Fred Miller and Judith Katz of The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group are dedicated to helping companies recruit, support, and retain diverse workforces. For the last 50 years, KJCG has assisted organizations in creating inclusive, collaborative workplaces that leverage differences to achieve higher performance and engagement.
As CEO and Lead Client Strategist, Fred Miller develops workforce utilization strategies that accelerate higher individual, team, and organizational performance. Fred is a pioneering change agent and thought leader whose work reflects a lifelong commitment to pushing back on the status quo to help organizations become places where human beings can be fully human. He has led transformative change interventions in Fortune 50 corporations, large not-for-profit organizations, and government agencies throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia, including Merck, Allstate, United Airlines, Toyota, EILEEN FISHER, Northeast Utilities, Singapore Telecom, the McArthur Foundation, the City of San Diego, and many others. Read more about Fred and his work at kjcg.com/frederick-a-miller.
Judith Katz is the Executive Vice President of The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group. She has distinguished herself as a thought leader, practitioner, educator, author, and strategist around change management, the development of high performing, inclusive organizations and the issues of oppression and diversity. She’s led many transformational change initiatives in the United States and around the globe, partnering with such organizations as Allstate, Ecolab Inc., EILEEN FISHER, INC., Merck, the City of San Diego, Telecoms of Singapore, and United Airlines. She also co-created the Covert Process Concept and Lab with Bob Marshak. Learn more about Judith at kjcg.com/judith-h-katz.
Judith and Fred have co authored four books on diversity, inclusion, collaboration, trust, authenticity, and teamwork: Safe Enough to Soar: Accelerating Trust, Inclusion, and Collaboration in the Workplace, Opening Doors to Teamwork and Collaboration: 4 Keys that Change EVERYTHING, Be BIG: Step Up, Step Out, Be Bold, and The Inclusion Breakthrough: Unleashing the Real Power of Diversity. They draw on their foundational framework, Inclusion as the HOW, to enable clients to achieve higher performance and accelerate results.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
Highlights from our conversation include
- How client needs and attention have shifted recently (4:46)
- Their approach to working with new clients (8:09)
- How to recognize the full potential of a diverse workforce (10:32)
- Why hiring is one piece of a larger strategy (11:14)
- How employee expectations have evolved (11:56)
- What companies need to do to retain talent (13:50)
- New and necessary competencies for leaders (16:29)
- Key conscious actions for inclusion (18:15)
- The importance of safety in the workplace (19:13)
- Next steps for companies who are serious about change (21:57)
- How KJCG sets the foundation for hiring success (24:36)
- Why companies should move away from culture “fit” (26:10)
- Ways to mitigate bias in the hiring process (28:24)
- Why organizations need to be thoughtful about onboarding (31:52)
- How COVID-19 has affected their work (35:15)
Roy Notowitz: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to How I Hire, the podcast that taps directly into the best hiring advice and insights. I’m your host, Roy Notowitz, Founder of an executive recruiting and talent consulting firm called Noto Group. My team and I have spent the last decade helping to build iconic consumer brands one hire at a time.
Back in May, I was joined by Serilda Summers-McGee. She reminded us that our biases influence the way we assess candidates. Of course, we also know many companies still have significant work to do around creating a welcoming, inclusive, and collaborative team culture for better retention. This brings us to our topic today.
Fred Miller and Judith Katz of Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group join me to share their expert knowledge on recruiting, supporting, and retaining a diverse workforce. Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group assists organizations in creating inclusive, collaborative workplaces that leverage differences to achieve higher performance and engagement.
As CEO and Lead Strategist, Fred Miller develops workforce utilization strategies that accelerate higher individual, team, and organizational performance. Fred is a pioneering change agent and thought leader whose work reflects a lifelong commitment to pushing back on the status quo to help organizations become places where human beings can be fully human.
Judith Katz is the Executive Vice President of Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group. She has distinguished herself as a thought leader, practitioner, educator, author, and strategist around change management, the development of high performing, inclusive organizations and the issues of oppression and diversity.
