Leaders from Paycom and The Kraft Group explain how they use technology to improve the employee experience

Speakers at our Insider event, Transforming HR in the Digital Era
Insider’s Aman Kidwai speaks to Miranda Blaiklock (c) from Kraft, and Holly Faurot from Paycom

  • Employers have a responsibility to hollistically support employees.
  • Executives from Paycom and The Kraft Group shared their thoughts on the role of technology in improving the employee experience.
  • The conversation took place at the Insider event “Transforming HR in the Digital Era” on June 15, 2021.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the event.

Miranda Blaiklock knows HR teams didn’t have a playbook for handling the people and business challenges during the pandemic.

Chief among those challenges is the responsibility to holistically support employees, said Blaiklock who is the director of benefits, compensation, and HR information systems (HRIS) at The Kraft Group.

“The blur between working nine-to-five has really changed in this new model,” Blaiklock said, speaking at an Insider event on Tuesday.

This goal of holistically supporting workers taught HR teams to invest in technology that can help make employee’s lives easier. For example, Blaiklock said the company recently added a tool that allows employees to clock in for work or log PTO from their phones. It works just like consumer technology, she added.

Holly Faurot, chief sales officer at Paycom, noted this trend as well. Over the course of the pandemic, she said “employees had an increased amount of interaction with consumer technology. We were utilizing apps more than ever last year.”

This increased use of technology in their personal life may be changing expectations for the tech they use at work.

“Employees are coming back into the workplace now with that same type of expectation,” Faurot said. “They want to have the same type of experience that they’ve had with Amazon or maybe their local pizza place. That’s something that companies need to realize. There’s a very, very low tolerance of complexity for employees.”

Using data and feedback to make decisions

Another way The Kraft Group monitors employee satisfaction with technology is through a digital experience score provided through Paycom. The experience score is a measure of how their HRIS are performing, she explained.

“It is a little bit like a game, so just after each month we just take it just like the Patriots just won a game,” she said, referring to the NFL team whose operations are run by the Kraft Group. “We go and look at our game film and the DDX score and see how we could do it better next month, so it’s been a great tool for us and from a process improvement standpoint. It’s really been a game changer.”

Blaiklock also uses HRIS data to make the business case for different employee decisions, such as changing schedules or offering more flexibility. Data helps Blaiklock make the case to finance when they insitute a new workplace policy.

“I think that most HR teams really have to straddle that line of being both the employee, advocate, but also wearing the business hat and I think the challenge with that is being able to speak the same language,” she said.

From Faurot’s perspective, employee data provides plenty of feedback for business leaders to act on. She recommends employers take the time to look closely at how employees are using the technology and even run focus groups.

“Make it easy, lower the complexity and you’re going to see a huge return on that investment,” Faurot said.

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How the HR chief at Restaurant Brands International holds all of its executives accountable for diversity and inclusion

Jeff Housman
Jeff Housman is chief people and services officer at Restaurant Brands International.

  • Jeffrey Housman is chief people and services officer at Restaurant Brands International.
  • Housman has made DEI a priority. All senior executives are now held accountable for DEI goals.
  • Food service overall has a diversity problem. People of color are often concentrated in lower ranks.
  • This article is part of our “HR Insider” series about HR leaders and their noteworthy strategies.

The value of human resources at Restaurant Brands International has always been “pretty clear” to Jeffrey Housman.

But the pandemic made Housman appreciate even more the “role HR can play in supporting people,” he said.

RBI is a 6,300-person company whose brands include Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes. About 100 restaurants belong to RBI (most restaurants within RBI brands are owned by franchisees). Housman, RBI’s chief people and services officer, joined RBI from Burger King Corporation in 2016 and has climbed the ranks since. Housman was named one of Insider’s 2021 HR Innovators.

When he took on his current role, in 2019, Housman led RBI in doubling down on its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Now every senior executive is responsible for cultivating DEI and for making RBI a place where all employees can do their best work.

The foodservice industry overall has been criticized for its lack of diverse representation at the top. According to a 2014 report from the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, ethnic and racial minorities represent 50% of all hourly employees, compared to 31% of general managers. The report looked at 60 brands, including Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, but didn’t include Restaurant Brands International.

