There’s Both An “i” and a “u” in Inclusion

diverse teams

Have you ever relocated to a different part of the country?  If so, you will likely notice what I like to call ‘regional differences’.

I have lived in the Northeast, Midwest, and the South.  And while it’s unfair to generalize and paint everyone with the same broad brush, there are definite differences in how people speak (and I don’t mean accents) and interact and engage with you.  Folks in the Northeast are quick and fast-paced, while the cadence is somewhat slower in the South.  You’ll find people holding doors open for you in the Midwest and South (and expect you to do the same) and not so much in the Northeast.

People in the Midwest may make eye contact and say ‘hi’ to you as they pass by, while those in the South will always make eye contact and say ‘hey’ to you (unless, of course, they’re mad at you).   🙂

The State of the Workplace

Being a student of psychology, I notice these ‘regional differences’ in the workplace.  Beginning with the interviewing process, it’s helpful to try to ‘flex’ and align one’s  approach a bit so the out of area applicant will feel welcome and comfortable.  If the person is hired and relocates here, meet with them and see how they’re faring.  It’s definitely helpful if the transplant has friends or family in the area, and also ‘reaches out’ to others.  By doing so, they can usually find some level and means of connection in their community.  Fellow transplants can be more receptive to meeting new folks as they are (or were) also new themselves.

Recently, while doing some research for a talk I plan to give on employee retention, I learned that HR folks (OK, I’m guilty) and organizations who attempt to screen applicants for cultural fit may be wasting their time.  Mark A. Stein and Lilith Christensen in ‘SuccessfulOnboarding‘ say “…while ‘hiring for fit’ is important, people are actually quite adaptable.  What people share in common far exceeds the differences that divide them.”  Those words got me thinking, as they’re not currently in vogue.

Our goal is to find ways to capitalize on these ‘shared commonalities’ and that’s where opportunities for inclusion comes in.

Today’s workplaces are different from those of the past.  Not only might we employ  people hailing from different parts of our state or country, but we’re starting to see five generations in our workplaces.  And while on the surface these appear to be good things, disagreements and differences of opinion will arise in our mini melting pots – after all, we’re only human.  When both people can candidly talk about any disagreement and  commit to make some changes and ‘meet in the middle’, it usually results in a satisfactory resolution being reached.

Build Social and Emotional Connections

While organizations offer diversity & inclusion training to help raise employees’ awareness of their differences, the real benefits are realized when the many traits we have in common are identified and leveraged.  And how does that happen?  When work teams comprised of folks with different perspectives feel valued, appreciated, and included.  These types of teams respectfully challenge each other and the status quo, are catalysts for change, and are the engines that move their organizations forward.

Remember, there’s both an “i” and a “u” in inclusion.  Each of us should challenge ourselves to reach out and get to know someone who is different than ourselves.  I’m confident that both you and the other person will be glad you did.

Good luck.

the HRMeister

What To Wear To Work

Jerene-June-2017-casual-clothes-123RF-700x420

Photo / 123RF

Casual Dress Trend Continues

A perennial topic faced by HR and line folks alike in many organizations revolves around your organization’s dress code or personal appearance policy.  I can almost see your heads nodding and your eyes rolling.

We no sooner think (or convince ourselves) that everyone is on the same page, when HR (typically) is informed that someone is wearing what might be considered beach attire or worse.

Where are dress code policies headed these days?

A recent survey by Robert Half Finance & Accounting revealed that 74% of CFOs said their accounting and finance departments have a somewhat or very casual dress code. Nearly a quarter (23%) observed that business attire guidelines have relaxed over the last five years, compared to 16% who reported a more formal dress environment.

A similar survey by OfficeTeam have found that 56% of employees preferred to wear a more relaxed work attire, and most employees (86%) reported they like casual dress codes because they can wear more comfortable clothes.

However, about one in four respondents (23%) said their company policy isn’t always clear about what attire is acceptable, and 41% admitted they’re at least sometimes unsure about whether clothing is office-appropriate. Hence, to eliminate that uncertainty, nearly half (48%) choose to don a uniform.

What should one do?

A Three Point Answer

Here’s a three-point answer to consider (all three points are equally important).  First, check to see if you have a dress code or personal appearance policy.  If not, you might contact your HR rep and inquire about creating one.  No HR rep?  No worries – you can easily draft it yourself.  There are plenty of sample templates you can use as your starting point.  Google ‘sample dress code policy’ or visit http://www.shrm.org.

List which articles of clothing are and are not acceptable.  Include pictures of what is and is not appropriate to wear to work.  Try to eliminate or at least minimize the guesswork around this topic.

You will be in a stronger position to affect some change if you have a policy which supports the business casual dress policy (if that’s your intended policy).  Second, you will need to rally your fellow leaders to your cause.  Unless you are all on the same page, you won’t have a leg to stand on.  Third, then you and your fellow leaders need to agree to enforce the policy – and figure out ‘who’ will enforce the policy.  Consider each employee’s immediate supervisor.  A good policy should outline the consequences for non-compliance.  For example, if a leader informs her employee that he is not dressed according to the dress code, she could send him home to change.  In some organizations, doing this also triggers a ‘tardy’ or an ‘absence’ which may be a ‘chargeable’ occurrence (a double whammy), which serves as a deterrent.

Again, the ‘consequence(s)’ need to be spelled out in your policy and communicated to all employees in advance.

Final piece of advice on policy enforcement: if your policy is not enforced, then why have it to begin with?

Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam states, “Besides following official company policies, employees should pay attention to the wardrobes of managers and colleagues. If you’re uncertain about whether it’s ok to wear something to work, it’s best to play it safe by skipping it.”

Something else to consider is that there may be some ‘generational’ implications/perceptions.  Some organizations’ cultures stress more ‘inclusiveness’ than others, and, as such, more casual dress may be viewed by some as a way to express their individuality, thereby providing the organization with an opportunity to exercise more inclusiveness.

And naturally, a personal appearance policy would be incomplete without mentioning your organization’s stance toward tattoos and body piercings.

A litmus test we could all ask ourselves is, ‘What’s in the best interest of our customers?’ If we truthfully and thoughtfully answer this question, it likely will influence us to make the right call.

Good luck.

the HRmeister