Years ago, I was a member of my local SHRM Chapter and was helping our current president recruit for new Board Members. On one particular year, the Diversity Chair position was vacant and so I offered to help recruit for that position.
I had been in HR for a fairly long time so of course I knew what the word, "diversity" meant; thankfully, I also knew a little bit about what the Board Member seat was responsible for. But what I did not know at the time was how limited I was in my thinking about the word and certainly how limited I was in my thinking about someone who was in charge of "it."
It was not until the following year, during a SHRM conference as a matter of fact, that I realized just how limiting my own perspective had been. At the time, it was Joe Gerstandt who opened my eyes to this and for that I am forever grateful.
This year, I look forward to meeting Howard Ross, Founder and Chief Learning Officer for Cook Ross, Inc. For the past 27 years, he has managed this global firm specializing in Organizational Transformation. Mr. Ross is passionate about a variety of things but with Cook Ross, he shines in his advocacy for high performing organizations that find the balance between advancing people, performance and profits.
Years ago, Mr. Ross started to notice a pattern with his clients; they would attend his sessions and/or participate in his events, get fired up or otherwise get motivated to execute a few changes, but a few years later, they would have fallen back into their old habits. (Trust me when I say this...this is frustrating! All the resources and effort...wasted! And the outcomes? No longer positive.) But it happens...because old habits die hard and it's difficult even in the best of circumstances to change what we have been conditioned to do.
During this time, Mr. Ross was also satisfying his rabid curiosity about different cultures and religions and, just for kicks and grins, was researching the neuro and cognitive sciences to get a better understanding of how our minds gets conditioned, how they then work, and how difficult it is to turn those things around. (I’m not quite sure how he managed to raise a family, run a business and get any sleep during this time so I am curious as to what other super powers we may discover during his session.)
Mr. Ross put all of this research to good use when he authored two books, "Everyday Bias" and "Reinventing Diversity" and then, as if these accomplishments weren't enough, started sharing his knowledge and expertise with SHRMies like us! (Certainly presenting at SHRM National is the pinnacle of anyone's career, correct?)
Mr. Ross is presenting Creating Mindful Inclusion: Building Organizations That Mitigate Bias.
What you're learn about Mr. Ross is that he cares about individuals he meets, those with whom he connects. He wants to make a positive difference in their lives and, indirectly, in the lives of those with whom they connect. That being said, I asked him what the key takeaways would be for participants of his session, and he offered three things that make it a tempting session for you indeed!
Understand (and appreciate) that bias is normal. Mr. Ross believes we need to quit “demonizing” the word and, instead, recognize it is a natural inclination or prejudice. That being said, we can either quit being afraid of the boogie man or we can start to minimize his impact on our sleep!
Identify a few activities or ideas that could help mitigate the impact that bias has on workforce processes and activities. Mr. Ross doesn’t believe HR Professionals are limited by anything other than imagination in this regard. In other words, there is almost always a way to lessen the impact that our natural bias’ may have on things like recruitment and selection decisions, performance management outcomes, etc.
Instill a bug in our minds and hearts for thoughtfully creating better “systems” that can help eliminate the bias’ that negatively affect our fellow coworkers and/or potential coworkers. All it takes it courage, commitment and gumption and before long, we can have workforce processes that will be bias free.
I liked Mr. Ross, and I very much look forward to hearing his presentation. Mindful inclusion…he gets it…and in turn helps others get it. Moreover, he believes in it! I am confident his presentation will demonstrate his passion and commitment towards helping the HR community who, together, can create work communities that are truly diverse and special.
I plan on mindfully including Mr. Ross in my schedule.