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HR, Remember the ‘I’ in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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A recent report from ADP Research finds that whites are more likely to feel a stronger connection to work than people of color.

American organizations are making noticeable strides to deliver diversity, equity, and inclusion gain in the workplace—though, admittedly, not entirely diverse and equitable: Many still struggle with the inclusion portion.

“We don’t really have a reliable way to know if we’re getting any better with the I [for inclusion] and if we’re getting any better where people are being seen and valued for all,” Marcus Buckingham, head of ADP Research Institute–People + Performance, said this week during ADP’s virtual Inclusion Summit panel session titled “Inclusion at Work: Knowing Where We Stand and How We Can Do Better.”

To combat that challenge, in his “Measuring the I in DEI” report, Buckingham and his team crafted 12 questions to ask American workers about their feelings of connection to work and sorted the responses into three categories: strong connection at work (21%), neutral connection (68%) or not connected (11%).

Researchers also found the following:

  • White respondents are twice as likely as Black, Indigenous, and people of color to be strongly connected at work.
  • People who do not identify as LGBTQ are twice as likely to be strongly connected at work compared to those who do.
  • 21% of women reported a strong connection at work, which was the same figure as men.

“People who are connected at work are not connected because of the great gear or swag they get from the company. They’re connected to other people,” noted Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP.

Fostering those connections means a greater emphasis on inclusion, Buckingham said. In order to grow inclusion in DE&I efforts, HR leaders have to align these efforts to the business’ needs.

“We’ve got to tie this to the opportunity that we see in front of us as an organization, and we’ve got to hold people accountable for it,” said Bob Lockett, chief diversity and talent officer at ADP.

HR leaders need to make DE&I part of compensation practices and convince business leaders that this is tied to the company’s overall success. Leaders must realize that American families are increasingly diverse, and this has a profound impact on the workforce, said Richardson.

“The consumer is growing in its diversity and, to serve that market, you need people at the table who know what that market is about. Businesses need to know their customers,” she said. “And that means having a connected workforce.”

Ultimately, Lockett said, HR has a responsibility to push senior leaders to make inclusion a significant focus of their DE&I work.

“[HR should] help an organization see their future and focus on what the possibilities are and where the markets might be. Let’s take all of the data and the insights—but then you’ve got to take action,” he said.

Buckingham admitted that a “silver bullet” to solve inclusion issues does not exist.

“[However,] with a deeper understanding of the psychological ingredients of feeling connected at work and how connection feeds into the ‘I’ of DE&I, we will have some way of understanding those ingredients,” he said.

Phil Albinus is HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology, and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children. He can be reached at palbinus@lrp.com and followed on Twitter @philalbinus.

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Even before President Biden announced an executive order in September mandating workplace vaccinations and/or testing nationwide, one company, Qualtrics was already at work helping employers ensure that workers  – and by extension customers – were being protected from the COVID-19 virus.

Founded in 2002 by Ryan, Jared, and Scott Smith in the family’s basement, Qualtrics, whose software platform helps employers improve the customer and employee experience,  recently asked more than 1,000 employees across the country about their attitudes toward vaccine mandates, and how comfortable they feel returning to everyday activities.

While 60% of workers said they would support a vaccine mandate at work, only 34% said their employers required vaccines or would do so in the future. Plus, almost a quarter of employees (23%) would strongly consider leaving their place of work if their employers mandated vaccines – so the turnover risk is real.

To help employers manage evolving vaccine and testing mandates at work, Qualtrics’ launched its Vaccination & Testing Manager, a new product that securely and easily captures information about employees’ vaccination status as well as conducts daily symptom checks.

According to Benjamin Granger, an organizational psychologist and head of the employee experience advisory services at Provo, Utah-based Qualtrics, the solution is designed to be flexible, so that employees can use it via text, email, QR code — however and wherever it is convenient for them.

The technology guides employees through an automated workflow that asks them to verify their vaccination status and allows them to upload a photo of their vaccination card, test results, or proof of exemption. The solution also includes a daily symptom checker to help prevent potential outbreaks.

With the announcement of federal mandates in the U.S., employers nationwide suddenly were faced with a challenge they’ve never faced before. What makes this new solution unique is that it’s so flexible and easy to implement, it can be pivoted to meet people’s needs and adapt to changing circumstances.

“Employers need systems they can implement quickly to comply with these mandates,” Granger says. “We offer an agile system that enables companies to efficiently and securely collect information about their employees’ vaccination status. So far, our solution has been implemented in under a week on average.”

The Vaccination & Testing Manager features language and questions pre-built into the tool that employers can leverage in order to quickly implement the solution. They have the option of either using the pre-built questions or customizing the language used in the solution based on their preferences.

One customer, Louisiana State University, leveraged Qualtrics to create a scalable, automated program that allowed their institutions to ask students, faculty, and staff about their symptoms daily and perform contact tracing. Soon after, they expanded their use of the program to include COVID-19 testing scheduling and vaccine management.

According to Keena Arbuthnot, Special Advisor to the President on COVID & Joan Pender McManus Distinguished Professor of Education, the top priority, naturally, is keeping the LSU faculty, staff, and students safe and healthy.

“The Qualtrics system has provided a flexible and efficient solution that makes it easy for our campus community to report their vaccination or Covid-19 testing status,” she says.

The city of Sacramento, CA also has been actively leveraging Qualtrics’ Vaccination & Testing Manager to help keep track of employee vaccination status. And Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon needed a quick, easy way to ask students about any symptoms they may be experiencing and track who should and should not be on campus. It also needed a program that indicated on a class-by-class level which students were cleared to be there based on the daily symptom check.

“With Qualtrics, Mt. Hood is able to give every professor a visual dashboard that indicates which students are cleared to be in class on a given day and which aren’t — empowering teachers to keep their classrooms safe,” Granger says.

A two-part response for success

As effective as the Vaccination & Testing Manager has been with Qualtrics customers so far, any tech-based solution for this complicated issue requires a proper, effective messaging strategy, according to Granger.

He says the challenge is that taking an “our way or the highway” approach likely will result in a major missed opportunity for employers. That type of mindset can work against other efforts employers are making to help their employees feel like they belong within the company. Plus, an organization that doesn’t take the time to understand how their employees feel about the vaccine, ask about their concerns, and then act on that feedback to create a better experience,  is making a crucial mistake – one that could cost them in higher attrition rates.

“Employers have a legitimate shot of losing people by doing this the wrong way,” he says. “That’s the big piece our team has been focusing on: How do we communicate this program successfully?”

To help make that happen, Qualtrics actively works with customers before any vaccination and testing program is rolled out.

Active employee listening programs are the best way to determine what people are thinking within an organization. That way, employers can determine which groups are resistant to vaccination or testing requirements – an important step because that allows them to target specific employee groups who may have a negative point of view.

“You can target messaging campaigns toward those employees, to try to get them either on board or at least make them know they were heard,” Granger says. “Even if the decision doesn’t go their way, by acknowledging their voice was heard, they will sense that you empathize with them.”

Even if the outcome – in this case, being vaccinated, tested regularly, or looking for another job opportunity – wasn’t what they wanted, if they feel like the process the company went through was thorough and fair, they will feel more positive about their employer.

“When it comes to vaccine mandates, the ‘how’ is just as important as the ‘why.’ By first understanding the needs and wants of each unique workforce, employers will put themselves in a much better position when implementing and communicating these new policies,” Granger says.