RBI has publicly recognized the challenges. A statement published on RBI’s website in July 2020 read, “We acknowledge that we do not have enough diverse employees in our company and in leadership positions,” adding that, “By openly acknowledging our shortcomings, we are creating urgency for action.”

RBI makes DEI every executive’s responsibility

One of the first DEI initiatives Housman’s team spearheaded was a change to the interview process. RBI hiring managers now ask job candidates in their first interview what diversity means to them, and how they’d champion diversity if they joined the team.

And at least 50% of all candidates in the final interview round must be “from groups that are demonstrably diverse, including race.” This goal is tied to bonuses for the entire leadership and executive team at RBI. Chipotle, McDonald’s, and Starbucks have also said they’re linking diversity targets to executive compensation.

Housman’s team accelerated their efforts to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace in 2020, a year in which many business leaders vowed to address systemic discrimination in their workplaces.

RBI released a diversity report that highlighted where the organization was falling short. Leadership, for example, was mostly white and male. Thirty percent of senior leaders were women – an improvement from the year prior – and about 43% of senior leaders were non-white. RBI’s total workforce included 40% women and 47% non-white employees.

Housman’s team led other efforts around inclusion in 2020. Leadership talked about subconscious bias in staff-wide meetings and ramped up training around implicit bias.

Housman is cautiously optimistic that RBI will be able to achieve its DEI goals. “We still have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be,” he said. “But in 2020 we acted on our D&I strategy and made really good progress.”

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How the first diversity lead at Uber and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign cultivates inclusion at HR tech company Gusto

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bernard coleman
Bernard Coleman III is chief diversity and engagement officer at Gusto.

  • Bernard Coleman III is chief diversity and engagement officer at 1,400-person HR tech company Gusto.
  • Coleman was previously the first diversity lead for Uber and for a US presidential campaign.
  • At Gusto, Coleman spearheaded the RISE program to get employees talking about social justice.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bernard Coleman III calls HR the “operational glue” that holds together every piece of an organization.

Coleman is the chief diversity and engagement officer at HR tech company Gusto. He was also the first chief diversity and HR officer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Uber’s first global head of diversity and inclusion.

He joined Gusto, which employs more than 1,400 people and is valued at almost $4 billion, in January 2020. That was just months before the coronavirus pandemic hit the US and before a widespread reckoning among business leaders around racial inequity. Coleman was tasked with building effective diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and creating an environment where employees could do their best work.

Coleman says HR’s role is to help people have the best possible work experience

Two decades ago, Coleman started his career in politics. When he joined the Society for Human Resources Management as a state affairs specialist, he was inspired to learn more about a career in HR.

“My goal has always been to help people,” he said. He pursued politics because it seemed like the most effective way to reach the maximum number of people. “But in HR,” he said, “you’re almost like this intermediary. A broker, if you will, helping people understand how to have the best possible experience in the workplace.”

Leading a DEI function excites him because he gets to participate in every part of the employee life cycle, which includes recruiting, employee engagement, advancement through the company, and retention. “An effective DEI program needs to be comprehensive in nature,” Coleman said. It must be “interwoven into every aspect of your business.”

DEI work took on new relevance after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Coleman spearheaded the launch of RISE, which stands for Representation, Inclusion, Social Impact, and Equity. Gusto began hosting weekly conversations in which employees could discuss social-justice issues in a safe space. And Coleman’s team at Gusto has trained hundreds of managers and individual contributors on how to build an inclusive and equitable workplace.

From the first time he meets a prospective hire, Coleman is thinking about how to make them feel like they belong. His favorite interview question is, “What must the organization provide in order for you to do your best?”

The candidate’s answer tells him “what type of environment the person needs to best succeed,” as well as “what type of manager I need to be,” Coleman said. “Ultimately my goal is to contribute to and help empower their long-term success.”

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How Zoom’s chief people officer handled unprecedented growth during the pandemic

Lynne Oldham
Lynne Oldham is the chief people officer at Zoom.

  • Lynne Oldham oversaw Zoom’s HR response during the pandemic.
  • The company started hiring for hundreds of openings to meet 30x increases in demand in March 2020.
  • Oldham brought in a new chief diversity officer who helped reshape the company’s equity efforts.
  • This article is part of a series highlighting high achievers in HR called “Most Innovative HR Leaders.”

