was typically slow, inefficient, and biased. She and her team wanted to try something new and she had some experience with live hiring, a novel on-the-spot approach to hiring talent. When Apex, a trading platform at Publicis Media, had several job openings, she felt it was the perfect opportunity for innovation.“At the end of the day, we did make executive decisions on which candidate was going to be receiving an offer. And in the event that we weren’t going to proceed with a candidate, they were messaged within 24 hours explaining that we would not be moving in the direction of an offer.”Onori spoke about this one-day, top talent hiring process with Saja Hindi, a reporter for The Denver Post during a fireside chat at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Sprinting to the Finish LineThe benefit of live hiring is that it’s transparent and fast, and lets candidates know right away if they’ve made the cut. The purpose is to streamline the hiring process and make it more efficient.For the event, Onori says that several weeks out they stopped actively recruiting and created several featured positions they were going to fill at the event. The recruiters generated leads on LinkedIn and through other channels, incorporating diversity and inclusion. The candidates were pre-vetted and prescreened, and highly experienced for the roles they would fill.“The day of, we would have a lot of hiring initiatives. Meaning they would get a new hire orientation with a debrief on Publicis Media, in addition to what Apex is. [They] would be greeted by our senior leadership and there would be a round robin style of interviewing. We would go over each question and each answer and decide, right then and there, who we are going to make an offer to,” Onori said.The hiring sprint was held towards the tail end of the pandemic, when the economy was still opening up and people were coming back to the office. This is something Onori wanted the candidates to know—that they were returning to the office.“It also really created an awesome buzz with the return to office initiative. This entire event was orchestrated in-person,” which excited people, Onori said.Amy Onori of Publicis Media was interviewed by Saja Hindi of the Denver Post during the virtual fireside chat (photo by From Day One)This live hiring event wasn’t Onori’s first experience with the format. In a previous role, she held a similar event for entry level roles. “All of our entry level talent was hired that way from that point forward. And I wanted to bring that idea and execute it for Publicis and Apex, and make sure that we are doing this for experienced talent.”To make sure their hiring process was diverse, they leveraged their third party efforts through partnerships that foster diverse talent, like veteran networks. “We made sure that a diverse roster of talent was being considered. And I do feel that we succeeded in that manner," Onori said.Despite being a relatively new and unknown approach, Onori says she didn’t have much difficulty convincing senior leadership. “They really listened to me, and they really understood this could solve a lot. And we could be more effective if we just do these things right now, versus talking about it and potentially doing it a few months from now.”To get people to sign on, Onori came with a powerpoint and a plan that showed how it would solve recruitment efficiency and preserve the candidate experience, the specifics around data rollout, and her anticipated results. The biggest hurdle, Onori says, was time.“They had to dedicate basically an entire day with their senior leadership to do this, and to partner with me and my team to make sure that we were doing it in the way that I knew it could be successful. A day in the life of someone in media is a huge thing. You have a lot of things going on all at once,” Onori said.Breaking the process down further, Onori explained that to keep it unbiased the resumes were blinded and they had multiple planning sessions with leaders to go over the sort of questions to ask to make sure, for example, they didn't hire in a biased way. Leadership was only given 48 hours to consider resumes beforehand, which gave them review time but not enough to develop a strong opinion on the candidates.Even if they didn’t get the job, Onori says they left  with feedback and experience. Those who were hired found out in less than a day.A Hiring Sprint For All IndustriesSprint hiring is not impromptu. It takes time and planning to pull off a successful event, but Onori believes it is repeatable anywhere.“It’s not something on the recruitment side that can be done within an hour or two,” Onori said. But she says it does make the hiring process fair and equitable. She added that it's not specific to media or advertising and can be applied in every industry.However, Onori says sprint hiring is better for more experienced roles and having “enough lead time to allow recruiters to source and screen the right candidates” is key.So, is it worth it to try something new with the hiring process? Though Onori says this round of hiring was a bit ambitious, trying to hire eight out of nine positions, she was pleased with the four they got.“I think a lot of people are afraid to do something different to disrupt the process,” Onori said. She recognizes that staying inside the tried and true process is easy and safe, but being bold has its advantages. “Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. So long as what you’re trying to do lines up with business and what they’re seeking to accomplish.”As far as hiring sprints disrupting the future of hiring, Onori has some additional advice. “Hiring managers should be really thinking long-term in terms of what they’re seeking, not just as a hire, but as a culture,” Onori said.“Whenever you’re looking to hire someone, think about who is adding something different to the mix, who is bringing value in a different way. The many people in my group do not think just like I do, or perform just like me. And that’s what makes us a really strong team. We’re different, our ideas are different, and we’re each adding something new to our collective vision.”Matthew Koheler is a freelance journalist and licensed real estate agent based in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in Greater Greater Washington, The Washington Post, The Southwester, and Walking Cinema, among others.


