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Corporate and Geo-Political DEI Workforce Drain

Businesses around the globe are facing dynamic change. Change is driven by Social, Economic, Environmental, and Geo-Political influences. At the foundation of these forces are the people, the participants, actors, and players that Act – Do and Consume.

Their behavior in the workplace is often influenced by corporate culture, integration, and collaboration at all levels (The hive mind effect). These behaviors set the foundation for this important discussion on Cultural experience, transformation, diversification, and inclusion in an era of dynamic change.

Cultural transformation is more than just a phrase. It's a commitment to shifting a company's culture so that participants feel like they belong and can invest in the long-term success of an organization.

Photo: Redmind Studio

Before starting a transformation, it’s essential to understand what challenges you face from a cultural experience point of view and how your employees perceive the company’s cultural problems.

All too often, cultural transformations are organized and implemented from the top of a company, with minimum input from employees. The views held by CEOs and executives on what cultural challenges the company is up against could vary extensively compared to the viewpoints of the employees lower down the chain.

After 6 years of continuous transitions and various diversification efforts across corporate value chains. Organizations are feeling the wear and tear on their operations and staff. Staff is reacting to the changing environment and are in the midst of quiet quitting, or calling it quits, this is not simply due to remote work or the ability to work from any location on any device. They are feeling boxed in and worn out from Diversification Fatigue!

The essential factors for ongoing remote work, success involves ensuring everyone is informed with clear, timely, and consistent communications. This includes being clear on how people should communicate and for what purpose. The key to bringing your remote and in-person employees together is diversifying the way you communicate with them. It's about providing various ways of inviting your employees to connect.

On the other hand, resources at all levels, Staff, providers, participants, stakeholders, and an increasing number of contracted workers are frustrated with the isolation, constant state of reactive diversification, and transition initiatives from technology adoption to supply chain issues and accessibility. The workplace has become more complex due to technology!

Do you have ‘diversity fatigue’? People doing Diversification Equity and Inclusion (DEI)work often face frustration, isolation.

There is no question, this big DEI work is about fundamentally changing a lot of the structures we've built, and at the level of systems and structures, it's challenging. It's about getting together, talking it through, feeling supported, finding solutions, and then taking the next steps to move forward, it's not just a forum for discussion, but a forum for discussion that enables movement." DEI is often highly emotional work, carried out in many cases by people who are intimately familiar with the very barriers to equity and access they're working to remove. It's the kind of stuff that hits home and can be fairly personal, DEI initiatives are fairly new to most organizations and are forced to the front during the pandemic, as a result, this means that it has a steep learning curve, particularly around the fact that so much of this work is a long game., You're always at the beginning, in some ways, with little wins, employees feel like you're not getting anything done, and you can take it personally like I'm failing or I'm not doing enough.

Recent studies indicate that a growing number of women said they would turn down promotions to keep working from home. The hybrid workplace isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

We are seeing the signs in numerous areas of organizations where the workforce is resenting the siloed department model, the culture of middle management domain protection, the entitlement fueled by the pandemic, the realization that living to work is not the way forward and other things in life are more important, ...

Adding the effects of industrialization 4.0 to 6.0, ESG, Decarbonization, scope 1,2,3 compliance, automation, and digital diversification of the corporate landscape, the post-Covid corporate environment is more dynamic than before the pandemic. The new reality is comprised of physical operations equipped with the tools of information, analysis, and automation to drive performance at individual levels and capacity and as part of virtually connected teams.

Knowledge workers as an example; we define value in terms of days or weeks worked, this no longer makes sense. Employees demands are forcing employers to adopt new work patterns and behaviors for productivity, inclusion and collaboration.

With the hybrid workplace here to stay and a worrying number of people reporting feeling anxious and invisible to their colleagues, company leaders need to act. The trend will persist over the next years, and there will be a rise in the use of technology that facilitates better human decision-making as well as operational, digital, and industrial supply chains.

Let's work to Unlock flexibility for knowledge workers - one-size-fits-all employment no longer works.

Photo: Sebastian Pandelache

Technology, Corp Culture, and Workforce must be aligned for success.

The pandemic had a massive impact on Canadian workplaces as work-from-home became the norm in many industries. But as some employees return to the office while others stay hybrid or remote, employers have a new challenge: Keeping team members connected when they're working in different locations and different time zones!

Employers are turning to technology is an enabler to address numerous workforce issues and barriers. It is turning out to be problematic and at times a perceived constraint. As an example, during times of workforce uncertainty some organizations a turning to technology to monitor and enforce efficiencies.

If you’re reading this during work hours, there’s a chance your boss knows about it. The market for technology oversight and digital tools that enable managers to keep tabs on what workers are up to – is exploding.

News reports recount tales of healthcare workers being ranked "idle" for not typing while counseling drug patients, and hospice chaplains losing "productivity points" for spending too long with the bereaved or dying.

In the United States, 60% of employers with more than 200 workers now use "employee productivity monitoring technologies", according to market research firms.