There aren’t many companies or products that have been as central to the pandemic workplace experience as Zoom.

In a six-week period, the video meeting software went from 10 million daily meeting participants to 300 million, a 30 times increase that put chief people officer Lynne Oldham in a very complicated situation. She had to increase the employee headcount significantly while moving the entire company remote and meeting the needs of this skyrocketing demand. For these efforts, Oldham was also named one of Insider’s HR Innovators for 2021.

Over the past year, Zoom added new leadership in cybersecurity, engineering and product, and a chief diversity officer. It also made an acquisition of Keybase, further complicating the execution of Oldham’s workforce strategy as they added hundreds of new employees.

Oldham also had to keep pre-pandemic employees top of mind. These workers were tasked with handling the initial bursts of demand, as well as a sharp shift to remote work.

“Zoom’s workforce was only 15% remote pre-pandemic,” Oldham said. “This meant most Zoom employees were navigating a new work from home environment while also working long hours to keep the Zoom platform up, and make updates to address the needs of new users and educate new users.”

One of her first priorities was holistic support for employees, adding new mental health benefits and wellness offerings, which expanded from covering gym memberships to covering grocery and food delivery, home office furniture, and more.

Oldham and her team also created “Camp Zoomitude” for the children of Zoom employees. This summer program provided “camp-based” virtual activities three days a week and featured family sing-a-longs on Fridays.

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A screenshot from Camp Zoomitude, hosted by Jodi Rabinowitz, head of talent and organizational development at Zoom.

For newer employees, Oldham put a heavy emphasis on their digital onboarding program. Knowing they would be adding to their headcount significantly, Zoom leadership knew their onboarding needed extra attention. Oldham notes that today approximately a third of company employees are so new that they have never set foot in an office or met their coworkers.

Zoom announced the hiring of chief diversity officer Damien Hooper-Campbell in late May 2020. After George Floyd’s murder, Oldham facilitated an “all hands” town hall-style meeting to hear from employees on how they were feeling. In follow-up, executive leaders held additional listening sessions with Black employees to continue gathering feedback.

“Learning and education, we believed, were the key to making Zoom a more inclusive workplace,” Oldham said.

Continuing on the theme of education, Zoom launched ZoomTalks, a nine-part series of discussions on race in America completed in partnership with TIME and the University of Southern California where Hooper-Campbell was a co-host. Zoom also forged a five-year partnership with Claflin University, an HBCU, that will spend $1.2 million to provide internships, scholarships, technical support, strategy support, and more.

For Oldham, the main lesson from the pandemic was the responsibility for the holistic support of employees and the role that HR can play there.

“We are now all working through the cracks of life rather than just trying to live life through the cracks of work,” she said. “This means for the HR profession that social engineering will be more critical than ever. Understanding social capital and the nature of the remote workspace is going to be vital so that we can help create collaborative, innovative work cultures in the new remote/hybrid world.”

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Bank of America’s CHRO Sheri Bronstein shares how she led a crisis response for the bank’s 200,000 employees

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Sheri Bronstein
Sheri Bronstein, chief human resources officer at Bank of America.

  • Bank of America did not make any layoffs or reduce hours during the pandemic.
  • The bank retrained over 20,000 employees for new roles while 85% of the company worked remotely.
  • CHRO Sheri Bronstein shared her approach during this time and what she learned from the experience.
  • This article is part of a series highlighting high achievers in HR called “Most Innovative HR Leaders.”

The past year presented a completely new set of obstacles for Bank of America’s Chief Human Resources Officer Sheri Bronstein. When 85% of the bank’s 200,000-person staff went fully remote, Bronstein’s team was tasked with making sure workers felt secure financially, emotionally, and physically while working during the public health crisis.

“2020 led to more discussions and immediate actions among myself and fellow C-suite executives than ever before,” Bronstein told Insider.

Bronstein was named one of Insider’s 2021 HR Innovators for how her 2,600-person team supported workers over the past year. Bank of America did not make layoffs or reduce hours; instead, it increased its minimum wage to $20 an hour, expanded benefits for working parents, retrained 23,000 employees, and is making progress in representation and pay equity.