The From Day One Newsletter is a monthly roundup of articles, features, and editorials on innovative ways for companies to forge stronger relationships with their employees, customers, and communities.

Overcome Stubborns
By Mary Pieper | November 30, 2023

Is Your Company Attractive to a Diverse Workforce?

Three out of four job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce as an essential factor when evaluating companies and job offers, according to a 2020 Glassdoor survey. “Underrepresented candidates really care about the makeup of your organization and the actual numbers,” said Rena Nigam, founder and CEO of the AI-enabled hiring and talent intelligence platform Meytier, during a recent panel discussion at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Ideally, employers will be able to show candidates that there are people who look like them across all company levels. But what if they aren’t there yet?“If you’re still at the beginning of your journey, then be authentic,” Nigam told journalist Lydia Dishman, panel moderator. “Convey your intention on why you want to improve or why you have a lack of diversity.”Overcoming Biases When HiringTo create a diverse workforce, everyone involved in the hiring process needs education on how to recognize their own biases. Education can help “control some of those thoughts, and ensure that it doesn't allow you to make a decision based solely on those particular biases, but challenge it in the moment,” said DeShaun Wise Porter, global head of diversity and recognition at Hilton.Shenece Johns is the head of inclusion and diversity at JCPenney, which is exploring how to use AI to attract talent. She says this technology is so new that the company is still navigating how to infuse it into the recruiting and hiring process.“There could be bias when using AI, and we want to be mindful when we do decide to go full-steam ahead so that we don't inadvertently put our own unconscious bias into the system and discriminate,” she said. “We want to be intentional and methodical about how we approach it. We don’t want to screen out individuals based on their name, school, neighborhood, or other factors like that.”But companies can employ AI to expand opportunities rather than automate rejection, says Nigam.“We use an AI based ontology there to ensure that we discover things that people may not have stated,” she said. “We look beyond the obvious on people’s journeys.”Skills vs. Traditional MetricsHigher education is becoming more expensive, meaning many individuals can’t afford college. However, that doesn’t mean they lack skills, says Louis Chesney, neurodiversity program manager at RethinkCare.“Even if you were to walk into an interview with a master’s degree, they care less about how many years you were in that environment, and more about if you can do the job,” he said.Lydia Dishman of Fast Company moderated the discussion titled “Is Your Company Attractive to a Diverse Workforce?” during From Day One's recent virtual conference (photo by From Day One)Hilton has eliminated the four-year degree requirement for most of its positions in favor of looking strictly at the skill sets of potential employees, says Wise Porter.“It afforded us an opportunity to truly evaluate and determine what is honestly needed for a particular role,” she said.Monica Parodi, vice president of talent acquisition for The New York Times, said that as a federal contractor, the organization uses a structured, consistent, and inclusive interview process where the questions are all tied back to skills.“The training needs to be there for recruiters to make sure that anything that veers away from skills and might show bias in debriefs returns right back to the skills qualifications for the role,” she said.Leaning into Corporate ValuesMany companies have diversity and inclusion as one of their corporate values. However, those are just words on paper unless an organization truly embraces them.The golden rule, ‘treat others as you want to be treated’ is one of the core values at JCPenney. Johns says it’s a phrase everyone is familiar with, so it’s a good way to connect everyone in the organization as well as job candidates. “We lead with that and we lean into it,” she said.However, people can perceive values differently, which can cause bias, says Porter. She said it’s important to ask “appropriate behavioral-based interview questions to be able to get down to the crux of the matter for a consistent experience.”The best way for an organization to communicate its values is to demonstrate them, says Chesney. That’s why it’s essential to provide a detailed interview agenda to job prospects. “This could level the playing field by giving all candidates the same information and expectations. It’s also important to be transparent about the accommodations process, which can help candidates with different needs to perform their best in the interview,” he said.Connecting with Overlooked Candidate PoolsNigam defined overlooked candidate pools as “people who see constant rejection. They are people who always end up in the job black hole.” These individuals include immigrants, caregivers, veterans, and those with disabilities, she says.The New York Times is working on hiring practices across the board for anyone from historically marginalized groups, including people who are neurodivergent, says Parodi.For example, the organization is moving away from panel interviews. Those interviews were created to reduce biases but have also excluded some groups, says Parodi.Certain individuals might not perform as well during a panel interview because they may struggle with working memory or executive functioning, says Chesney. He said those struggles are amplified “when you’re getting rapid fire questions from multiple people.”One of the most overlooked talent pools are those with criminal backgrounds, says Johns. “We are doing some work in this space to help with giving them a second chance,” she said.Mary Pieper is a freelance reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.

