Category Archives: General

Lisa Seacat DeLuca

We’re Only Human 43: IBM Leaders Share How Algorithms and Bias Affect Us

Amber Grewal

Amber Grewal

Recently Amazon announced it had shut down a talent-finding algorithm built by its internal team. Why? Because it was perpetuating bias against women at the tech giant, which is unacceptable in today’s work environment.

With so many bots, algorithms and other tools being used to automate our work and personal lives, it’s important to think about how this affects each of us. Is there bias in the algorithms that drive our decisions? If so, how do we mitigate that?

In today’s episode, Ben talks with two IBM leaders with diverse perspectives on AI, bias, and more. Lisa Seacat DeLuca and Amber Grewal both join the show to talk about how they see AI benefiting the workplace but also how to watch for bias and prevent it from creeping into the finished product.

Lisa Seacat DeLuca

Lisa Seacat DeLuca

To learn more, be sure to check out the following resources from IBM:

Twitter: @IBMWatsonTalent 

Links to the references made by Lisa and Amber on the podcast:

money pay gap

Should We Be Asking for Pay History Data on Job Applications?

In many states, it’s still legal to ask about candidate pay history. While some states have outlawed this practice, I still get questions like the one below fairly regularly:

I have a question for you that I thought you would be uniquely able to provide advice for. I am currently seeking new employment. When submit an application, the prospective employer asks for me to input a salary into the online application. The field does not allow a range and does not allow letters so I cannot say “negotiable”. How should I answer this since I am experienced professional and I don’t want to automatically disqualify myself by being on the high side of whatever range the perspective employer is looking at. How would you recommend I answer these questions? –A reader in Alabama

So, what should we do?

Rethinking the Question

money pay gapOne reason some states have outlawed the practice of asking for pay information is because it adversely affects certain populations. For example, women are likely to negotiate salary just 7% of the time while men are likely to negotiate nearly 60% of the time. This doesn’t even touch on minorities, where the numbers are often worse.

The problem I’ve always had with this question is this: what your last employer paid you should have zero bearing on the value I have placed on the position. If your former employer didn’t pay well, that doesn’t give me an excuse not to pay well.

The Frank Reality

For the most part, employers don’t set out to ask this question in hopes of messing up someone’s life. They aren’t asking about former pay rates to trap someone in a job making less than they are worth. While that sometimes happens, it’s not the goal for many employers.

The reason employers ask for pay history is so they don’t spend an inordinate amount of time walking down the path towards hiring a candidate they really like only to find out in the salary negotiations that the person wants $20k more than the role is budgeted for.

So, if employers want to avoid this roadblock without running afoul of the law, what’s the option?

At the front of the process, whether in the application or in the early screening conversation, simply tell the candidate this: “Our budget for this position is $X to $Y. Does that fit your expectations?”

[Read more:  Pay transparency, pay equity, and a powerful model for how to guide these conversations]

Yes, you’re showing your cards. Yes, you’re being transparent. But it satisfies two things. First, it helps to make sure you’re legally compliant in any markets where this applies. Second, and perhaps most importantly, it helps to demonstrate that you are dealing in a fair and transparent manner with potential employees.

This long-standing method of waiting until the first person blinks (that’s what career coaches tell candidates to do in salary negotiations) is a terrible way to run the process for everyone. Nobody wants to speak because we’ve all been told the first person that speaks in a negotiation loses. However, this isn’t about creating a combative experience for new hires–it’s about building a new relationship. Don’t you want to start it the right way?

We’re Only Human 42: How to Prioritize Learning in the Business

Is learning a priority for your business? It better be. Research shows that learning, development, and growth opportunities are some of the most highly prized components of the employment relationship, and this is even more important when you have an influx of younger workers as the workplace has seen in recent years. 

In today’s conversation, Ben interviews Corey Marcel of Docebo to discuss how to tell when learning is a priority for the business as well as what happens if learning takes a back seat (hint: it’s not good). 