The financial services giant saw a decline in revenue during the pandemic but beat analysts’ expectations during its most recent earnings report. The bank’s stock price currently sits higher than its pre-pandemic peak and is on the rise after a promising Q1.

Investments in childcare, bonuses, and DEI

Bank of America provided $300 million in childcare reimbursement and an additional 10 days of backup child or adult care, on top of the 40 they already give, to every employee. Its $6 million relief fund provided grants to those with emergency financial hardships and regular coronavirus PCR tests were offered to employees working in offices or retail branch locations. The company also gave employees a one-time $750 bonus for their work during the pandemic.

Bronstein joined over 40 meetings with institutional investors to discuss the company’s workforce strategy including diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She shared her feedback from these meetings with Bank of America’s Board of Directors.

“This ongoing, two-way dialogue clarifies and deepens the Board and management’s understanding of shareholders’ concerns; in turn, I believe these conversations have led to increased transparency with a focus on workplace diversity and equal pay for equal work,” Bronstein said.

Bank of America has made some progress improving diversity among its ranks. Half of the bank’s global management team is diverse and 54% of the company’s campus hires in 2019 were people of color, according to its most recent Human Capital Management report.

The company also has a new analytics platform for tracking diversity that helps to hold managers and hiring teams accountable, Bronstein said.

In 2020, her team introduced new toolkits to help employees to hold conversations for the purpose of deepening their “understanding through self-education of people’s differences,” she explained. More than 165,000 employees participated in 320 of these conversations, which are meant to be a space for workers to share their experiences with inequity.

“I’ve found that two of the most important skills in HR are having empathy and understanding the power of listening,” Bronstein said. “More often, our society places value on what we project, rather than what we absorb. While there are endless elements of our current reality that we can’t control, I’ve found that the best way to empower our teammates during the pandemic is to create an open dialogue, listen, and acknowledge their concerns.”

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Dropbox’s HR chief dropped 5 hours of meetings a week she didn’t need to be in after the company let workers organize their own days to be more productive

Laura Ryan
Laura Ryan’s “non-linear” work day now consists of blocks for calls, following by a block for independent work.

  • After going “virtual-first”, Dropbox introduced “non-linear” workdays to let staff organize their schedules more.
  • International HR head Laura Ryan tells Insider how an audit of her calendar showed there were meetings she wasn’t adding value to.
  • “That wasn’t allowing for any ad hoc meetings, which certainly wasn’t allowing much work to get done.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Dropbox asked its 2,500 employees to audit their calendars to analyze whether there was anything they could cut, its international HR director Laura Ryan realized she “was in 15 hours of standing meetings a week, not adding value to any of those.”

“They had just built up over time. That wasn’t allowing for any ad hoc meetings, which certainly wasn’t allowing much work to get done,” Ryan told Insider.

The audit was the first step towards the “non-linear work day” that Dropbox began implementing in October, shortly after it announced it would shift to “virtual-first” working in which remote working was the default.

Teams define “core collaboration” hours for meetings and individuals are free to structure the rest of their day whenever they want.

This could be evening or early hours, whatever best suits when they function best and when they’re naturally inclined to sleep.

Under this system, Ryan, who is based in Dublin, Ireland, cut a third of the 15 hours of meetings she was in and re-thought her contribution to others.

Now, her day typically starts with preparation, breakfast and school drop-offs.

At 10 a.m., the first of her core collaboration hours begins, which are generally spent on calls. Between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. she is meeting-free and will respond to emails, work on documents, and take a walk.

She then goes back into collaboration mode, spending between 4 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on calls, with the occasional late international call.

Ryan said that, after employees do their calendar audit, they’re asked to block out the core collaboration hours needed.

Respecting other colleagues’ independent time by not requesting meetings outside collaboration hours – and equally not accepting meetings outside your own – was key, she added.

So is clearly communicating schedule preferences to others in the team so no one thinks a person has gone AWOL when actually they intend to be working from 8 p.m. to midnight that day.

Current company guidelines state that the “collaboration hours” should take place between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., to allow for some cross-time zone meetings.

Teams, however, can adjust these as required. The rest of the time is reserved for independent, focused work, and does not have to be during the traditional working day but any time the employee prefers.

Regardless of how someone cuts up their day, the idea was to move away from a mindset of “busy for the sake of it” to “impact,” said Ryan.

