Working IDEAL: 2020-2021 in Review

Looking back over the past two years, our team at Working IDEAL has navigated a global pandemic and seen a new sense of urgency around our work for racial justice and workplace equity. As we wrote in the summer of 2020, we support the call to dismantle systemic racism and over the last year we have acted on our belief that a just and inclusive workplace is essential to sustain our democracy.

In this post, we share some highlights of how our clients are engaging on racial equity & global DEIJ across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Indeed many of them had already started this journey before July of 2020. In these first months of 2022, we see newly empowered workers and labor movements, new understandings around workplace safety, flexibility and economic justice, and opportunities to innovate to better serve workers, missions, customers and society. We encourage companies, nonprofits and government agencies to continue this work.

Strengthening DEI in Local Governments. In the summer of 2021, we completed a deep multi-year engagement with the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, conducting an independent external assessment of recruitment, hiring and promotion through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens. Through a survey of all City employees, analysis of workforce data and interviews and documents, we evaluated the City’s structure, practices, policies, and culture as they relate to fostering a diverse workforce. Our recommendations, which were included in a publicly-available report on our website, included expanding the ability to promote opportunities and connect with a broader pool of talent by strategic outreach, building relationships, strengthening tools and resources, leveraging the current workforce and city residents, and better utilizing technology.  

Nonprofit Pay Equity Projects to Align with Mission and Values.  One of the signature services Working IDEAL provides is ensuring fair pay and we conduct pay equity analyses for public, private and nonprofit organizations. Since the summer of 2020, and particularly in light of the impact of the pandemic on workers, progressive organizations have sought to raise pay and also ensure their compensation programs align with values of equity and transparency. Over the last 18 months we have completed new compensation policies and structures for a number of national nonprofits, assessing race and gender equity, employee perceptions and experiences, workplace culture and market analysis. 

Strengthening Equity and Inclusion in Tech. In 2021, Working IDEAL partnered with Atlassian to provide resources and ideas to improve experiences for Atlassians from underrepresented groups and apply research on increasing equity and inclusion in the tech industry.

#CampaignEquity for Political Workplaces. During the summer and fall of 2020, federal, state and local candidates — and many organizations — built major campaigns to persuade and turnout voters in a critical election, as well as responding on the ground to addressing police brutality, sexual harassment, climate action, and immigrant justice. Working IDEAL collected its experiences advising political and advocacy campaigns and candidates with Redwood Enterprise and the Melanin Collective in the #CampaignEquity handbook (2020). The handbook includes tools and checklists of best practices for campaign workplaces in seeking to achieve seven campaign equity goals — like Great Hires, Pay Equity, and Safe and Inclusive Culture. It’s a useful strategic and tactical guide for ensuring your campaign or organizing workspace lives up to your values.  https://www.workingideal.com/news-resources/campaign-equity-toolkit/.

Building Best in Class DEI Programs for Small Businesses. 

We work with employers of all sizes, and frequently conduct evaluations and assessments of workplace culture and climate, equity and inclusion.  Because our work is customized and includes significant qualitative elements, it can be an effective tool for smaller businesses.

Our assessment methodology uses a consistent approach. We apply a broad lens grounded in social science data collection and analysis, seeking to understand how organizational culture, process, structures and practices relate to outcomes and experiences for different groups in the workplace.

One example of this work is the DEI assessment Working IDEAL conducted in 2021 for Linea Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in pension, health, and insurance markets with offices in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Toronto. This project was led by the company’s internal DEI committee and strongly supported by leadership, two elements that we find can result in more successful projects.

Our review encompassed a quantitative and qualitative analysis of data relating to employee demographics, workplace culture, perceptions and experiences of fairness and equity, and equity in policies and practices — including recruitment, hiring, retention, promotion, career development, and training. Because many employees are consultants embedded in client workspaces, we also explored ways for Linea to provide connection and consistency – an emerging challenge for many workplaces developing stronger remote work policies. We identified strengths, challenges, and opportunities, and we recommended best practices supported by research literature and tailored to the organization. We will proceed with the implementation phase in 2022.

Building a Culture Code to Promote Respect in the Workplace

Authors: Sarah Crawford and Christian Andres Alfaro

A strong culture codewhich alternatively may be called a code of conduct or civility codesets expectations about how employees should interact in order to create a healthy workplace culture. A culture code can help to foster a safe and constructive working environment in which all employees feel accepted and supported to better serve the mission of the company. A code also bolsters accountability at all levels within the organization. 