Additionally, the discussion covers some of the “suite vs. best of breed” debate from recent years and sheds some light on what HR and learning executives should be thinking when they consider this question in their own organization. 

Learn more about Docebo:

Connect with Corey: 

tie wang jones ikea

Diversity Analytics: You Need Macro Numbers to Improve Results

This week I am in Atlanta for the SHRM Diversity Conference. I had the opportunity to speak on bias, HR technology, and how AI might be able to help us avoid some of our biased tendencies (if we can keep the bias out of the systems themselves). It was a great session because the audience was more than willing to kick in ideas on how to solve for a variety of problems in the D&I arena.

For example, last week Amazon announced they were shutting down an internal program its team had created to support recruiting initiatives. The team built an algorithm to find the best candidates based on years of performance data at the company, but the algorithm kept delivering male candidates. Despite efforts to balance the results, Amazon eventually had to shut it down because it was not creating equal opportunities for both men and women.

In the session we talked about how algorithms can be made gender blind in order to better accommodate a diverse population and how to create a council or team to oversee decisions made by the algorithm to keep it in check.

A Braindate with Destiny

Conferences are always trying new things and this time there were “braindate” sessions where you can sign up to lead or participate in a topic of interest. I started one on AI technology and bias and had several really smart people show up to discuss.

tie wang jones ikeaOne of them, Tie Wang-Jones, is the Global D&I Matrix Leader at IKEA. Wang-Jones explained that one of the challenges faced in the organization from a diversity perspective is having the right data on hand in a format that supports diversity initiatives.

For example, we wouldn’t want to have race, gender, and age listed on someone’s resume when a hiring manager is screening (that’s just asking for trouble). However, for Wang-Jones’ purposes of managing a global program and seeing what kind of volume the business has in hiring, succession planning, etc., it’s critical to know the numbers to see how IKEA Is performing against its stated goals.

IKEA is looking for analytics technology that can support these needs, providing rich insights into diversity throughout the employee lifecycle and identifying any hotspots or troublesome areas that need attention. For example, if a firm is hiring plenty of diverse candidates but not growing them, then they will ultimately leave. It’s important to continue the diversity beyond a token hiring action.

Diversity and inclusion are more important today than ever before, not just because businesses are struggling with finding the right people, but also because of the importance of creativity and innovation. Creativity comes from having a variety of perspectives in the conversation, and it’s important to have a diverse workforce in order to reap the rewards that come from new business innovations.

hr certification courses

Announcement: New HR Certification Materials are Live!

I had a powerful moment last week. I went back and checked some of the statistics on the website for how people find the blog, and there have been tens of thousands of HR pros that found upstartHR via Google because they were looking for help with HR certification content. That truly blew me away!

It’s that kind of support that has encouraged me to work on developing critical study materials that fill the gaps in the HR certification industry. I made a quiet announcement last week to all of our customers so far this year, but today I’m announcing publicly that our new revised courses for PHR and SPHR certification prep are both available.

(read on for how to get a limited time 20% discount on the course you need!)

hr certification courses

Why a new course? What was wrong with the old one?

The changes in this year’s HRCI body of knowledge prompted me and the team to make changes to the content, and I’d already been thinking for some time that I wanted to move away from the old format to a more comprehensive study platform. I have partnered with Thinkific, an online learning system, to transition the PHR and SPHR courses to a new format that helps learners wherever they may be.

Additionally, during the transition I not only was able to weave in some additional content from video, audio, and external sources, but I was also able to pull together hundreds of practice questions to assist with study preparation. Now students that use the course are not only getting the industry’s only study materials that offer a practical perspective—they also get a wide variety of practice questions to help them test those concepts they’re learning.

Is this the end goal?

Not by a long shot. The course has always been designed to be used alongside another study tool. HRCP has been a great partner in that regard, but I also recommend the Reed books on Amazon for anyone that needs something more budget-friendly (even if it’s for an older version of the test, 99% of the principles are still the same!).