Judith and Fred have co authored four books on the topics of diversity, inclusion, collaboration, trust, authenticity, and teamwork. They draw on their foundational framework, Inclusion as the HOW, to enable clients like Allstate, Merck, Eileen Fisher, and others to achieve higher performance and accelerate results.
This introduction barely scratches the surface of Fred and Judith’s career highlights, accomplishments, and accolades. Check out our podcast show notes for more information about the work that they do.
Fred, Judith. Thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate you being here.
Fred Miller: [00:02:26] Oh, it’s a pleasure to be with you, Roy. You know, we really appreciate you and the work that you’re doing and it’s great to join you.
Judith Katz: [00:02:32] Thanks so much. Glad to be here.
Roy Notowitz: [00:02:34] So just for the audience, you know, I was lucky enough to connect with Fred and Judith and their team about four or five years ago when they were supporting a sustainable fashion brand on a C-level recruitment.
And I have to say, Fred, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences and it wasn’t because it wasn’t without challenges. It was because of the inclusive process and the engaging communication, the trust and respect that each person had, who was involved in that process for each other. It was a, a career defining search. So thank you for working with us in that way.
Fred Miller: [00:03:09] It was a pleasure. It was great. And it was a good team internally. And then you bought the secret sauce that made it all work together. So I want to be very appreciative of, of what you added. Your structure, your thinking, and your flexibility. And I think all that helped it be a very successful process for everyone.
Roy Notowitz: [00:03:26] I was talking to Judith before you joined for a minute, Fred, and I was saying that, although, you know, I have a master’s degree in higher education administration. We did a lot of DEI training early in my career. And, you know, recently, I sort of feel negligent and disappointed in myself in not really being a student of these concepts to the degree that I feel like everyone is sort of realizing at this point.
And the analogy I used was it’s like learning a few years of a language. You’re fluent enough to sort of order at a restaurant or travel, but you’re not really fluent, you know? And I feel like that’s where we’re at right now. And it’s such a huge opportunity. The more we dive into it, I think the more people are realizing how much there is to learn and how much nuance and detail and, and how much better we can do. And so I appreciate the work that you’re doing. That said, I wanted to start by having each of you take a few minutes to tell us about your business and how your team supports clients.
Fred Miller: [00:04:24] And first, I just want to say, I think we’re all disappointed, but we’re disappointed because we’re measuring ourselves against the unknown. No one knew that the work around diversity and inclusion would accelerate the way it has, and that has become the major focus for many, many organizations. We’re getting lots of client calls, lots. Like in five, six weeks, 50 calls.
Roy Notowitz: [00:04:46] Wow.
Fred Miller: [00:04:46] That’s unheard of for us. We usually get one and a half. And it’s an order of magnitude, but it speaks to organizations realizing that they’re behind. Even the ones that are ahead are behind because what’s happening to society has really accelerated change, has really helped all of us, especially many of us stand at home, reflect on who we are and, and how we want to be and how we want to show up and what we are giving energy to. And it’s a movement out there in the world that saying we need to be different as we move through this process. And so in some ways we all have fallen short, but we’ve fallen short on a scale that had some unknowns on it.
That was impossible for us to know how fast we can go. And what’s happened with the pandemic and what’s happened with Black Lives Matter has really been an accelerant for a change in organizations.
Roy Notowitz: [00:05:34] It’s exciting.
Fred Miller: [00:05:36] Yeah, it is a very exciting time. And I want to join you in feeling disappointed, but also understanding that sometimes disappointment is a great motivator and also disappointments cannot be helped because there’s unknowns out there that appear all of a sudden.
A little bit about Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group. We’re a management consulting firm that uses this organization development technology to bring about culture change. So we’re a culture change firm. We’ve been around for 50 years, is our 50th anniversary year. So we were around before the words diversity and inclusion were even used. We were part of making those words popular and introducing those words to many, many Fortune 50 companies.