Overcome Stubborns
By Katie Chambers | November 30, 2023

Utilizing Benefits to Attract Diverse Talent: Building the Foundation Before They Arrive

When Matthew Legere and his family faced a devastating pregnancy loss, he submitted for bereavement leave at work. He was denied. “They said because the baby wasn’t actually born, I didn't qualify for bereavement leave,” Legere said. “Now, if you asked me at that moment if I felt valued as an employee, no. No, I did not.”While this example is startling, it’s unfortunately not uncommon. Progressive employers need to account for all the nuances and complexities of an employee’s life when crafting a benefits package with care, dignity, and respect.By looking at your benefits plan through a variety of lenses and thinking about your employees’ diverse needs, you can build a plan that allows individuals and their families to feel seen, heard, and valued through the benefits that you offer. “By addressing unmet needs, we believe you can truly drive engagement with your current employees. But it also casts a vision that’s attractive to a prospective employee, making it so that your story can truly become their story,” Legere said.Legere, now SVP of Brown & Brown, the fifth largest benefits consultant in the country, shared his top tips during a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Building out an employee benefits package that is comprehensive and sensitive to a variety of lifestyles and situations is integral to workforce acquisition and retention. Of course, employers cannot envision those needs in a bubble. There is a difference between a vision and a shared vision, Legere says. “If we have an opportunity to get feedback from the talent market, or even our current employees on how well we’re solving for a diverse employee benefit program, that is what’s going to be most effective,” Legere said. Shared visions attract more people, sustain higher levels of motivation, and withstand more challenges.Surveying Employee ValuesLegere cites a 2023 study from MetLife of the top desired employee benefits, which include, in order of importance, health, paid leave, 401(k), dental, vision, life insurance, and disability.But importantly, Legere notes, these rankings changed from generation to generation. “You have to get a sense of who your current population is as well as who you’re trying to attract and what their needs are,” Legere said. “What they expect for benefits could vary significantly.”It’s also important to pay attention to what trends change over time. For example, from 2020 to 2023, there was a 100% increase in employees surveyed who prioritized wellness benefits like gym memberships and employee assistance programs. Your employee benefits need to change along with the cultural climate in order to stay competitive. Legere also shared that employers tend to significantly overestimate their employees’ well-being and satisfaction, and encourages them to be proactive in crafting a package that reflects their actual current circumstances.Moving from Buzzword to ActionMatthew Legere, senior vice president of Brown & Brown, led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)Talking with employers, Legere found that while many talked about diversity, equity, and inclusion, they weren’t really taking steps to move the needle.  “Craft strategies, policies, practices, and procedures, for everybody at every aspect to feel valued,” Legere said. That means taking into consideration all aspects of life wellness and creating policies that are effective for all generations in your workplace. It’s also crucial to recognize the different steps of an employee’s life journey both in and out of the office, and account for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.Using national statistics like Gallup polls or the U.S. census, employees can project an estimate of how their workplace population might be impacted by categories like LGBTQIA+, family planning, veteran status, working parents, and build out a benefits plan accordingly.An effective plan should be valued by all employees, encompassing all of their intersectional identities. “You want to be relevant to your employees in those key areas and offer benefits specifically for them.”Legere and his team at Brown & Brown offer assessments for organizations to see how their benefits packages address the needs of certain populations and find where there might be gaps. They can also show the cost/benefit analysis, in other words, how much an employer has to pay for a benefit vs. the positive economic impact it would potentially have on an employee.Executing the Benefits Strategy and Looking AheadAlongside benefit strategy decisions, Legere says employers have several opportunities to embed relevant DEIB themes across their HR and benefits communication. Employees and their family members receive inclusive content, DEIB culture messages, and targeted materials. It’s important to use inclusive language in these communications. Legere shares an example of using the term “chosen family” alongside “nuclear family” when talking about holiday celebrations, which is potentially more welcoming to LGBTQIA+ employees. “Having intentional and inclusive language woven into communications can be significant,” he said.Legere advises employers to identify their target employee audience, then take a look at their current benefits partners to make sure they are offering the depth, breadth, and cultural sensitivity that is best-suited to that community. If they are not, it’s time to make a change.Ultimately, it comes down to what is best for the employee when they are at their time of greatest need and vulnerability. “If you can be relevant with what your employees or prospective employees are talking about at their kitchen table,” Legere said, “you're going to help them feel so seen.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Brown & Brown, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Overcome Stubborns
By Wanly Chen | November 29, 2023

