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How to Promote Equality in the Workplace

The 2016 Presidential Election has come and gone, but the issues that were discussed by the candidates remain relevant. One in particular that found its way into the spotlight this election was equality.

With one female candidate and another candidate with allegations against him as being sexist, there was a lot of discussion about equality in the workplace. The metaphorical glass ceiling became a focal point for many discussions during the debates, in political commercials, and among social circles nationwide.

Regardless of the winner of the election, the concerns that rose to the surface during the first three-quarters of 2016 deserve to be addressed. The big question now becomes, how can we promote equality in the workplace so that everyone has the opportunity to succeed regardless of color, race, or gender?

How to Promote Equality in the Workplace

Start With Your Hiring Practices

The first step to promoting equality in the workplace is taking a more holistic approach to your recruitment and hiring practices. There are a few ways you can update these practices to remove prejudice and set up your team for success.

First, recognize where you’re hiring your employees. What are the needs of the area? How well does your employee base reflect the community where you live?

There are a few reasons why this is important to consider. Not only do you want to match your consumer’s needs but you also want your employees to feel as comfortable as possible in their new place of employment. By building a more diverse workforce that reflects the areas where you serve, you’ll bring in a more diverse workforce, which in turn will inspire equality among all people inside and outside of your firm.

Recruit in New Areas

To revitalize your hiring practices and reach new demographics of employees (and reach new demographics of consumers), try spreading your recruitment roots to new areas of the community.

For example, reach out to new organizations in your area. Talk to a variety of groups in your area to try to find top talent from all walks of life, such as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Women Business Owners, or the Black Chamber of Commerce.

You can also start attending other types of job fairs to find top talent. Diversity fairs encourage people from all walks of life and backgrounds to attend. This can help you cast a wider recruitment net and bring in a more diverse workforce.

Freshen Up Your Employee Evaluation Process

It’s easier to recruit employees than it is to retain them. Once you’ve expanded your recruitment process, you’ll also want to freshen up your employee evaluation process.

Often, the tools companies use to measure employee productivity and success are antiquated. These tools usually rely on one person (the direct manager) to evaluate an employee’s performance, which can result in an unconscious bias against a person.

To overcome this unintended discrimination, deploy a system of checks and balances when it comes to employee evaluation. Actively involve senior management in the evaluation process. Or, use as much data as possible to score each team member.

Sometimes, when evaluation or reprimand revolves around behavioral issues, this is difficult. In this case, be sure that multiple people are present. You might want to invite someone in from the HR department to help deliver the feedback honestly and fairly without risk of unintended discrimination.

Recognize Where You’re Sending Your Employees

It’s common to send your employees out to network with the community. Sometimes, this can make some employees feel uncomfortable – particularly females.

Women are often sent to engage in male-dominated activities or in male dominated organizations. This can have an adverse effect making the women of the group feel uncomfortable in their settings.

Give your employees an out. If a woman feels like she’s being harassed at certain networking events, don’t send her. Find another organization or event for her to attend where she feels more comfortable. Letting employees find their own networking groups to be a part of, and engage in, can help with this.

Be More Flexible with Everyone’s Work Hours

One of the biggest struggles that plagues the workplace is work/life balance. Some younger employees feel that they’re working longer hours than their older team members (and in some cases, that’s true). Many women are being unfairly judged because of the time they take off for maternity leave or to care for sick children. Men are also being unfairly judged for asking for paternity leave or to be with their kids.

This has caused a rift between single and childless workers. This rift came to a head when one woman published an article in the New York Post recently, asking for all the perks of maternity leave without having kids.

It seems the balance to a more family-friendly workplace has left some people feeling unequal to their peers. As employers, it’s important to swing that pendulum back closer to the middle.

Although the idea of giving maternity leave to every employee is a bit far-fetched, you can be more cognizant of the time you’re giving to parents versus non-parents. Likewise, it’s important to reward hard work. If an employee puts in 80-hour workweeks in an effort to get a promotion, that extra work should be recognized and rewarded. Trying to remain too equal among all employees can alienate employees and take away from productivity.

Creating Your Equal Opportunity Policy

As we roll into 2017, it’s a good idea to take a look at your current office standards and build out a new policy for equal opportunity in your workplace.

  • Can your hiring practices use a refresher?
  • Are you looking in the right places to diversify your workforce?
  • Where can you remove the risk of unconscious bias in employee evaluations?
  • Can you add more flexibility for everyone, by rewarding hard working employees and giving extra time away from the office for their families, giving the time they need?

It’s a constant balancing act but with a little bit of finesse you can diversify your workplace and make everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sex, feel like an equal. And by doing that, you will help continue to promote equality while overcoming some of the deep issues that came to light in 2016.

Image: Business workplace technology office equality concept


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Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine's Top 500 Software Companies 2004-2007 and again in 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2016. http://www.schedulebase.com

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