A culture code should communicate the company’s mission, vision, goals, values, and norms. The code also can build community and describe the spirit and traditions of the organization through quotes, lighthearted anecdotes, and stories. For example, the code could tell the story behind the founding of the company, stories of individual customers and clients, or of accomplishments both big and small.

A culture code establishes expectations for employees to be respectful and accepting of others who may come from different walks of life and have different lifestyles and beliefs. A code can set expectations about positive behaviors by encouraging employees to act as allies to confront bias, to serve as a mentor, to utilize best practices to promote diversity in hiring, etc.

The code also should provide examples of bias and behavior that will not be allowed or tolerated in the workplace, such as microaggressions, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The code should address behavior directed toward anyone, regardless of whether they are colleagues, supervisors, junior staff, interns, volunteers, independent contractors, customers, clients, etc. The code should set out policies and processes for individuals to bring forward concerns and formal complaints and identify key personnel to handle those concerns and complaints

The code should address conduct that occurs not only in the workplace, but also offsite and online, for example expected behavior at conferences and respectful communication on social media and text messages. The code should also address conduct during and outside of regular work hours, for example conduct at a work-related social event or with a colleague after normal working hours. 

During the process of drafting a culture code, employees should be involved in providing input and feedback on the content. This may be accomplished by convening a working group that includes employees representing various levels, departments, job functions, and locations. This is particularly useful to identify key concerns, gaps, and solutions for the organization. The code should be written in plain language that is easily understood and uses examples tailored to the workplace. 

Leadership should review, approve, and endorse the code before it is finalized. An introduction from the head of the organization can communicate the importance of the code and the core values to the day-to-day operations and to make clear that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. It is also critical for those at the top of the organization to model the positive behaviors described in the code.

When rolling out a new culture code, employees should participate in interactive training to review the content, to reinforce how the expectations about behavior relate to the organization’s mission and core values, to teach skills, and to provide opportunity for meaningful discussion. The code, policies and procedures, contact information for key personnel to handle complaints and concerns, and any other related information should be easily accessible to all employees, either online or in writing. 

To reinforce the principles on an ongoing basis, the code should be integrated with the onboarding process and regular training programs. Employees could be asked to sign a statement that they have read and agree to follow the code. A poster in the breakroom could highlight the key aspects of the code, such as core values, expected behaviors, and contact information for key personnel to handle concerns and complaints. At events, remarks and written materials could include a reminder of behaviors that are encouraged and behaviors that will not be tolerated, consistent with the culture code. 

Building a strong workplace culture requires the efforts of every employee in the organization. By setting expectations about employee behavior, a culture code can provide a powerful tool to promote a respectful workplace that is key to fulfilling the mission of the organization.

Resources and Sample Codes:

Racial Equity Assessment Can Change Your Company for the Better – If You Get It Right

Authors: Pamela Coukos and Ahmmad Brown

If 2020 was the year of big, visible corporate commitments to racial equity, 2021 is the opportunity to make sure those commitments deliver on their promises.

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the increased impact of the Movement for Black Lives, companies promised to take meaningful action and deploy substantial financial resources to address racial inequity and injustice. This spring BlackRock responded to shareholder advocacy and agreed to undertake a comprehensive racial equity audit of internal structures and policies, and the external impact of their products and services. Last fall, JP Morgan made a $30 million commitment to advance racial equity. In the technology industry, at least a dozen companies have made commitments to racial equity specifically. McKinsey estimates that organizations have made as much $200B in investments to support racial justice efforts since May 2020.

Although public commitments to support racial equity and justice are laudable, there are three ways these programs can fail to live up to their promises. 

First, vague appeals to morality and justice are not enough – an organization needs a clear reason to take action and a defined goal they seek to achieve. Otherwise their response may be more symbol than substance.

Second, organizations must establish accountable, transparent structures and processes to evaluate their actions and ensure that they are on track to meet those goals. Lack of follow through can erode trust and credibility among key stakeholders and undermine the benefits of the work they seek to accomplish.