Look Again: How to Find Top Talent Among Those Who Didn't Make the First Cut

Delphine Carter checked all the boxes. She had a robust background in product and sales development and thought she found an opportunity that she could be successful in.But like many, Carter’s nonlinear work history caused her resume to be initially rejected. “I applied but I didn’t get an interview. A friend of mine was friends with the hiring manager though, and said that I was a great cultural fit and they ended up hiring me.”Carter called herself a “trash can hire,” a term referring to a candidate whose resume was tossed out in the initial screening but rescued in the end. Now, as the CEO and founder of Boulo Solutions, Carter speaks about her business of helping employers break out of their traditional hiring processes to adopt a more open-minded approach. Carter spoke on the subject during a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s November virtual conference.Avoid Looking at Titles and EducationTraditional hiring practices look primarily at linear work experience, with employers scanning resumes for key titles, education and company names. However, this method removes candidates with nontraditional resumes who may be prime candidates as well, Carter says.“Ask recruiters to ignore titles, industry and timelines and focus on what’s needed. Put these candidates in front of a panel that represents people from different areas of your organization,” Carter said. “This can help ensure a fair evaluation process and expand the type of questions that the candidate might receive.”At Boulo Solutions, clients are already embracing this change. For each candidate, Boulo Solutions creates a profile of their work experience and skills to present to employers.“We create a 360-degree profile of our candidates with the information that shows off their capabilities in a nonlinear fashion, to eliminate the bias that’s caused by hyper-focusing on titles, timelines and industry,” Carter said. “This helps the candidate stand out because it calls out hard and soft skills that they’ve gained through job and life experiences. Our customers feel like they’ve had a mini interview, and it makes it easier to compare the hard and soft skills of one candidate with another.”Grow Your Referral PipelineDelphine Carter, founder and CEO of Boulo Solutions, led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)82% of employers rated referrals as their top source for yielding the best return on investment, showing referrals from employees can be a reliable source for employers to get top candidates.“Referrals come from people within your organization or a personal network, who are familiar with both the candidate and your company’s culture. As hiring managers, you can elevate this element of trust and credibility to identify candidates who are more likely to align with your company’s values and expectations,” Carter said.For employers, 45% of referral hires stay longer than four years, compared to only 25% of job board hires, and can cost less to hire than other hiring sources. Having a referral pipeline from employees and industry peers can diversify the hiring pool and help employers look at candidates beyond just the ones that come from the job board, Carter says.“Grow a referral pipeline from industry peers or companies with cultures similar to yours,” Carter said. “This method leverages personal and professional connections to find individuals who possess qualities that are essential beyond what’s written on their resumes and can contribute to a more robust and culturally aligned workforce.”Break Out of TraditionAs a former “trash-can hire,” Carter isn’t afraid to go dumpster diving. “The best reason for dumpster diving is that these candidates are in the dumpster because they applied and they found your company and that job interesting,” Carter said.Looking at rejected resumes with a different mindset can help change traditional hiring practices and give top candidates a second chance. When evaluating these resumes, employers should look for the value proposition that the candidate can add to the company.“Some exceptional candidates may not have the most conventional resumes but there’s a chance of uncovering those diamonds in the rough who may not have typical paper qualifications but possess the skills and potential your organization needs,” Carter said. “Look for the diverse perspectives and backgrounds that are missing from your team and find how they could add value.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Boulo Solutions, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Overcome Stubborns
By Carrie Snider | November 28, 2023

