As you may have heard, New York legislators recently signed a same sex marriage law for their citizens (in case you have been on vacation, here is the NY Times article – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/nyregion/gay-marriage-approved-by-new-york-senate.html). This makes NY the largest state to pass a law like this to date. The influence this decision has on the country is also significant, since NY is a barometer of potential future trends and change movements.
The decision aside, HR professionals are now confronted with changing policies and programs to meet the mandates of this new legislation. I spoke to someone I know who works for in HR at a major university in New York City and they shared some comments from their peers with me. Apparently, the biggest challenge is not the integration of benefit structures (although, this is a task in itself) or the tax implications but rather the training and education of staff members to be aware and respect those who will be entering into same sex marriages within the state. With all the open-mindedness of some parts of NY, there are areas where this law will still not allow those who enter into same sex unions to be acknowledged openly and publicly. NPR had a story the other day about this topic (http://www.npr.org/2011/07/07/137672101/coming-to-work-but-not-coming-out). While laws and policy are great on paper, changing the attitudes and perspectives of some people is a much more challenging task. Especially same sex marriage may violate some convictions held by those with certain religious and personal feelings against it. It is easy to say “just get over it” to those who are opposed to same sex unions, but those who are anti gay marriage need to heard and integrated into the new law. Remember, we always agree to disagree. The key is to respect each other’s thoughts and feelings and see the value each can bring to the table. We spend so much of our lives at work and it should be an environment of collaboration and regard. Yes, it may sound like some sort of Utopia, but this is the root of Diversity and Inclusion thought and as HR rofessionals we need to be looking at it from this perspective.
In 2011, it is amazing to me that some groups are still thought of as “weird” or “different”, even to the point of being targeted for aggression and violence. We all have feelings and prejudices but the key is to keep them in check and respect others. I find it particularly interesting when I hear other HR professionals share personal (and sometimes vehement) feelings about religious or political topics. We are all welcome to our opinions (hey, it is AMERICA!) but we need to make sure we do all we can to promote and maintain a diverse and inclusive workplace. Whatever your feelings are about what happened in NY (and 6 other states as well as a Native American tribe), the tide is moving toward national recognition of same sex unions and marriage. Will you and your company be ready?
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I know AAP stands for “Affirmative Action Plan” but I sometimes refer to it as the “Always Around Plan” because no matter how we strategically recruit and diversify our searches we always have some sort of underutilization. Maybe you do, too. Here are some ideas I have been using to help meet our needs for our AAP.
First, I always post our positions with the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SC DEW). They are an “official” diversity recruiting source that has access to minority and female candidates. Recently, we implemented an online Applicant Tracking System (ATS), Kenexa 2XBrassring, that allows external applicants to apply online. Prior to this system, the SC DEW would screen our applicants for us and provide us with the most qualified for the position. Using the SC DEW as a recruiting source is a great way to garner a wide range of candidates.
If your company requires more targeted sources, there are several options depending on where you are located and what types of positions for which you are recruiting. Where I am currently located, Coastal SC, there are some targeted sources but a recruiter has to really ferret them out sometimes. Of course I use the local Veteran’s outreach, Vocational Rehabilitation office and the SC School for the Blind, but I needed more and here’s what I did.
I usually have a penchant to remember things. And last year, we converted from the traditional paper I9 to the E-Verify system to confirm employee’s eligibility to work in the US. (Perhaps some of you have made the conversion and know what I went through.) Anyway, when we were auditing our files, we had to have some employees come in and redo their eligibility and bring in their forms of ID. One employee brought in their Native American Tribal documentation. This was rare and stuck in my mind so when I needed a targeted, diversity recruiting source, I contacted this employee. I explained what I wanted to do and this employee was more than happy to connect me with the Chief of their tribe. When I contacted the Chief, I was told that there were about over 500 members of the tribe and he could definitely help us find some candidates. I also offered to come out and present a resume and interviewing seminar to the members, if it would help. The Chief jumped right on that and we booked a day and time. So, I got a new recruiting source and a community outreach opportunity out of this one call (mining new recruiting sources and performing outreach activities are a part of my incentive goals.)
The moral of my story – you never know where you will find a connection. As many of us have learned, always value networking because leads and opportunities can come from some very unique, unforeseen places. This employee was as happy to help his people as he was to help me. It was a win-win and isn’t that what we always look for?
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As an HR professional, I know and see the value of Diversity in the workplace and support the business case for it. However there are times I need to be reminded of the need for Diversity in other areas, namely professional and civic organizations. My SC local SHRM affiliate, Coastal Organization of Human Resources (COHR – www.CoastalHR.org) hosted our annual Diversity program at our monthly general meeting today. We were happy to have a great learning session hosted by our Diversity Chair, Kimmy Raymond. Training a group of HR professionals on Diversity can be a daunting task even for the most seasoned trainer, but Kimmy did an excellent job! The meeting was thought-provoking and full of energy. Kimmy shared anecdotes and facets from her background and experience as a corporate and contractual trainer and even took us through a Privilege Exercise that shed light on perceived differences and how they impact other’s views on us. It really brought about a better feeling of understanding among our members and guests. Kudos to Kimmy and her skills!
Earlier this year, I tasked the COHR Board of Directors (I am the 2011 President of COHR) with developing a brand and mission statement – more on that in future posts – for the organization and Kimmy volunteered to lead this charge. Last month she put together a comprehensive survey and sent it to our general membership to get their buy in on various issues and ideas pertaining to their COHR membership and their expectations of the Board. The responses were overwhelming and resulted in over 20 pages of compiled data. Kimmy incorporated the results of the survey and shared some highlights during her presentation focusing on the Diversity attributes from the study. The feedback was met with positive energy and continued to fuel the Diversity theme of our meeting. Diversity is a vital piece of any brand and mission and will surely play a key role in the creation of our COHR Brand. Thanks, again, Kimmy!
For more information on COHR and our commitment to Diversity, please email me at John@JohnHWilliamson.com.
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