Part 2: Dr. Jarik Conrad: 13 Brutal Realities Stalling DEI&B Effort
Thank you for the opportunity to connect! I’d love to get to you know you a little bit. How did you start your career?
What’s important for people to know is I grew up in East St. Louis, IL. It’s a challenging community. I grew up having questions around why I was seeing what I was seeing - why were most of the people in my city black, why was there so much crime, and why was the community so distressed? It didn’t sit right with me at a very young age. So I started studying people.
I have always been a person who speaks my mind. I feel like I could say things in a way that connects with people differently, or in a way that connect the dots. I’m a problem solver. I like to say I’m a scientist by nature and a teacher at heart. That’s where writing and speaking come into play.
Human behavior is all about science. Talking about how the brain works - the amygdala, the wiring the contributes to behavior, our fight or flight response. I feel like there is an answer here. I’m compelled to ask why does this happen and what does it mean? I think about the impacts of it. If we understand this, there is a probability of change. I take that scientific framework as I try to diagnose what is happening with people and situations. I’ve been able to draw in audiences that don’t necessarily want to hear DEI&B. But when I talk about how the brain works, people are more interested.
DEI&B has been a topic in organizations for many years, and it doesn’t seem like much progress has been made in most organizations. What are the most critical challenges that prevent organizations from changing their culture and having a positive impact on not only DEI&B efforts, but importantly, addressing disparities and the experiences of underrepresented groups?
As a foundation, one thing that organizations are going to have to come to terms with is that we can’t just deal within the walls of the organization – not just the things that happen inside the business. There is an increasing appetite for how we interact in society. When people leave work, the have to drive home, and if they are more likely to get pulled over because of the color of their skin or go to a dilapidated community, it is deeply important that organizations have a broader sense of the societal issues that affect their business.
Organizations want answers. They want “what are the 10 things…” I can’t do that. If I can help you understand how you [the organization and society] got to this point, then we can talk about how we can change the system and can agree on how we can move forward.
It’s uncomfortable but the reality is that because we have a dominate population, for the math to work, you have to be aggressively intentional to bring in underrepresented groups. (I will talk about the math of this in the session!)
People can get behind the language and the narrative around equity and fairness. People know that certain people shouldn’t get ahead based on color. But the macro ideal sometimes comes in contact with micro realities. We have to deal with that.
How might HR be contributing to these challenges in organizations?
People in HR are well intended. They like people and they want to connect. But great intentions without awareness, education, and skill doesn’t necessarily move the needle. This issue isn’t about being kind. It’s about having a fundamental understanding of how we got to this place and how we can move forward.
We’ve done ourselves a disservice by focusing attention on unconscious bias. It’s like they didn’t know. Where is the accountability for that? That’s BS. These are unconscious behaviors that give away conscious bias. Behaviors are an extension of what you believe. We have to accept that we have people in our lives that we cannot excuse their bad behavior. We just have to be honest about that.
Where does HR begin address these challenges?
If employees are the life blood of the org, then HR has to be the heartbeat. HR is uniquely positioned in the organization to address these issues. But we have to understand this stuff – not just the needs of underrepresented groups. We also need to understand why people are resistant.
What is one thing you hope attendees of your session will take back to their workplaces?
I hope it inspires someone to move. To do something. I hope that it isn’t the session that you sit in, it’s interesting, you get credit, and you walk away. I hope that people will focus on just one brutal reality, and commit to overcoming this in their organization.
The above was a snippet of our conversation. There was so much more to this dialogue, and I cannot be more excited to attend Dr. Conrad’s session - offered in person on Monday, 6/13/22 from 10:30-11:30am Central. Make sure you add it to your calendar!
Additionally, consider picking up his books: The Fragile Mind: How It Has Produced and Unwittingly Perpetuates America’s Tragic Disparities, and In Search of Humanity: Why We Fight, How to Stop, and the Role Business Must Play.
It’s not too late to register for #SHRM22 Annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans, from Jun 12- 15, 2022. Be sure to use this link when you register: https://shrm.co/shrm22-influencer
#SHRM22 #SHRM22Influencer #CauseTheEffect
Part 1: Stacey A. Gordon - Adapt or Die: When Failure is an Option
How did you get your start in human resources?
I started in recruiting. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed getting people hired. But I realized that there were problems in making that happen. At first I was thinking that it was the candidate’s problem. But then I realized it isn’t the candidates. It’s the companies. I was running into how to get people hired into companies that don’t value them. At that point, I moved specifically into DEI.
Tell me about the work you’re doing now.
We work with the leaders of companies. Most employees know they need to do better, but they don’t feel like they have any power. What’s baffling is often the executive team is surprised when I say, “you have the power to change this.” I help them to look inward – the problem is looking at them in the mirror. You start with coaching. They have to get to a point when they admit that something is wrong and needs changing. They have to see that this is literally happening in their workplace, and they have the ability to fix it. They have to take responsibility, and then be accountable.
Tell me more about making an impact in the world by making workplaces work for all.
I realized that policies and procedures work for some people, but not everyone. They work if you show up in the box they have created – this degree, from this school, with this hair style, etc. But if you don’t check the boxes, you’re not considered as worthy. It’s admitting that something has to be done. All is everyone. Including the people you don’t necessarily deem as worthy.
What is the failure your refer to in “When Failure is an Option.”
The failure is refusing to act.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that HR may be making that contributes to this disconnect?