Third, many organizations take the easier path of surface-level questions and avoid deeper issues of racial justice, hostile culture, and structural barriers to equity. Expanding the representation of people of color in candidate pools and recruitment pipelines is important, but cannot build sustainable change without tackling the fundamental question of whether the organization’s core structures and processes are equitable and inclusive for current and future Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) employees and other stakeholders. 

Racial equity assessment is a set of tools that addresses these pitfalls and can increase the chances that commitments to racial equity generate deep and lasting success for the organization and its people. 

An assessment helps keep a program on the path of substance over symbols. It starts by identifying the organization’s goals, in order to decide how to measure progress and evaluate impact.

A well-designed assessment ensures accountability through key practices that build trust and ensure credibility including:

  • an external independent assessment team;

  • an objective and neutral inquiry process based on a sound methodology;

  • appropriate transparency to all stakeholders;

  • a demonstration that the information sharing process is safe and can be trusted.

Finally, an experienced and effective assessment team will encourage clients to go deeper, and are equipped to evaluate structures and practices, not just outcomes.

And they will pay off in actionable recommendations, strategic plans to meet important goals, and all the benefits of inclusive and equitable organizations — more innovative products and services, a more engaged and productive workforce, stronger and more sustainable financial performance and most importantly, the trust that comes from knowing an organization’s practices live up to its values. 

Customers, investors and employees who value racial equity have growing expectations of the companies they do business with. Showing that commitments are meaningful and have an impact is the best way to meet this moment.

Working IDEAL provides trusted and innovative advice on inclusive workplaces, diverse talent, and fair pay. Our audits and assessments apply the best thinking on how to promote gender, race and other forms of equity in your pay practices. Our robust quantitative and qualitative reviews go beyond basic compliance to align effective compensation strategy with mission and values. Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.

About the authors:
Ahmmad Brown is a Senior Advisor at Working IDEAL, Executive Director and co-founder of EBDI Consulting, and currently completing doctoral work in organizational behavior at Harvard.
Pamela Coukos, JD, PhD, is CEO and co-founder of Working IDEAL

Best Practices to Increase Engagement, Productivity, Retention, and Innovation | Excerpts from Diversity, Inc.

It’s been over a year since noted journalist and scholar Pamela Newkirk published Diversity, Inc., an essential account of the promises many companies made to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion, the billions spent on programs and initiatives over five decades, and the huge gap that still remains in fulfilling those promises. This acclaimed book, which Time Magazine declared a “must-read”, is a deep study of how the most popular responses to calls for justice and equity at work have not only failed to make progress, but even led to declining numbers of Black leaders in Corporate America, a continued racial wealth gap and pay gap, and persistent discrimination in the workplace. Her book also highlights the rare examples of successful progress and the lessons from social science about what actually works to move the needle on workplace equality. 

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder last summer, companies again, as they have many times in the past, made statements and pledges to do more. While some of the responses are more symbolic, others have greater potential for meaningful impact – from shifts in corporate giving and community support to belatedly addressing longstanding criticisms of images, names and branding, recognizing the need to invest in changing systems and practices, and making concrete commitments to hiring benchmarks or other specific and potentially meaningful policy changes. But as Professor Newkirk shows, Corporate America’s track record on racial justice is not promising. Just as longstanding approaches to sexual harassment were more symbolic compliance than meaningful intervention, the world of diversity consulting is a story of as much as $8 billion a year spent with little to show for it.  So what can companies do that can actually make a difference?

In the new paperback edition of Diversity Inc., Professor Newkirk included a series of best practices provided by Working IDEAL — ways that companies can make good on their promises by applying best practices based on social science research and our experience with organizations large and small across multiple industries. 

Here are a few of those recommended practices that Working IDEAL recommends to our clients to hire and retain great people and increase engagement, productivity, retention, and innovation.  Want the whole list?  Get the book!

Expand Recruitment Through Intentional Outreach. For example, work to build relationships with programs in your field, industry and community to access talent, and then tailor recruitment plans to identify the best sources of diverse candidates for specific jobs or groups of jobs. 

Identify and Remove Barriers in Hiring, starting with how you identify and evaluate skills and criteria. Education and specialized training requirements can serve as unnecessary barriers to increasing diversity in key entry-level and higher-level positions, especially when there are equivalent or alternative skills and experience that may add value, or the potential to invest in on-the-job training.

Institute a “Rooney Rule” diverse slate policy but also take steps to ensure its success. This means defining diverse slates to require consideration of multiple women and people of color, and providing the training and tools for hiring managers and holding them accountable to follow the policy. 