Once loaded on your computer, these can track a dizzying array of data – keystrokes, how often you move your mouse if you are using messaging apps, your search queries, and the websites you visit. They can view your screen and record video from your webcam. Some technologies boast they can "record every second of an employee's screen activity". They then turn this into easily digestible data on a dashboard (for your manager), highlighting your active hours and “idle time”, awarding you a productivity score, and ranking you against your colleagues.

This may be happening without you even realizing it. Even if you are informed, it's done without your input. Too few mouse clicks? There may be a very good reason, but the software doesn't care.

These technologies are relatively new but the thinking behind them – that productivity can be reduced to simple measurements, and that workers must be constantly surveilled and managed for maximum efficiency – is relatively old.

The promises of performance management and oversight software of better performance and more control – are tempting to management. But they are also profoundly wrong.

Photo: Bernd Dittrich

If workers went about cutting lumber in different ways, for example, the manager times each method and then requires everyone to do it the fastest way. Even if the manager had never handled a saw, the stopwatch enabled them to judge what was most efficient.

So, what’s wrong with excessive managerial surveillance?

First, it can be harmful to health – both mental and physical. This has been well-documented by research on call centers, which pioneered many of the white-collar surveillance techniques now spreading to other workplaces.

Second, measurement techniques create misleading accounts of what workers do. So far historical data has proven that performance management systems are far from “scientific”.

Measurement is not just observation. It requires reducing work to elements that can be categorized and compared.

A “productivity score” based on measuring keystrokes and mouse clicks illustrates this starkly. It involves a misleading simplification. A stopwatch cannot tell whether a board is cut with precision and waste material is mitigated or not... Neither can a mouse tracker capture a worker’s thoughtfulness and experience.

Third, intensive surveillance can decrease outcomes. Intensive surveillance of hotel cleaners prevents them from cleaning rooms well. With just twelve minutes allowed per room, some resorted to shortcuts and sloppy work to meet time targets.

Excessive emphasis on single 'productivity' measures such as time can harm work quality. If they want to improve productivity, managers need to talk with workers. E-surveillance and performance dashboards that allow judgment from a distance, without context, undermine this relationship.

Measuring less, understanding more.

The resurgence of management surveillance is a worrying trend.

But the fundamental problem is not the technology. It is managers' desire – which technology enables – to know more than they can and to trust workers less than they should.

A different path would be to accept that most people want to work well, and generally know best how to do so. Managers might then measure less, but understand more.

We are also witnessing the rise in industries such as retail, health care, and logistics, where bosses are reverting to an old tactic and trapping people in miserable jobs by threatening to saddle them with debt if they quit. Workers across the United States in fields ranging from nursing to trucking have been discouraged from leaving jobs they hate or can't afford to keep because employers vow to charge them for training costs if they quit before an arbitrary deadline.

The threats are backed by so-called Training Repayment Agreement Provisions (TRAPs) in employment contracts. The practice has been likened by critics to indentured servitude and peonage — formerly common types of debt bondage in which a borrower was bound to perform labor for a creditor.

Training Repayment Agreement Provisions, or “TRAPs,” are the latest way employers are using anti-worker contract provisions to trap workers into low-paying jobs with poor working conditions.

Deep in the pages of long employment contracts, employers slip in provisions that impose huge fees on workers for bogus on-the-job “trainings” if they try to leave before an arbitrarily determined date set by the employer. The training in question can range from pre-job required education to even basic orientation programs. If workers bound by a TRAP attempt to leave their job, employers can threaten them with sky-high interest rates on the “training” money owed, attorney fees, collection fees, or the ability to withhold final paychecks and retirement balances.

TRAPs have recently come under fire from policymakers because of class action litigation resulting in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launching an investigation of employment arrangements that led to workers owing money to their bosses.

These work arrangements harken back to 19th-century peonage used to subjugate former slaves, and they are precisely the kind of exploitation that our anti-trafficking and peonage laws were designed to prohibit.

Indentured servitude is illegal in the United States. But it appears that some companies are rebranding it, with employment contracts.

As far as we understand the law, it does not permit employers or others to provide a work opportunity in exchange for a worker’s promise to indenture themselves to their employer through debt.

What empirical analysis has been done has shown bosses primarily using TRAPs for “employee immobility” — to obstruct workers from leaving jobs. Whatever the terms used and however the debt originated, employer-driven loans have not proliferated because workers “lack access to credit,” but because workers aren’t paid enough. Far too many employers seek to shift onto their workers’ costs while undermining their negotiating power by making it costly for them to seek out jobs where they might be treated better or paid more, as is common in the hospitality and restaurant industries.

TRAPs have been in place since the early 90s and were reserved then for highly specialized workers such as engineers or airline pilots. As markets became increasingly concentrated and union power was diminished by policymakers into the 21st century, bosses used their growing dominance to impose TRAPs on rank-and-file workers, such as truckers, doctors, filed technicians, IT consultants, nurses, mechanics, electricians, salespeople, paramedics, flight attendants, bank workers, technicians, and social workers.

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Dave Gajadhar, is an Advisor, Facilitator, Speaker, and Trainer on Business Modernization, Transition, and Sustainability

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