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Evolving Company Culture: Best Practices For Inclusive Hiring With ‘Diversity As The Outcome’

Companies should focus on “culture add,” not “culture fit” when diversity is a hiring goal, said Dr. Rebecca Baumgartner, VP of Human Resources for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, at the Women of the Channel West 2022 event.

Inclusion is the goal, diversity is the outcome. That’s the biggest message that Dr. Rebecca Baumgartner, Vice President of Human Resources for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, wants organizations to remember when hiring, onboarding, and retaining team members.

Workplaces that focus on inclusion allow its people to bring up new ideas and innovate. On the flip side are the organizations that are simply bringing on people of different races, orientations, genders or backgrounds and forcing those people to fit into the existing company culture for the sake of diversity, Baumgartner said. That approach isn’t working. It’s not encouraging to prospective employees considering your company, and it’s not making its current staff feel especially valued for who they are and what they can bring to the table that’s unique. And it’s not only the company’s top leaders that need to be concerned about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) when bringing on new employees. Even individual contributors and those in non-managerial roles can model inclusive behavior that can start to affect change, Baumgartner said.

While many companies are genuinely interested in being more inclusive, there are challenges that stand in the way, including long-held beliefs and company cultures. At The Channel Company’s Woman of the Channel West 2022 event, Baumgartner shared why bias is natural and what individuals can do to acknowledge their own biases, how it can slip into the recruitment process, how to make onboarding a more inclusive experience, and what everyone can do to shift the overall company culture so that all employees feel like valued members of the team.

Here’s the tips Baumgartner shared to help companies view inclusion as the goal and diversity as the outcome.

Institutional Bias

Everyone is biased -- that’s just how human brains work. At any given time, we’re faced with more than 300 stimuli, but we can only process about 40 at a time. We create shortcuts to help us make quick decisions. If you have a brain, Baumgartner said, you’re biased.

When a company is targeting diversity, they haven’t actively changed anything -- they are just maintaining the status quo and forcing new individuals to assimilate and fit into the already existing boxes. Companies should focus on “culture add,” not “culture fit,” Baumgartner said. Employees shouldn’t feel like they have to cover, or downplay parts of their identity to fit in, she said, remembering a time during her career when she had to cover when she worked on a team with all men.

“I stopped wearing heels and bright colors and stopped wearing as much makeup. I behaved more like they did -- more dominant - I even slowed down my cadence and lowered the pitch of my voice so men would feel more comfortable around me and listen to me. I was covering to fit in. Even though I had great ideas, I couldn’t express them - I had no physiological safety, and that’s really important,” she said.

Recruiting

Organizations need to remember while recruiting that 62 percent of people will turn down a job if they don’t feel the organization is inclusive, Baumgartner said. Even with great diversity hiring initiatives in place, the people you are targeting won’t want to work for you if these companies don’t take a look at their current culture and address what biases may already exist. A legal firm that hires women but only for paralegal roles, for example, or a company that assumes one of the women on-staff will wash the dishes in the breakroom, Baumgartner said.

Oftentimes, even a company with diversity in its ranks still has a homogeneous leadership team and people are paying attention. Prospective employees are looking at the “About Us” pages on a company’s website to see what the leaders look like. The emerging workforce, including Gen Z, “are not messing around,” she said. They are looking at social media posts from the companies that interest them and what the leaders are saying, and they are looking for diversity statements high up and prominent – not hidden in a menu – on organizations’ websites. “That’s valuable real estate. If you’re willing to put that out there, you really value [DEI],” Baumgartner said.

Prospective employees are also contacting people that used to work for the company and those that still do to get more information about the culture. “There’s no hiding,” she said.

Onboarding

Today’s workforces are looking for three basic things from their jobs. The first is authenticity: They want to feel like they can show up as themselves at work without fear of retaliation and discrimination. The second is flexibility – the ability to get their job done from anywhere – with a schedule that makes sense to them to provide high-quality work. The last is purpose: People want to feel connected to the bigger picture of the organization and that they’re working toward a shared goal.

Increasing diversity and inclusion shouldn’t just be the goal for any company. Rather, DEI needs to be embedded in every single part of the company, including in the interactions and behaviors of its leaders, co-workers, clients and end customers, Baumgartner said.

Prospective employees aren’t just looking for sponsorship programs with the goal of advancing women or people of color, for example. “It’s how are [employees] being treated on a day-to-day basis,“ she said. That starts at every step along the employment process and especially in the beginning. Twenty-six percent of employees will leave their jobs within the first 45 days. To combat this, organizations should extend their ”onboarding“ process from three months to one year, Baumgartner said.

“Think about the relationship you’re building. You’re showing them you care and giving them time to adjust. You’re not just throwing them to the wolves to start producing right away. You are here to help them understand and answer their questions,” she said.

What You Can Do

Culture is basically a set of policies and processes based on assumptions and norms. But sometimes, some employees or people in leadership positions are swimming in the culture for too long and don’t see the systemic issues. “They’ve gone nose-blind to the culture,” Baumgartner said. “If you’re continuing to see fish die in a pond, you don’t say: ‘Damn, don’t those fish know how to [be] fish? What’s wrong with the fish?’ You know it’s something in the water. And everyone has to fix the water.” 

The workplace is more than just work. It’s lunchtime, happy hours, and casual conversations and interactions. That’s why it’s important no matter where a person is in the organization, they realize their role to play in creating and changing the culture, she said.

“You have a right and responsibility to challenge and question. Question what’s going on. Build a community of allies to help you make change. You are not powerless.”

 

 

 

 

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