Which, that’s something that we’re pretty proud of and able to at least start those companies down their journey. And like I said, every day, our phone is coming off the hook and it’s different this time, many organizations, especially progressive organizations, especially organizations that are at the top of that Fortune 500 list, have gone on record of being supportive of diversity and being supportive of inclusion.
They’ve been sworn in by the judge, put their hand on the book and said, “I take an oath to support diversity and inclusion.” Then all of a sudden this thing happens. This year that actually redefines what it means to be supportive of it. And so they’ve all needed to take a leap forward on their thinking about it.
And that’s, I think what our calls are about, it’s really about, we need a strategy. We need to be more visible. We were thinking about some things to do, but it’s not enough. We need more. I think the pressure is from outside the organization, that’s consumers and customers and neighbors are saying, “What’s your organization doing? Is it doing enough?” But it’s also coming from inside organizations, where employees are reassessing who they are and what they want and what they require of an organization.
So we’ve been in a very fortunate position of having an international reputation. And strong reputation in the United States from working with many, many different organizations. And as those people are thinking about this work, they’re calling us up and asking us to give them assistance. I think that that, that challenging part is that there’s so many unknowns out there.
You know, there was a time when corporations could do a five year strategic plan. I’m telling clients let’s just plan two or three months. Because we don’t know what’s going to be happening two to three months from now. So let’s start something. Let’s do things that are foundational, but let’s also be aware that this thing is changing fast and moving fast.
And you’re going to have to be nimble as we go through this incredible revolutionary change as a society and as organizations.
Roy Notowitz: [00:08:09] How do you typically approach the first three to six months when working with a new client? What are the things you focus in on?
Judith Katz: [00:08:16] I mean, I think the first thing is really understanding where the culture is today. A lot of organizations have done a lot of work on bias. They’ve done a lot of work on understanding and focusing on hiring. But I think the big thing is focusing on their culture and their work environment is critical and that’s the sustaining factor. So for many of these projects, it’s really looking at first, where is the culture? What have they done? Taking an assessment around all of the work that’s already gone on. We don’t need to recreate that. The issue is going to be, what’s going to accelerate change? What’s going to accelerate movement?
And I think the thing that’s exciting right now is that there’s a deeper understanding of systems, HR systems, HR processes, and how those need to be addressed in terms of systemic racism, in terms of systemic issues. So I think that the first step in that first three to six months is let’s get a critical mass of people involved let’s understand what the barriers are, let’s understand what has been done so that we can really create a strategy that’s going to accelerate the change.
You know, a lot of organizations have created employee resource groups. A lot of organizations have done a lot of the best practices, but what they haven’t done is invest in the culture to really make that sustainable and make that difference. And how do they need to really, you know, think differently about people so that it’s not a “wait in your seat” in terms of moving up the organization. Because a lot of organizations have done well about bringing in diversity at the entry levels, but they haven’t done as well is moving people up in the system and really promoting and developing folks. So it’s really looking at where are those barriers and really addressing it at a cultural level and a systemic level.
Roy Notowitz: [00:09:56] I think it’s fair to say that recruiting and talent acquisition, more often than not, or at least in the past, was seen as a primary solution for companies wanting to diversify their workforce. And what I know from spending time with you and Fred, and from reading your book, the Inclusion Breakthrough: Unleashing the Real Power of Diversity, you talk about how capitalizing on diversity requires more than simply hiring a diverse workforce. Can you share the impetus for the book and your thoughts on what leaders and companies should be asking or thinking about or assessing within their organization to recognize the full potential of a diverse workforce?
Judith Katz: [00:10:32] One of the models that’s key to our practice is the model called the Path Model from a club to an inclusive organization. And that really helps us with the diagnosis where the organization is. If your organization is a club, one of the challenges of just hiring people is you’re really going to have a revolving door because people don’t have the support systems and the culture and the environment that’s really going to enable them to succeed. Many times, bringing people in, they become the pioneer for the organization and they get like five jobs. You know, they get to be doing their job well, then they get to educate everybody else. They have to be the spokesperson and the representative of their identity group.