Shifting Mindsets: Innovative Strategies for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Glenn Jackson joined M&T Bank 25 years ago thanks to a development program. He’s been their chief diversity officer for an impressive five years, long before many organizations had an inkling of that role. Over the years, he’s developed an intimate knowledge of the workings of the company. But more than that, he has the trust of everyone, which has been instrumental as he transitioned to his current role in the DEI space. “We move at the speed of trust,” Jackson said. “So that’s been a blessing for sure. You also come up through a space where you understand where the biggest challenges are.” Because the bank started early in this and had the trust factor built in, Jackson said they’ve made great progress. Weaving diversity into a company must be intentional, and even though it’s still a young concept, it’s here to stay. Jackson shared his experiences during a fireside chat at From Day One’s November Virtual: Fresh Approaches to Diversity Recruiting. Lizzy McLellan Ravitch, workplace reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, moderated the chat. On average, diversity specialists have been in their roles for around 18 months, and many are new to the company they are serving, says Jackson. Which means the specialist and the company are still working through how to do what they need to do to incorporate diversity into the fabric of the organization. It’s no wonder that some are finding it challenging to help shift the hearts, minds and culture of companies. Can it really be done? And if changes are made, will they stick? “There’s always a fear that as you start to make progress, the commitments will start to dwindle over time,” he said.Lizzy McLellan Ravitch of the Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed Glenn Jackson of M&T Bank in the virtual fireside chat session (photo by From Day One)Recently, among peers, someone asked, are you worried about people disinvesting in the work? “Probably about half the room raised their hand and said they were concerned.” Unfortunately, some businesses are making staff cuts and often less traditional roles like diversity can be in danger of not showing value. But since Jackson has been in his role for longer than most, he actually feels hopeful. And thankfully so did about a third of the peers who reported they were actually doubling down. “There’s an acceleration toward more challenging issues,” Jackson said. “The organization has built it in a way that is embedded in the DNA of the culture rather than built as a vertical, which, frankly, can’t possibly fundamentally change and shift the culture of an organization.”That’s the key, isn’t it? Not to build diversity as a side gig, but as an integral part of how the company operates. Of course, it’s challenging to change mindsets and shift from traditional ways of doing things. First, you have to pay attention. Second, you have to think outside the box.Jackson offered an example as to how they’re building DEI into the DNA. One of the most encouraging things M&T Bank is doing is partnering with CareerWise to offer an apprenticeship program. “It feels like a game changer for us,” Jackson said. The curriculum is for recent graduates who aren’t going to attend a university, but want a good career in banking. The program meets them where the students are, introduces them to the education they need, and combines it with the job training that will eventually lead to a good-paying job. “What I love about this is that you’re going right to the space that you belong,” Jackson said. The company is showing talent that it cares, and through the program they can build trust. Plus the employees coming in through nontraditional means can then become integral parts of the organization. Instead of relying on traditional methods, they went right to the source. Companies will continue to hire employees in the traditional way, but even those methods should be challenged and interrupted. This can be done, even at big organizations where there are typically many openings to fill. What hiring managers need to do is look at their biases. Most people don’t have ill intent in these roles, but unfortunately it’s natural to hire people who look like you or have experiences like yours, says Jackson.“But oftentimes, if you just rely on that pattern, you’re going to get the same results,” he said. Diversity is gone, and a narrow perspective prevails, which doesn’t help business or customers. Rather than rely on your initial instincts, Jackson says, broaden your perspective. Create interrupters that allow people who have different experiences to show what they can do. If you’re not sure how to go about doing that, Jackson has some advice. “You likely already have people in the ranks right now that did not come through a traditional sense that are high performers in your organization. Go talk to them,” he said. “Then it becomes a value discussion.”Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Overcome Stubborns
By Stephanie Reed | November 27, 2023