Make information on pay practices transparent and accessible to employees.  Instead of guessing about what candidates will accept, or trying to underpay those with less market power or information, affirmatively provide starting salary information to job candidates.  Ensure employees can freely share information about pay — in most cases it’s legally required.

Measure your results like any business process, auditing your hiring, pay and promotion practices — and your culture and developing metrics to track them going forward. You can use anonymous tools like surveys, and internal discussions across functions and levels, to identify issues and source responses. Track attrition and understand why some groups of employees are more likely to leave. And make sure to regularly share all that information with leaders and decision-makers and use it to hold them accountable. 

Don’t ignore problem behavior. Have safe and accessible options to report, address, and resolve workplace problems, and make sure you act quickly to address toxic or harmful workplace culture at any level of the organization. 

Give people in your organization the power to make change.  If you have named an internal DEI leader or officer, make sure they have the information, access, and power needed to successfully carry out their responsibilities. If you are using an internal committee, resource group or affinity group to support and engage employees, provide the resources and processes that empower them to deliver meaningful value and support to leadership.

Working IDEAL provides trusted and innovative advice on inclusive workplaces, diverse talent, and fair pay. Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.

Author: Pam Coukos

How the SEC Can Harness Shareholder Power to Support Racial and Gender Equity Through a DEI Index

On its very first day, the Biden-Harris Administration made racial justice and equity, and principles of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity, top priorities on its agenda.  The first of the 17 Day One Executive Orders committed to advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities across the federal government.  The EO requires a review of federal programs and regulatory processes to incorporate equity principles – while rescinding the Trump Administration’s anti-DEI Executive Order. It also includes improvements to data collection, which is a key practice of accountability. Other actions include:

The Administration could bolster this by leveraging the SEC’s  power to regulate publicly traded companies. A Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Index could harness shareholder power to ensure our publicly-traded companies make good on their their commitments to equality. A standard set of disclosures about hiring, representation, leadership and pay would empower customers and investors to make informed choices about where to spend their money. Workers could use this information to find jobs at places that offer true opportunity for all. Companies would compete to show their progress and we could all have a clearer sense of who is living up to their stated values. Competition would be the engine behind genuine, long overdue progress.

All large publicly traded companies should disclose standard information on key measures of DEI performance.

First, demonstrate Board Accountability for DEI, by sharing Board representation, whether the Board uses key best practices to foster diverse membership, and whether the Board provides effective oversight of People and Culture programs to address workplace harassment and promote inclusive culture.

Next, provide data on Leadership Diversity, including how the top 200 highest compensated individuals identify (by gender, race, ethnicity, and if available, by disability and sexual orientation).

Third, disclose Workforce Diversity and Pay Equity metrics, including companywide EEO-1 representation data and standard pay equity benchmarks similar to those already reported in the UK, and corporate performance on its own diversity metrics over time. 

Lastly, share progress on Inclusive Workplace Practices, including whether the company has developed and implemented key best practices to address workplace harassment and promote inclusive culture.

We already recommended that the SEC impose this type of requirement, but there are plenty of other ways this could come about. Indexes could make this a listing requirement. Institutional investors could use it as a factor for their portfolio decisions and federal, state and local agencies could use it as a benchmark in awarding contracts. And companies could voluntarily commit to these disclosures as a way to demonstrate leadership. 

The biggest winners will be the companies themselves. The research we shared with the SEC supports the view that diverse teams can provide key benefits, like increasing productivity and innovation. Strengthening DEI can lead to stronger and more sustainable financial performance.

Indeed, that is exactly the reason that this information is material to shareholders. The traditional view of shareholder disclosure is only aimed at information relevant to short-term shareholder gain. But the modern view includes any matters material to other stakeholder long term interests including investing in employees and fostering diversity, inclusion, dignity and respect, an approach championed by the Business Roundtable.

Despite the benefits, too many companies have not made DEI enough of a priority. Reviewing a typical corporate annual report or 10-K will show frequent touting of corporate physical assets, new product lines, mergers and acquisitions, but see very few, if any, words touting new investments in people and culture, or new efforts to develop, retain and strengthen the workforce. Most annual reports to shareholders virtually ignore the companies’ most important asset: its workforce.