3 things: Not admitting that something needs to be done, not taking responsibility, and not being accountable. Companies do that with sales or other areas. If you don’t meet the criteria, there is accountability. But there is a reluctance to putting metrics around DEI. They have to ask, what does that mean and how will we know when we’ve reached it?
How do you determine which metrics to use?
Do a survey. You can’t just stick your finger in the air and see which way the wind blows. How do you know what needs to change unless you ask the people? In addition, we also look at HR data (such as exit interviews, performance reviews, policies), and stakeholder interviews. We can then pull it all together to paint the picture of where to start.
How would you describe the role of leaders in creating workplaces that work for all?
They have to role model it. For many it’s hard because they don’t know how. They have to have a sense of what people in their organization are looking for. Good leaders know we have to evolve and change. Their job is to role model and demonstrate what it looks like to lead with openness and authenticity.
What are some of the ways that HR can have a positive impact – both individually and throughout their organizations?
They have to stop taking orders and start strategizing. Your role is to advise the people around you. You have to say, “Wait a minute – let’s look at crafting this differently to have a different outcome.” HR has to stop acting as an accomplice to leaders who are not doing their job. Step out of the compliance mindset and into the strategic mindset.
What is the #1 thing you hope attendees of your session will take back to their workplaces?
It is their job and responsibility to be the solution. You don’t stop being who you are when you step into the office. It comes with you into the workplace. Our actions contribute to what the outcome will be. We need to stop searching for the “one big thing.” If it’s the one big thing, it’s so easy to wipe clean and dismantle with one word or one swipe of the pen. We need to look for the small individual things that we can all do that will eventually add up to the big thing. If we’re all doing our part, all contributing to the small things, it’s not possible to dismantle.
Be sure to add Stacey's session "Adapt or Die: When Failure is an Option" to your schedule (included on the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Leadership & Personal Growth tracks). This session is offered in person and virtually on Monday, 6/13/22 at 3:30pm-4:30pm CST.
I was reminiscing recently about my first (solo) SHRM Annual Conference experience in Chicago many years ago. I recall vividly how gigantic the conference center was and how overwhelming it all felt. As a long-time conference veteran, I often see that lost look on the faces of attendees, and always stop to assist. I've been there.
For those of you who may be attending for the first time, I offer a few tips to help you make the most of your conference experience.
#3: Prepare Your Session Schedule
Visit the SHRM22 Annual Conference website to peruse speakers, pre-conference offerings, networking events, and all general/concurrent sessions. Click on “Program” at the top, then select “Full Schedule.” This takes you to a page where you can scroll through the entire conference from beginning to end. You can also search by keyword, the type of pass (Virtual or In Person), by day, by event type, by learning track, and by competency. Take each day/time in bite sizes. Consider your own career aspirations and professional development. What are some gaps and areas of opportunity that could help advance your career? If your company is paying for your attendance, think about the most critical needs of your company and what sessions you could attend to help support those needs. You may even find it helpful to sit with your leader(s) to discuss what options might be most impactful.
Also, it is helpful to have a backup to your first choice. Sometimes the sessions are full. Sometimes you just don’t feel like walking across the entire conference center to get to the next session, so it’s good to have a backup (or two).
#2: Wear comfy shoes
Speaking of walking, the conference center is huge. You are going to do a LOT of walking throughout the day. (I average 20,000-25,000 steps in a day.) You are going to want shoes that will not give you blisters or cause pain. I cannot stress this enough. I made the mistake of wearing high heels one year, and by mid-day my feet were killing me. From then on, flats, tennis shoes, and, yes, sometimes flip flops. Comfort is key on this topic.
#1 Invest in Your Professional Network
I wish I had had a mentor early in my career who stressed the importance of networking and intentionally investing in relationships with peers. Networking can be terrifying. I promise, you are not alone in not knowing where to start. It’s hard to connect in a sea of 18,000 people. Luckily, SHRM makes it a little easier by creating spaces where you can intentionally connect with others – such as the Networking & Virtual Experience Orientation, the SHRM Certification lounge, the Smart Stage and more. (If you’re attending virtually, check out the virtual Networking Peer Group Ideas Swap.) Everyone wants to connect and belong. Be intentional about those connections. The conference feels a whole lot smaller when you see a familiar face or two.
If you’re on LinkedIn, Instagram and/or Twitter, follow the hashtags: #SHRM22 #CauseTheEffect and #SHRM22Influencer. Engage with the author(s) by responding and sharing. There just may be an opportunity to connect in person with the folks you “meet” online!
The SHRM Annual Conference is an opportunity to grow your community, challenge your assumptions and mindsets, and leverage the knowledge and expertise to Cause the Effect in your workplace. I always say that our industry begins and ends with people. You never know what insights you’ll gain from others’ experiences and wisdom, or what friendships develop from a common interest. One of the most powerful tools in your HR toolbox is your network. Networking isn’t about exchanging business cards. It’s about intentionally building relationships.
There is still time to register for the conference experience that works best for you (in-person or virtual). Check out the SHRM22 Annual Conference website for a list of speakers, concurrent sessions, pre-conference sessions and networking events. Save $100 off new, full SHRM22 conference registrations* thru May 20th using the code SHRM22_INFLUENCER.
*This offer is exclusive for the full SHRM22 Annual Conference & Expo–in person or virtual– and is not applicable to Day Passes, special rates or other promotions. Promo code SHRM22_INFLUENCER must be used at the point of checkout. Offer expires 5/20/2022 at 11:59 PM ET. Offer not valid on previous orders and cannot be combined with other discount offers.