The Secret to Building Loyalty in the Hourly Workforce

In a deskless economy lies the challenge of employee retention: QSR Magazine revealed that only 54% of quick service employees completed 90 days before quitting in 2022. With high turnover and increasing financial losses, companies want answers and solutions, especially because training and onboarding can cost up to $5,000 per worker. After surveying hourly workers throughout workforce culture shifts, companies confront assumptions about their motivations.The issue is not that people want to stop working for companies. According to Daniel Blaser, head of brand at Workstream, the problem is the opposite. “You don't want to feel like you're working at a dead-end job,” Blaser said. “That's why for a lot of those in the hourly workforce, there has been really high turnover rates.”This key finding was one of the focal points discussed during Workstream’s recent From Day One webinar. Blaser discussed eight key ways to foster loyalty and engagement with hourly workers. Then, he revealed two lesser-known but equally crucial factors contributing to employee retention.  Attract Employees Looking For StabilityA McKinsey & Company study found that 41% of workers reported quitting their previous jobs due to lower career development and advancement opportunities. The study also found that 31% quit because of a lack of meaningful work. Blaser says this is a result of the miscommunication of advancement opportunities.Companies should discuss what opportunities are available as early as the job description. Blaser used the following scenario. “‘This role has the potential to transition into this role within six months.’ Something like that provides a concrete example that this opportunity can lead to other opportunities, and you’re looking for someone long-term and not just to fill a vacancy for a couple of months.”Daniel Blaser of Workstream led the From Day One webinar (company photo)Optimize Onboarding and Orientation ProcessesBlaser offered some onboarding tips, such as making new hire paperwork easy to complete by transitioning to digital to save time and resources and including company culture training during orientation to make workers feel integrated sooner. Lastly, he encourages organizations to assign new hires a mentor to learn from during the first few weeks.Workstream provides a text-based HR management platform to ease the completion of paperwork. This simple and progressive approach to documentation optimizes onboarding. Companies can focus more on developing dynamic and engaging onboarding and training programs.Provide Valuable BenefitsMore valuable benefits keep people coming back to work, offer benefits like paid time off, family care, career development, retirement plans, and health insurance. Companies can also use creativity to create benefits. Blaser advised quick-service restaurants to offer workers two meals for completing 8-hour shifts.Offer More Competitive WagesWorkers leave their positions and seek others with more competitive wages. Workstream has a free hourly wage index to reference. Companies can benchmark pay across industries and see where they compare and contrast.Invest in Career DevelopmentHourly workers are looking for careers, not temporary jobs. To address advancement expectations, Blaser advised the following. “I'd say frequency is more important than scope. It's better to have more opportunities more frequently, then dangle some big, you know, two-year advancement for two straight years, but have nothing else in the middle.”Employee RecognitionAccording to a Nectar survey of 800 full-time employees, 83.6% of employees say recognition affects their motivation to succeed at work. 81.9% agreed it contributes to their engagement with their job. Blaser notes that weekly formal and informal recognition garners better results.Train Your ManagersWith a smaller scope of talent, companies may choose managers based on availability. This process can be detrimental without proper and ongoing leadership training. “People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers,” he cautioned.Be Open to Exchanging FeedbackExchanging feedback makes your company a better place to work and it gives employees a voice and helps them feel valuable and integrated into the company.Other Opportunities for Higher Employee RetentionBlaser revealed two surprising factors most companies overlook. These significantly contribute to higher hourly employee retention, sometimes more than competitive wages.First, flexibility is essential. Hourly workers have shown a preference for flexibility over competitive wages. Employees value reasonable accommodations in emergencies.Second, employees value autonomy. Workers look for trust to make decisions on behalf of their companies when demonstrating their capabilities.Your Company Culture: The Deciding FactorThese eight key ways and lesser-known opportunities build loyalty among hourly workers. By exploring these opportunities, companies can create an engaging company culture that encourages retention.A thriving company culture is a culmination of internal investment, adaptability, and stability. The goal is to create a sustainable, promising, and supportive work environment. Hourly workers are searching for these kinds of jobs, Blaser says.“Being able to have a culture where employees feel valued, they feel connected to their coworkers, and they feel like they are contributing to kind of a greater whole – all those things are really important.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Workstream, for sponsoring this webinar. Stephanie Reed is a freelance news, marketing, and content writer. Much of her work features small business owners throughout diverse industries. She is passionate about promoting small, ethical, and eco-conscious businesses.