With office perks less of an attraction for future candidates, Dropbox will be emphasizing the policy in recruitment, Ryan said.

New employees will be able to discuss their preferred work pattern, be they early birds or night owls, with their line manager during their onboarding. Team meetings could be shifted earlier or later, as long as all are in agreement, Ryan added.

Some teams lend themselves to a work pattern outside of conventional hours naturally. Engineering teams, Ryan said, typically start and end later.

And any role that is not customer-facing, such as HR, or marketing and communications, could work well in a non-linear fashion.

Sales teams, for example, need to work more traditionally as most of the company’s customers are still working this way.

But Ryan said Dropbox’s sales teams have introduced a rotation system so staff can still do non-linear working hours on certain days.

Ryan said the company was willing to tweak the system as time goes on.

“We’re not going to get this right on day one, but we’ll figure it out together,” she added.

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Transforming Business poll shows that talent is a driver, and a product, of innovation

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  • Talent recruitment was cited as a top priority for innovation investment among companies polled for the Transforming Business series.
  • Companies are assimilating new approaches to talent in the pandemic.
  • Focus on social injustice and racial inequity have driven new commitments to DEI.
  • Visit Insider’s Transforming Business homepage for more stories.

Innovation depends on talent, and also attracts it. Business decision-makers polled by Insider report that talent is a top investment priority, and also that a major benefit of digital transformation is recruiting top talent.

Digital transformation has also made the talent picture in companies more complex. AI and other applications change the nature of some roles, and creates uncertainty in individuals unsure about how automation might impact them.

A new sense of urgency around DEI is also redefining priorities for many companies.

Culture of innovation

To drive transformation, business leaders have to source and keep the right talent, and to create a culture of innovation. The global pandemic changed, possibly for good, the way companies viewed remote work, and potential hires who might not be local. Chris Greenough, chief marketing officer at Everise, a Singapore-based company, said in an Insider interview that the pandemic had given the company access to a new range of talent.

“As work shifted to at-home, we were able to attract a different kind of worker,” he said. “We gained access to people who wanted a lifestyle change that didn’t involve office politics; older people who wanted a secondary income; people who wanted flexible hours; and disabled people who couldn’t commute and had previously been marginalized.”

A greater desier for flexibility has also driven hiring policy. “Talent, and in particular innovators, wants to shape their work environment around their life; offering a compelling place to work sometimes requires new strategies and added flexibility to respond to the needs of our employees,” said Karin Raguin, VP of talent management and corporate responsibility at LVMH. “This is what creates a genuine sense of safety and belonging where innovation and creativity can flourish.”

Raguin also says transformational talent needs to feel they can try new things without fearing dire consequences for failure. “Trial, testing, and sometimes failure are all key to developing innovative ideas,” she said, “so it must be clear to employees that they should aim for excellence, rather than perfection.”

Automation and upskilling

The global pandemic has increased the pace of automation, which creates uncertainty for some workers who might not see their skills translating to this new future. James Smith, UK managing director of AutoStore, a robotics company whose CEO, Karl Johan Lier was featured as a Transformer, told Insider that companies have a huge opportunity to upskill more traditional workers to keep the jobs, and maintain their company culture.

“Whether we like it or not, demand for businesses to be able to operate on multiple channels and platforms is increasing dramatically, and traditional ways of working and fulfilling demand can no longer keep up with this growth,” he said, adding that upskilling is central to this. “You can either follow the inevitable growth and evolution of technology or you risk becoming redundant as a business and as a professional.”

Increased urgency around DEI

The global focus on social justice and racial inequity has sparked a sense of increased urgency and focus around DEI practices and leadership. Kara Helander is the chief inclusion and diversity officer at the Carlyle Group, and one of this year’s Transformers, told Insider that the focus on these issues right now presents companies with an opportunity to drive meaningful change.

One of the initiatives rolled out by the Carlyle Group focuses on hwlping employees mitigage unconscous bias. “It’s not so much where you start, but are you taking concerted, tangible action to make change around it? That applies to us and it applies to the companies in our portfolio,” Helander said. “You don’t want people to not take action because they aren’t where they should be.”