They have to mentor other people. And many of those folks get burnt out. And so recognizing that hiring isn’t the solution, it’s a piece of the puzzle. You’ve got to hire in the right place and the right time. That’s why, again, we come back to the culture. So when we wrote Inclusion Breakthrough, it was really about helping people understand the issues around the difference between compliance, diversity, equity, inclusion, because those all take different strategies.
And some people think just hiring or being in compliance with law is enough when it’s definitely not enough. So you’ve got to really attend to all those strategies. And you’ve really got to understand what are the actions and interventions that are needed to really move to an inclusive organization? And that’s not a light switch of just bringing people in.
Fred Miller: [00:11:56] Yeah, I think the other challenge is that, you know, when I, and my cohort of boomers and the generations after us came into organizations who are willing to tolerate that the organization wasn’t perfect. And we were willing to tolerate that the rhetoric we heard from the interviewer wasn’t necessarily the same rhetoric that was in the organization. Present company excluded from having that practice. You tell the truth, but a lot of people did not always tell the truth or they gave the best picture of the truth. And I think that now people are like, “I don’t want to be a pioneer. I don’t want to be breaking new ground. I don’t want to be the first or the only, I don’t want to be the one that’s gotta answer all the questions about my particular identity group.” And so people raised the bar on where I want to go and where I want to work. And what do I expect of the workplace?
I expect the organization to have done its work around diversity, around inclusion, around equity. I expect that. And if, in the interview process or on my first day on the job, I find that it hasn’t done its work. People are, like, walking out, people are saying, “I don’t want to do this.”
We’re hearing in our clients, we don’t have a, a large sample yet, but we’re initially hearing that newer employees are staying fewer days, months, years before they’re leaving. That Africans Americans are leaving the organization at a higher rate. And so there’s a shift going on around expectations, which is that if you’re not meeting my expectations, I don’t need to stay here versus you’re not meeting my expectations, I’ll stay and try to make it better or I’ll stay and suffer through it, or I’ll stay and hold my breath. People are not holding their breath. People are saying I want to breathe and I want to be able to contribute. And I don’t want to be blocked. And I’m here to add value. And if I can’t add value, then I’ll find someplace that will let me add value.
Roy Notowitz: [00:13:43] So when you go into an organization and you do that culture assessment, say as a first step, what do you do with that information? What are the three or four things that need to be in place in order to be successful at retaining and being a culture that’s authentic in that way, in terms of valuing diversity and inclusion and equity?
Fred Miller: [00:14:04] Yeah. Well, when we’re doing that assessment, we’re trying to get us the sense of, is there a need for change? What is the readiness for change? Are people willing to stick their neck out for change? Are leaders willing to hear that need for change and willing to change themselves? So we’re assessing readiness for change when we do that assessment. And then once we have that and it looks like they are ready, we’ll let them know. And if it looks like they’re not ready, we have to say to the client, “You’re not ready to make a change yet. You’re not ready to do anything yet. Here’s some things you can do in the meantime.”
For change to happen, there has to be energy. Change does not happen with zero energy. Change takes energy. And so is there enough energy in the organization to bring about change? Is there enough energy and organization to create movement? Is there enough energy in the organization to deal with the resistance you’re going to get with change? And so we want to test that. We want to understand that we want to make sure that it’s sufficient. And then we want to talk to the senior leaders of the organization and let them know what we found and what we’ve heard from the people in the organization. And sometimes that’s a conversation and they’re already there. We had a client recently that was already there and we’ve had clients say, “Well, I didn’t understand the organization this way. I, that’s not what my people will tell me.”