Overcome Stubborns
By Carrie Snider | November 27, 2023

The New 401(k)? Providing Student Loan Support as an Employee Benefit

Decades ago, a clever benefits consultant spotted a provision in the federal tax code, section 401(k), that would allow employers to create a tax-friendly way for their workers to save for retirement. The rest is history. As of this year, Americans have more than $7 trillion invested in their 401(k) accounts.Today, employees are having a different kind of problem: debt. More specifically, student loan debt. They need help digging out so they can then turn to saving. Thankfully, there’s a way for employers to help. Mick MacLaverty, CEO and co-founder of Highway Benefits, discussed the topic “Providing Student Loan Support as an Employee Benefit” during a recent From Day One webinar.The Student Loan ProblemThe sad numbers: the U.S. is approaching $1.8 trillion in student loan debt. This equates to about 46 million Americans, who average have about $40,000 in loans and around $400-500 a month to pay. For employers, that means about one third of their workforce is struggling financially.This massive problem has become more severe recently. During the pandemic, loan repayment and interest was paused, but resumed on Oct. 1. That means many recent college grads are scrambling to figure out how they’re going to make payments.“It’s more or less a dam that's been built up of this pent-up student loan problem that we now have to address,” MacLaverty said. “This is a massive problem.”The government offered a way for employers to help. In March, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, they expanded Section 127. This allows employers to pay up to $5,250 per year of an employee’s student loan, tax free. The program is voluntary, but companies are seeing the benefits.Focusing on TalentAt Highway Benefits, which helps companies offer this benefits program, MacLaverty said most of their clients want to offer student loan repayment benefits for two reasons: attracting talent or retaining talent.“On the attraction side, only 9 percent of companies currently offer student loan repayment as a benefit,” MacLaverty said. For potential employees comparing different benefits, this is a great way to stand out.“On the retention side, no two companies are alike in how they should or would want to roll out this program,” he said. Companies can choose to offer the max amount available, but may offer less to start, with more given to employees who stay.“So, if you’ve been at the company for one year, you might get $100 a month, but if you've been there for three years, you get the maximum benefit. Employers are creating an environment that encourages employees to stay and provide a financial incentive to do that in a tax-free way.”Highway Benefits is a hub for companies to get started quickly and easily, especially to ensure they comply with the laws. Highway Benefits can help companies find out who on staff is eligible, then help the company figure out the best dollar amount that makes sense for them, and ultimately make the student loan payments on their behalf.Journalist Kelly Bourdet moderated the discussion with Mick MacLaverty of Highway Benefits (photo by From Day One)Why not just offer a higher salary or a $5,000 annual bonus to help employees? One big reason is that the student loan repayment benefit dollars are tax-free. That benefits the employee, but it also reduces the taxable income of the business.“This is arguably the most effective compensation dollar you can give someone if they have student loans,” he said. “Every dollar contributed goes right into their loan account.”Value-Added BenefitsBut there is another piece to this, MacLaverty added. A company that offers this benefit to employees is showing a degree of care and humanity that employees look for and appreciate more than ever.“You are telling them, and showing them, ‘I care about your financial well-being.’” It’s not just throwing cash at them to do what they want with it, but putting in the extra effort to help solve a problem for them. “So every month, in addition to whatever your payment is, you’ll get a little bit extra, and we'll get you out of debt faster. Wow, what a story that tells prospective or current employees.”For the employees who don’t have student loans, MacLaverty said they appreciate working for a company that offers it. Not every benefits package is a one-size-fits-all. Not everyone takes advantage of the benefit but for those it does help, it makes for a better employee and a better work environment.Only 2% of companies offered this type of benefit in 2017, 4%  in 2018, and 8% in 2019. Then student loan payments were paused, but now that people are back to paying them again, MacLaverty anticipates an uptick in companies that offer this benefit.The extended Section 127 is slated to expire at the end of 2025, however, the original Section 127 was started 30+ years ago as a short-term program but kept getting extended. MacLaverty believes the same will happen with the student loan repayment benefit, and hopefully the max benefit dollar amount will increase.Highway Benefits is seeing about 40% of company clients offer $100 a month per employee, about 50% introduce tenure rules, and about ⅔ offer a multi-tier rule system. Those who are eligible for the benefit and are taking advantage of it? Ninety percent. Clearly, people want this.MacLaverty said they’ve gotten emails from employees who are ecstatic about the help they’ve received in paying their student loans.Employees are even emailing their total rewards and HR teams with testimonials like, “‘I’m out of debt. I now don't have this burden hanging over my head and I can live freely.’’Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Highway Benefits, for sponsoring this webinar.Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter. 

Advanced Story Search