With global vaccinations increasing, companies are beginning to look ahead and figure out their new normal, and ensure they have the right talent to drive growth in a changed world. “In the year ahead,” Ranguin said. “Whether businesses recover will be dependent on their talent and that talent’s ability to navigate uncertainty and drive innovation needed to rise beyond incremental challenges.”

This SurveyMonkey Audience poll targeted individuals who work in a management capacity at their company according to the Audience panel. They included respondents from Hong Kong (n=50), Singapore (n=50), The United States (n=207), Canada (n=104), France (n=52), the United Kingdom (n=51), Germany (n=50) and India (n=50), with local translations in Germany and France. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Polling data collected total of 614 respondents March 3-4, 2021.

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ADP has developed a workforce-diversity tool that lets you compare your company’s progress with others

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ADP’s new dashboard lets companies benchmark the diversity of their workforce.

  • ADP’s new DEI Dashboard lets companies break down data by ethnicity, gender, age, and disability.
  • Employers can also compare their company’s makeup to others in the same industry or region.
  • ADP told Insider that the dataset was the top-rated request by its clients.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

HR-tech company ADP has launched a new platform that lets employers compare their workforce’s diversity to similar companies.

The tool also lets companies see whether they’re retaining and promoting employees from marginalized communities at the same rate as others.

This development comes as the pandemic continues to widen healthcare, employment, and financial inequalities.

The World Economic Forum said closing the global gender gap would take an extra 36 years, due to the impact of the pandemic, during which 5% of all employed women lost their jobs, compared with 3.9% of employed men.

Meanwhile, staff have slammed BlackRock, McDonald’s, and Salesforce for their slow progress in improving workplace diversity – and DEI executives told Insider’s Marguerite Ward they’re burning out amid the billion-dollar push to diversify corporate America.

Read more: Verizon has pledged to spend 30% of its production dollars on minority-owned production companies, and has built a tool to vet its ads for bias

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Dashboard is part of ADP’s DataCloud and lets companies break down data by criteria including employees’ ethnicity, gender, age, disability, and veteran status.

ADP DEI Dashboard
ADP’s DEI Dashboard lets you track diversity trends over time.

ADP says the tool will help companies see the makeup of their employees and identify whether any diverse groups are underrepresented.

The software also lets companies benchmark themselves against similar organizations using what ADP says is one the largest available sets of real workforce data.

Jack Berkowitz, ADP’s senior vice president of product development, told Insider that this is the first time such large-scale benchmarking tools have been made widely available on the HR-software market.

ADP’s DataCloud lets employers select comparison companies by industry, size, or location. The data is aggregated to protect employees’ privacy.

As well as comparing DEI, the tool also lets companies compare organizational metrics like headcount, labor costs, and turnover. This lets employers see, for example, how their headcount by department compares to others in the same industry, or what percentage of total labor costs other companies in their region spend on sales and marketing.

Suzanne Harris, vice-president of human resources at IT-services company NexusTek and an ADP client, told Insider the company would use the tool to compare diversity data over time so that it can monitor trends and track progress.

And as well as looking at overall data, NexusTek plans on using the data to provide executives and managers with specific metrics related to their department and job functions, too.

Some companies, like The Carlyle Group, are going one step further by tying managing director promotions to inclusive leadership.

“There’s never been a time for people data to be more important,” Berkowitz said. He added that ADP evaluates around 400 software and tool requests from customers each year and a comparable EDI dataset was the top-rated request.

HR companies are responding to this growing demand for diversity data, too.

Website Glassdoor, for example, added a “diversity and inclusion rating” to its job-review system, and also lets job seekers compare pay and ratings by demographic groups.

Meanwhile, former college careers advisor Byron Slosar set up recruitment app Hive Diversity, which connects employers with a focus on DEI to college students from underrepresented communities.

Harris added, however, that it’s important to not just have a diversity approach reliant on checking boxes or meeting quotas.

“It is more important to us that all our employees, regardless of their background, feel included and valued and that we have a healthy culture that allows them to bring their authentic self to work each day,” she told Insider.

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Can No Jab Mean No Job?

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Many people are worried about their employment rights regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. We reached out to Amanda Hamilton, Chief Executive of the non-profit National Association of Licensed Paralegals, to help explain your rights and potential issues around refusing the vaccine.

