I had the great honor to connect with Stacey A. Gordon, Executive Advisor and Diversity Strategist of Rework Work, to discuss her session "Adapt or Die: When Failure is an Option" at the SHRM22 Annual Conference and Expo. Stacey is the creator of Unconscious Bias, LinkedIn Learning course, and author of The Successful Interview: 99 Questions to Ask and Answer (and Some You Shouldn't), and Unbias: Addressing Unconscious Bias at Work. She coaches and counsels executive leaders on DEI strategies for the business, and works to reduce bias in recruiting and barriers to hiring.
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.