We learned that to create change in a company, someone has to own and drive the change, which means the Board should have a specific subcommittee focused on oversight of People and Culture programs, with regular reporting from management on goals and measures. Through increased transparency of key measures of leadership and workforce DEI, we can use the market to move stalled progress on glass ceilings and wage gaps for people of color as well as for women. 

We want to motivate companies to invest in diversity and inclusion, people and culture, growth and retention. It’s good business that can yield an enormous competitive advantage and allow companies to make good on their commitments to equity.

Working IDEAL provides trusted and innovative advice on inclusive workplaces, diverse talent, and fair pay. Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.

Authors: Pam Coukos and Cyrus Mehri

A Just and Inclusive Workplace is Essential to Sustain Our Democracy

In 2017, the increased public visibility of the #MeToo movement made clear we were not doing enough to make the workplace safe from sexual harassment. In 2020, #BlackLivesMatter organizing similarly forced a broader and overdue reckoning with how deeply racial inequity runs in many institutions — including our nation’s workplaces, which need to be more inclusive.

The images of the first week of 2021 – a Confederate flag carried through the halls of Congress, people in the crowd breaking into the Capitol wearing shirts emblazoned with slogans about genocide of the Jewish people, a Black police officer against a mostly white crowd of insurrectionists – reinforce the urgency of our work to build a just and inclusive society.

As Cyrus said in December, in a recently-published interview in the Wall Street Journal, “Our democracy is not sustainable if don’t embrace equal opportunity.” 

But to do that we need truly innovative approaches. We must expand our thinking about what the barriers are and how to break through them.  As we welcome a new Administration that has committed to make racial justice and economic empowerment top priorities, and a new Congress that can move this agenda forward, we want to highlight some key innovations in government policy and workplace practices that can have the biggest impact.

1. Have the Security and Exchange Commission require transparency on diversity and inclusion. All large, publicly traded companies should make standard disclosures about hiring, representation, leadership and pay. As Cyrus explained to the Journal:

Merge SEC disclosures—annual reports, 10Ks—with advancing equal opportunity. For example, require companies to disclose race and gender data for their top 200 highest-paid employees. It’s a way to understand where the glass ceiling is. Do it by total compensation so it includes stock options. It’ll tell you who’s in the decision-making pool of the company. 

And as we explained in our 2016 proposal to the SEC, this empowers investors, workers, customers and community stakeholders  to make informed choices about where to spend their money.

2. Make your default hiring practices more inclusive, by ensuring you interview multiple women and people of color.  Cyrus explains why this disrupts default assumptions:

If you have one woman versus two women on a slate, when you go to two women, it’s 79 times more likely that a woman will be selected [than if there was only one woman in the pool]. When you go from one to two people of color, the number goes up like 190 times. If there are multiple diverse candidates, they’re multiple times more likely to be hired. Why is that? When you have isolated, coveted jobs, you need to do something to change the norms because the presumptions and stereotypes are so deeply rooted. 

Congress can lead the way by adopting the Rankin-Chisholm rule for its own hiring (a “Rooney Rule” for the Representatives), and by encouraging members to practice #CampaignEquity when they run for re-election.  

3. Make our nation’s first civil rights law a more effective tool for racial justice, so it can work to close the racial wealth gap, ensure real equal access to credit, capital, employment and economic participation. Amending Section 1981 would enable it to live up to its promise.

4. Understand how building racial justice at work includes ensuring fair pay. As Pam shared in an online presentation last fall:

Make equity a top priority when you make decisions, take actions, design programs and measure results. Gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, or any aspect of your identity should not determine your outcomes in the workplace – including pay.

The Administration can do its part by reinstating and expanding pay data collection and reinvigorating equal pay enforcement – and by ensuring that we do not just talk about the gender pay gap. We must recognize and address pay gaps based on race and ethnicity and the particular impact of both on women of color.

5. Promote an inclusive workplace culture free of harassment, bias and discrimination – starting with the people who do the people’s work in our federal and state governments.  Assessing culture, ensuring inclusive policies and practices, and acting quickly to address disrespectful behavior before it becomes toxic should be standard practice. President Biden should consider an Executive Order directing all federal agencies to adopt effective initiatives to promote equal employment opportunity and inclusive workplaces, and revoking a series of anti-DEI actions from the fall.