There is no law in UK which requires mandatory vaccination, as much as some anti-vaxxers claim otherwise. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 devolves powers to Parliament to legislate in order to protect UK Citizens. The law enables Parliament to intervene in an emergency situation, such as the pandemic, and impose lockdowns and restrictions to protect citizens, but it cannot impose mandatory vaccinations. In other words, there is no power to make vaccinations mandatory.

This creates a plethora of issues, from human rights to equality, and balances them against the rights of others to be safe in their workplace. In addition, it raises issues around the possible criminal implications of forcing someone to be vaccinated against their will.

  1. Potential Criminal Implications
  2. Human Rights and Equality
  3. Can an Employee Be Dismissed for Refusing the Vaccine?
  4. A Safe Environment for Others
  5. A Reasonable Solution
  6. Does an Employee Have to Tell Their Employer?
  7. More Legal Articles

Potential Criminal Implications

Potential criminal implications of forcing a Covid-19 vaccine

The Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 s20 states that an unlawful wounding would occur if a person were forced to have a vaccination against their will. A wound means ‘a break of the skin’. This statute still remains in force today.

Human Rights and Equality

Compulsory medical treatment or testing is contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights meaning that it is a human right to refuse medical treatment if you wish to do so. Refusing medical treatment could be because of deeply held religious or other beliefs, and this brings into play the Equality Act 2010. This statute states an individual is protected from discrimination from nine possible characteristics including: age, disability, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sex.

So, an employer cannot force an employee to be vaccinated.

Can an Employee Be Dismissed for Refusing the Vaccine?

The short answer is no. If they were, then it would amount to an unfair dismissal and the employee could justifiably take the employer to an employment tribunal for discrimination. The case would be brought under the Equality Act 2010 in that the claimant’s refusal to be vaccinated is founded on a fundamental belief or on religious grounds. It would of course, be for the claimant to prove that she/he has such beliefs.

The situation would be the same if the claimant felt that they were being victimised, because of their belief, to such an extent that they felt that they could not continue being in the employ of the employer, and consequently, resigned. This would amount to constructive dismissal. The result being the same as if the employer had dismissed the employee – an employment tribunal case could ensue for unfair dismissal.

A Safe Environment for Others

Can an employee refuse the Covid-19 vaccine?

So how can an employer manage such a situation if there is a statutory duty to provide a safe environment for employees in the workplace? The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 places the responsibility on employers to protect the ‘health, safety and welfare’ at work of all employees and includes others on the premises such as temps, contractors and visitors.

This appears to be in contradiction to the premise that it is an individual’s right to refuse the vaccine. The only way to manage this is to impose certain guidelines on employees such as those we are all asked to follow during the current pandemic, e.g. social distancing, mask wearing and sanitising/hand washing etc.

Of course, all this does depend on job that an employee is employed to do. For example, working in an office environment, following government guidelines may work reasonably well. However, if the employee that is refusing to accept the vaccine is working in social care or in medical care with vulnerable patients, then the standards may change. Being on the front line in such a situation may well mean that refusal to be vaccinated may place those who have not yet been vaccinated (perhaps due to age, medical conditions, or access), as well as themselves, at risk.

A Reasonable Solution

In these circumstances, it may be prudent to find alternative work for the employee until it is safe for them to return. A reasonable solution such as this should be acceptable to an employee.

If the employee doesn’t find it acceptable, they might bring an unfair dismissal case against the employer on the basis of discrimination. A Tribunal hearing such a case weighs up the rights of the employee to refuse the vaccine, taking into account the nature of their work, the alternatives offered, and how many others would be put at risk. In other words, they would look at the situation and apply a test of reasonability.

Does an Employee Have to Tell an Employer?

If the employer can demonstrate that asking staff to be vaccinated is a reasonable management instruction, then asking them for this information will also be reasonable. However, just as you can’t force them to be vaccinated, you also can’t force them to reveal their vaccination status.

Again, equality laws will come into play if there is a risk that revealing their vaccination status will result in discrimination within the workplace.

If they do agree to tell, then this will constitute sensitive personal health data and the organisation will need to comply with GDPR. The same applies to information about who has not been vaccinated and why.