You know? And so we have to make sure that our data collection is robust enough that we have the information that’ll help leaders understand what the truth is in the organization. It’s true telling. And once leaders have that, then they often will need some education themselves. So they can model the behavior that’s needed for change and they don’t need to know everything, but they need to know enough to be able to be proficient in those interactions. And then from there, then we have several paths that we can go down. Sometimes we’re creating champions in the organization to model the change.
Sometimes there’s a pocket of readiness in the organization, a leader who raises her or his hand and say, “I want to go faster than this organization’s going. Pick my organization and let’s do as much as we can around that.” Sometimes it’s coaching leaders to help them get ready for change. There’s many, many opportunities as Judith talked earlier, sometimes we’re working with the HR group so that we get the policies and procedures in place, both for people and for managers so that they can contribute and they have the ground under them that allows them to act in ways that may be different than the way they’ve acted in the past.
Judith Katz: [00:16:29] Yeah, there’s a new set of competencies that are really required to effectively engage, lead, manage, coach, a diverse workforce, and many managers and leaders don’t have those competencies. And so part of what has to happen in the change process is really instituting those new mindsets, new behaviors, and to hold people accountable for those as well. So it’s not just saying you want diversity and inclusion, but it’s really behaving differently as well in your interactions. You know, many managers and leaders were hired because they were good technical people, but they didn’t have the ability to really engage and leverage a diverse workforce. And that’s a critical part now.
Fred Miller: [00:17:06] I think one of the things that we’re seeing… people are calling us saying, “Okay, with this Black Lives Matter thing, we need to go out and talk to our people.” And we talked to the people out there before the leaders come and he said, “My leaders never talk to me. All of a sudden, all of a sudden they said, well, what is it like to be black? And what is, how do you feel being a bla–? And it’s like, this is our first conversation?!” And so we have, as Judith just mentioned, is a new expectation around leaders. They don’t have to be experts in Black Lives Matter, but they’ve got to be an expert in how to talk to your people. They’ve got to be expert in how to have your people feel open to having the conversations and feel safe in the conversation.
That’s a competency that leaders haven’t always had to do. “I don’t talk to my people. I just give them orders.” And now we’re saying, “No, you’ve got to, you’ve got to join your people.” Judith always talks about, the people need to join the leaders and the leaders need to join their people. And that’s a, that’s a new competency for many leaders, and that’s not how leaders have been picked in the past. They’ve been picked for a competency and being able to do a task well, not give leadership, partnership, and collaboration with the people that are on the team with them.
Roy Notowitz: [00:18:10] Mhm. So those new competencies, can you shed some more light on those?
Judith Katz: [00:18:15] One of our clients did a great job of really looking at their performance indicators and their performance management system. And they really embedded the inclusive behaviors, or we call them now conscious actions for inclusion, into it. The ability to engage in conflict, the ability to lean into discomfort, ability to listen as allies, the ability to problem solve and invite in diverse perspectives. So there’s 12 of those behaviors that we… we wrote a book called Opening Doors to Teamwork and Collaboration: 4 Keys That Change Everything. And in that book, we identify four of those key behaviors. But the thing in this client system that I loved was they built those into the performance management system. And one of the key things was that managers and leaders needed to be able to coach, develop, hire, and create an environment of inclusion and a diverse workforce.
And so they really codified that in terms of the behaviors. But I think it depends also on the organization and what their skilled at and what they need to develop because not every organization… it’s not monolithic, but bottom line we know feeling safe and being able to speak up, particularly when people are worried about cancel culture and zero tolerance and is it safe enough? And how much of myself can I bring? Is critical. So our latest book, Safe Enough to Soar, around creating interactions, safety becomes actually a fundamental skill set that we think is absolutely essential for everyone because people right now don’t feel safe to speak up. And, you know, as we’ve seen the polarization in our society, it’s become even harder.
So there are many ways in which creating that sense of safety in a team becomes absolutely essential and that’s for all people, but then the more different you are, the harder it is, the more differences you bring, the harder it is to talk about who you are. So there’s many ways in which that sense of safety is critical.