At the end of the day, Cyrus’ observation from December of 2020 seems even more true in January of 2021: 

There is a moral case for diversity and inclusion. And there’s a business case: long-term value is tied to diversity and diversity is tied to innovation. But the last few years have told us there is a democracy case, too.

 

Working IDEAL provides trusted and innovative advice on inclusive workplaces, diverse talent, and fair pay. Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.

Authors: Pam Coukos and Cyrus Mehri

How to Build an IDEAL Campaign Workplace – So You Can Win with Integrity

We are just two weeks out from Election Day, and campaigns everywhere are in the final stages of getting out the vote.  It’s an intense time for campaign managers and their staff, who are working almost around the clock to bring their candidate successfully across the finish line.

How these last couple weeks play out could depend a lot on campaign equity, and how much a campaign values and supports the people they hired months ago to carry them to victory. On those campaigns where leadership has focused from the start on building a strong and inclusive culture — and aligning their workplace practices with the values they are fighting for on the trail — that final push can be a time of solidarity and dedication. But where leaders have enabled or ignored a toxic work culture, or simply neglected to establish the basic operational practices necessary to a functioning workplace, the strain of going all out to win can be a breaking point.

This is what we have learned in our work this cycle advising political campaigns and advocacy organizations: a commitment to campaign equity is a critical component of a winning strategy. Hiring and empowering a diverse staff can generate more innovative tactics and better advice on reaching all voters. Ensuring equity in your pay and practices can simplify your operation and increase staff dedication. An inclusive culture sustains the people power you will need to carry you through the constant challenges of a campaign environment.

But even more importantly, these approaches can help you win with integrity. If you are a progressive candidate, or a leader on a progressive campaign, it is not enough to fight for good policies and to champion racial and gender justice in public. You also need to make sure your own house is in order, and that you have the policies and practices that ensure the safety of your staff and volunteers and promote equity and inclusion in all your in-person and remote workspaces.

We put all of these ideas together in a #CampaignEquity Handbook. This resource for campaign professionals includes strategy checklists, sample policies and plenty of links to the research and experience that backs them up as best practices. It includes advice on building a harassment-free workplace, staffed by great hires and sustained by fair pay and a safe and inclusive culture.

Working IDEAL Campaign Equity Toolkit checklist excerpt

Checklist excerpt from the #CampaignEquity toolkit. Click on image to learn more.

When campaign leadership comes together after Election Day to understand what worked and what didn’t – the factors that carried them to victory and should inform their transition plans – we hope this can inform those conversations.  And as the next cycle begins, we believe this will be an essential resource.

Campaigns are workplaces too. Let’s put an end to the myth that overwork and toxic work environments just go with the territory and that diversity, equity and inclusion are just the extras you hope to get to at some point. Investing in #CampaignEquity can increase your chances of winning, and of doing it based on the values that brought you to this work in the first place.

DOWNLOAD THE TOOLKIT (PDF)


Working IDEAL provides trusted and innovative advice on inclusive workplaces, diverse talent, and fair pay.
Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.

Authors: Pam Coukos and Peach Soltis

10 Ways to Foster an Inclusive Workplace Culture

Many employers understand the importance of assessing their workplace culture and the need to promote inclusion. An inclusive workplace culture offers benefits to both employers and employees by fostering engagement, productivity, retention, and innovation. In an inclusive workplace, all employees are treated with respect and have an opportunity to contribute. An inclusive workplace accepts and values individual differences in race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, and disability. 

By contrast, exclusion in the workplace leaves workers feeling marginalized and devalued. Disrespectful behavior that goes unchecked can lead to a toxic environment, particularly when workers do not have sufficient options to report, address, and resolve workplace problems. This dysfunction in the workplace may cause talented employees to leave the organization. Exclusion can take many forms. Some employers fail to convey a commitment to organizational values. Employers may fail to set clear expectations about appropriate conduct. Gaps in policies, benefits, technology, and training can exacerbate internal problems. Employers may be unaware of problems with the workplace culture because they fail to seek feedback. 

To avoid these problems, employers can take concrete steps to promote inclusivity in meaningful ways. 