The best policy is one of clear communication. Employers should explain why they’d like staff to be vaccinated and why they’d like the information about their status. An employer should give the opportunity to discuss this privately and look at ways to mitigate the risks and offer alternative working options. This way, as an employer, you have done your best to provide the right working environment, have kept staff informed and engaged in the process and ultimately reduced the chances of a successful Tribunal claim, should it unfortunately come to that.

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Businesses need to reassess their workplace culture and technology as workers prepare to return to the office

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There’s no question that 2020 turned the workplace on its head. The start of the pandemic led companies to reconsider everything from their office layout to how they can foster a sense of community when a majority of team members are working from home.

Tom Vecchione, Principal at architecture and interior design firm Vocon, believes the pandemic has only made the concept of the office and what it represents to employees more powerful. Of the executives he works with, Vecchione says, “What they miss the most is the level of ambition the office created for their teams and their staff. It’s very much part of the emotional, inspirational aspect of what an office gives us and your teams.”

To get back that missing spark, and to address the larger question of the office and its role overall, companies are starting to reassess their relationship with urban real estate.

What’s influencing them? “Everyone’s waiting for three factors,” Vecchione says. “What’s my peer doing, which is a very big influencer; what does science tell us we can do; and what do government agencies say we should do. This waiting game is creating uncertainty and volatility in the real estate market.”

The way Vecchione sees it, three tiers of employee engagement will emerge within the workforce: mission-critical onsite employees who must be onsite to do their jobs; hybrid employees who can split their time between onsite and offsite; and offsite workers who can effectively do their jobs without ever using the office as a permanent home. In order to gauge the demand for workspaces moving forward, Vocon is analyzing companies’ post-pandemic needs. “Executives aren’t sure why people really need to go back — if it’s for mentorship, culture, learning.” Vecchione adds that the purpose of the workspace isn’t just to facilitate the work itself, but to create knowledge, inspire culture, build a career path, and bring clients and talent “into the fold.”

There’s more to the workspace of the future than socially-distanced desks, sound barriers, and outdoor meeting rooms, and many employees find their job performance suffers when they lack access to a communal office. According to a 2020 survey conducted by enterprise platform Smartsheet in conjunction with 451 Research, 82% of workers feel less productive at work since going remote.

As companies start to consider the slow or staggered transition back to the office environment, they’re also thinking about something else: technology, and the key role it plays in the culture of collaboration.

“What I find fascinating is that we’ve all owned this technology and never really operated in this way,” says Anna Griffin, Chief Marketing Officer of Smartsheet. “(Companies) know that we’re going into a hybrid world, and they’re going into the new year in build mode.”

Smartsheet is seeing “a lot of enthusiasm for working this way,” along with signs of recovery and greater investments in technology, Griffin says. All of this signals that leaders are on board with modifying their business strategies.

Traditionally, changes like these have come straight from the top. Insider’s Human Impact of Business Transformation study, a project designed to gauge perspectives on business transformation as they relate to brand purpose, mental resilience, and more, shows that among 68% of respondents, it’s the leadership teams that drive such efforts.

But this model may not last. Employees are taking a larger role in the technology they use, and the workplace experience overall. Instead of the old approach, where management implements processes and expects teams to follow suit by using the tools they provide, Griffin is seeing employees driving these decisions. “The way you work, and the way people are able to participate more, is truly becoming democratized. And so there’s this shift in power. You’re doing something collectively together,” she says.

Ricardo Vargas, former Executive Director of Brightline Initiative, a coalition designed to help companies bridge the gap between strategy and execution, is seeing a similar trend as businesses prioritize employee satisfaction. The companies that succeed at transforming their business, Vargas says, also ensure their leaders are just as immersed in the company culture as their teams.

“In the more traditional organizations, the leadership lives in a castle on the top floor that nobody gets access to. You don’t talk to them.” Rather, Vargas says, leadership should be approachable and accessible, wherever they are.

Organizations now face an opportunity. The pandemic has highlighted weak spots in corporate culture, and leaders are starting to address those proactively. “We need to learn how to lead in permanent disruption because we are living in a permanent state of transformation,” Vargas says.

When it comes to designing the new workplace, Vecchione believes the physical work environment will never go away. Its purpose, however, may well be reinvented. Employees will one day find themselves in shared spaces again — and when they do, they’re likely to discover that a change was long overdue.

Read the original article on Business Insider