Fred Miller: [00:20:01] The needs of the organization to attend to that people are probably higher than ever. And so it’s not like, well, you work here and you go home and then we don’t care about you. One of our clients, we said that they had plants around the country. And we said, you got to contact the police chief in each one of those cities where you have a plant and tell them your expectations about how your employees will be treated as they’re going back and forth to work and living in that community.
That’s another role for the organization is how do I have safety for my people? It’s not just in the building anymore. It’s also in the community.
Roy Notowitz: [00:20:34] That’s a good example.
Judith Katz: [00:20:35] There’s one other thing that I think, given COVID, that I think is so critical is managers have never been asked to deal with mental health in the workplace but one of the things we know for COVID with people’s depression, is the issue that, you know, people are going through many changes, people are dealing with illness and loss and these issues in terms of what’s happening around Black Lives Matter in our society. So fundamentally asking managers to deal with mental health issues has never been in the job description.
So there’s so many new ways that we’re saying, how do you become effective in today’s workforce and tomorrow’s? Becomes really raising the bar on what it means to be a manager and a leader today.
Roy Notowitz: [00:21:13] Yeah, that’s a challenging situation and certainly a fine line too when you’re talking about intersecting with people’s personal lives and professional lives.
Judith Katz: [00:21:20] And we know Roy, that there’s no intersection now. It is life, you know, personal and professional as you’re watching your kids on the Zoom call. I mean, so it’s not even like there’s a boundary.
Roy Notowitz: [00:21:30] True. Let’s shift gears and talk a little bit about your philosophy and approach to helping leaders and other stakeholders implement an inclusive, equitable, and effective recruiting or hiring process within the organization. Obviously there are flaws that exists within the traditional hiring process, as we know it. So what are some examples of how you, when a company is ready to start looking at diversifying their workforce, what are some, some ways that you help them?
Fred Miller: [00:21:57] I mean, one of the first steps has to be, are they serious? Are they doing it just for kind of window dressing or going through the motions or are they serious? If they are serious, then they have to do a full court press for lots of reasons. One is you got to have an organization worthy of that person of color coming there. And so, have you done your work so that they can be successful there?
Secondly, is where are you recruiting and which firm are you asking to assist you? And do they have the experience and the breadth of network that will bring that diversity into an organization? The third is, can you be patient with that process? It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to find a candidate as quickly as you usually do.
It may mean sometimes you do. Maybe even faster. But you’ve got to decide that you’re committed to that diversity. You’re committed to that diverse slate and nothing short of a diverse slate is acceptable. Finding the service provider that’s going to give you a diverse slate, I think is critical. And then it’s the interview process and, you know, many organizations have gone to group interview processes, which is good, but what’s the diversity of that interview group?
And what’s the different perspectives? And whose voice gets heard when they talk about, “I interviewed somebody and I just didn’t really connect with them.” Okay. Who is that not connecting and what’s their stuff? So how, how much of the people who are interviewing have to understand self, not just know how to ask the interview questions?
There’s a higher and higher bar on getting great talent that’s representing the diversity that the organizations need and leaders hold themselves accountable for that. And, you know, we have clients now who are having somebody in interview processes, especially when they’re discussing the candidates, who’s kind of like the facilitator and overviewer of, is bias seeping into the process? So the kind of like… the bias consultant or the facilitator, and they’re listening to the conversation as the candidates are being discussed and calling out when they think they’re hearing bias in those conversations. We need that.
We need that everywhere because you know, unconscious bias is real, conscious bias is real. And if somebody is not attending to that, those things will slip into the conversation because for many places, they’re just a natural part of the dialogue. And so having somebody really looking at bias as it shows up makes a big difference.
Roy Notowitz: [00:24:26] Fred, you’ve always talked about setting ground rules in advance of a process. Do either of you want to speak to sort of how you set the stage for success before the process begins?