  1. Lead from the top. Leaders must visibly model respectful behavior and practice organizational values. Managers should promote inclusion at all levels and across all departments.
  2. Put clear expectations in writing. Employers can establish a code of conduct and recommit to organizational values. The strategic plan should promote inclusion, and the employer should periodically evaluate progress toward meeting stated goals. Job descriptions and performance evaluations can address responsibilities to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
  3. Seek input and value contributions from diverse talent. The organization must go beyond simply ensuring that it employs a diverse workforce. Everyone should have a seat at the table. Seeking out diverse perspectives helps to amplify marginalized voices. Working groups and teams should include a diverse cross-section of the workforce. 
  4. Assess the culture regularly, accept critical feedback, and take action to address concerns. Anonymous surveys, focus groups, and informal discussions can help to identify concerns about the workplace climate and potential solutions. Employers should ensure that a diverse cross-section of the workforce is involved in identifying problems and implementing responses. Inclusion should be a regular focus of discussion.
  5. Ensure that employees have accessible options to report, address, and resolve workplace problems. Managers may not be aware of problems that go unreported. Employees must have trusted and effective channels to report concerns.
  6. Ensure accountability. Employers must act quickly to address problems at all levels within the workplace.
  7. Update policies to use inclusive language and make the workplace more welcoming. For example, employers should review benefits policies to ensure equity for LGBTQ+ employees and offer opportunities for employees to provide the pronouns they use. 
  8. Build a culture of accessibility for applicants and employees with disabilities. Employees with disabilities should have access to any needed technology or other accommodations, but don’t wait to be asked. Make accessibility a regular part of planning for meetings, events and activities, and standard workplace practices.  
  9. Foster inclusivity in informal situations. Workers may feel excluded when it comes to social situations at the lunch table, at happy hours, or even in casual conversations. Employers can seek to disrupt office cliques through team building opportunities.
  10. Offer training that provides tools and skills to address problematic behavior. Employers should move away from compliance-focused training to ongoing and regular education that equips workers with the knowledge and skills to take action. For example, bystander intervention training can equip workers with methods to act as an ally in support of a colleague who faces harassment or bullying.

By taking concrete steps to promote an inclusive workplace culture, employers can build a stronger workforce.

Working IDEAL provides trusted and innovative advice on inclusive workplaces, diverse talent, and fair pay. Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.

Author: Sarah Crawford

Support the Call to Dismantle Systemic Racism

By Pamela Coukos

Here at Working IDEAL, our work is national but our home is Washington, DC. We support the thousands who are gathering in the streets of DC and across the nation to demand justice that is long overdue. The government must respect the rule of law and the right of all to freely assemble and be heard.

Our mission is to help organizations build more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplaces. That requires changing the workplace culture, by addressing the structures and practices that can enable privilege and perpetuate racism and injustice.

We support the call to dismantle systemic racism in our police departments, our workplaces, and our national culture. We recommit to the work of transforming systems and practices to ensure equity and justice for all.

COVID-19 Resources for Employers and Employees

By Sarah Crawford

Working IDEAL has compiled a resource guide for employers and employees regarding implications of the coronavirus for the workplace. This guide provides links to resources offered by federal agencies (included resources in Spanish), state and local governments, and public interest organizations that explain legal obligations and best practices for employers and legal rights and benefits for workers. 

Recent legislation provides relief for employers and employees. The CARES Act provides enhanced unemployment benefits for workers and forgivable loans to small business owners to continue to pay employees and cover certain costs under the Paycheck Protection Program. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expands workers’ rights to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave. 

The Center for Disease Control released guidance for employers to prevent the spread of the virus. The guidance encourages employers to actively encourage sick employees to stay home, identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work, separate sick employees, educate employees about how they can reduce the spread of COVID-19, identify a workplace coordinator, implement flexible sick leave policies and practices, assess essential functions, determine how to operate if absenteeism spikes, consider establishing policies and practices for social distancing, etc.

The Department of Labor has released guidance relating to workplace safety, expanded sick leave and family and medical leave rights, unemployment benefits, etc.

The EEOC has provided updated technical assistance, including a pre-recorded webinar, that addresses the Americans with Disabilities Act and what information employers may request from employees who call in sick, when employers may take employees’ temperature, whether employers may require employees to stay home if they have symptoms, and whether employers may require doctors’ notes certifying fitness for duty upon employees’ return to work. 

In addition to reviewing these federal resources, employers and employers should review applicable state and local legislation and programs regarding unemployment benefits, paid sick leave, workers’ compensation, teleworking, identifying “essential” workers, etc.