However, those resources are highly academic in their approach, and the number one reason people fail the HR certification exams is because they lack the practical insights around application. In other words: you learn the theories, but you fall down when it comes to talking about how they really work in practice.

The content in the upstartHR course is very practical and written from an “in the trenches” perspective, which means students aren’t just memorizing terms with no idea of how they function in the real world. It’s my plan to continue fleshing out the course until it is able to stand on its own, though this is a long-term plan. Additionally, I will be incorporating new resources, research, and information into the course on an ongoing basis to ensure students are always receiving the latest and greatest information.

What about the SHRM exams?

These tools have been used successfully by dozens of students in the last year. I was hesitant to make this claim without some evidence to back it up, because the course was designed for the HRCI exams. However, there aren’t two wildly different ways to practice HR, there’s one right way. The feedback from SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP students has been very positive and I’m proud to say that it can help those studying for the SHRM exams with key concepts and practical insights and case studies.

A note about the popular audio course

A final note: the audio course was developed as a tool to help solve a variety of problems (students wanted to listen to materials, study on their commute, etc.), but I’ve heard from some students that the content navigation and user interface is not as easy as they would prefer. I’m working on a solution to this, but, as with the course, it isn’t a quick fix. Some of the audio content is being merged into the PHR and SPHR courses and some will stand alone, but I am working on this to create a better experience for students.

Celebrate with a discount!

Bottom line: this is an exciting time for me and the team. To celebrate, for a limited time I am offering a 20% discount on the new courses if you are preparing for the PHR or SPHR. Use discount code “20launch” at checkout. This code is good until Halloween (October 31st, 2018) so don’t miss your chance! Access to the course does not expire so you can take the exam this winter or any time next year if you’re already thinking about it.

As always, if you have questions feel free to reach out to me in the comments below or via email. It’s an honor to serve the HR community and I look forward to another great year of success with my students!

cheree aspelin

We’re Only Human 41: HR Leaders, Stop Treating the Symptom

“HR should see themselves as the sole source of people exertise in any organization… You don’t go to IT to get ideas on how to formulate product. You go to them for [technical] expertise.”

How many times do you solve a problem only to have it come back around again? Are you treating the symptom instead of treating the root issue? In today’s conversation with Cheree Aspelin, Ben asks about how HR leaders can get beyond this common issue.

In Cheree’s words, HR needs to “buck up” and make some tough choices about how to lead the business and the function. It’s an encouraging conversation because Cheree’s passion and excitement about HR as a profession come through in her words, tone, and message.

Connect with Chereee on LinkedIn:

If you enjoyed this episode you’ll want to check out “How to be a Chief Troublemaker in HR.”

What about you? Does this resonate? Are you treating the symptoms or the real problem? 

pay commuting

Should Employees be Paid for Commuting Time?

An interesting piece of research on publicly available WiFi access in England led to a question that made me pause. Should employees be paid for commuting time?

As someone that travels a fair bit for work, I know the value of being able to connect and work from any number of strange locations–restaurants, hotel lobbies, airports, etc. But what about the commutes that make up a significant part of the day for so many workers? From the piece:

Interviews with customers revealed why internet access was as important for commuters as business travellers. Many respondents expressed how they consider their commute as time to ‘catch up’ with work, before or after their traditional working day. This transitional time also enabled people to switch roles, for example from being a parent getting the kids ready for school in the morning to a business director during the day.

Until now, there has been little research to evaluate the impact free Wi-Fi provision has had in the UK, despite government encouragement for companies to provide access on transport networks. The researchers looked to Scandinavia to see how commuting time could be measured differently, and found that in Norway some commuters are able to count travel time as part of their working day.

Dr Juliet Jain told the conference: “If travel time were to count as work time, there would be many social and economic impacts, as well as implications for the rail industry. It may ease commuter pressure on peak hours and allow for more comfort and flexibility around working times. However it may also demand more surveillance and accountability for productivity.”

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