Fred Miller: [00:24:36] You know, one of the things that’s been fundamental to us is positioning, positioning, positioning. I think a lot of times organizations feel like they’re under a, a stopwatch that they got to just do things quickly.
And so I think as you talked about, you know, our experience with that retailer, we spent a lot of time positioning for hiring somebody. Spent a lot of time thinking about who would come in and give them assistance. And although sometimes a client is impatient around that, if you build a good foundation, if you do great positioning, it pays great dividends.
And so some of this is for organizations to say, slow down. Let’s make sure we’re doing the fundamental foundational work that’s necessary so we have a good process and we can end up with a great candidate and, and that becomes critical. And that is counter to what many organizations trying to do. We need somebody go get them first and fast, and you know, half the time they get somebody fast and that person lasts six months and then they get to trying to find somebody else fast and they don’t learn the lesson of, if we take the time.
And it doesn’t have to be long, but it’s taking the time it’s crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. It’s making sure that they’re clear about what values do you want? What’s the work you need to do? What kind of collaboration you want from the person? How are they going to be a part of the team you want?
Hopefully these days, somebody who’s going to help you mix it up a little bit. So you don’t have the same old stuff as you move forward as an organization. How are we going to be able to be okay with the mixing it up as this person does it? There’s a lot of things to think about and having those conversations pre candidate makes a world of difference.
Roy Notowitz: [00:26:10] Yeah. I think there’s the element of culture fit, which I think we’re moving away from to kind of figure out, you know, how can we have different perspectives? You know, how can we focus on adding to the culture, not necessarily fitting the culture? Are those things that you’re starting to see and how can somebody or an organization think through some of those so that they can become a little bit more concrete about what all that means and what they’re looking for?
Judith Katz: [00:26:37] I mean, one of the biggest code words we would say in bias is “culture fit,” because fit really means “fit in.” And to many organizations that’s a narrow fit instead of a wide fit. But I think this really comes into a conversation with the team and with the hiring manager or the hiring team about what is diversity, what does that look like?
And a lot of times organizations bring people in and say, we want your difference. And then they squash it. So there’s an education process with that team and the hiring team about what diversity means and what are we looking for and how qualifications may look different or how, in terms of what we look at, may be different.
I mean, one of the things Stanford, for example, does is they use a gender decoder even in job descriptions. So, you know, it’s even starting from that beginning place about understanding how we put those biases in there and the culture fit conversation is, yeah, we don’t want somebody who is so outside of the culture that they really don’t succeed, but the question becomes, what’s the culture we’re trying to ascribe to and what do we need in terms of those differences in skills? I mean, you wouldn’t have a leadership team that were all accountants, you know, you would want a leadership team that have different disciplines. And somehow we value those disciplines when it’s in a team of that nature, but we don’t value different styles, different skills, different approaches when we bring in team members.
And I think at that level of understanding and probably also for the team that’s there now to understand that their differentiation is probably a good first step too. Because if we can see our differences, then we’re more open to other people bringing their differences in. And I think that opens up the conversation instead of closing it down.
Roy Notowitz: [00:28:10] Fred, you had a good example of maybe how to solve for the way that unconscious or implicit bias enters into the process. What are some ways that we can mitigate or address that bias in the process or where are the areas that that enters in?
Fred Miller: [00:28:24] One is we all need more education around this. And we’re just beginning to understand about bias and how bias plays out. And there’s always another group, another, another, another difference that we need to include. And how do we get smart about those differences in the organization? The other thing is we gotta have partners, you know, I need people to say, “Fred, what you just said was inappropriate or Fred, what you just said, I don’t think you really understand.” We’ve got to be able to call one another out in a, in a kind way, in a nice way, in a supportive way, in a collaborative way, but not let things go by. I think days of letting things go by need to be over and the day needs to be is, Hey, if somebody can say something in this room that makes us smarter, let’s do it.
We do that around products. We do that around service. We did at about other parts of the organization. If I give her an idea for a new product or a new way of doing something and somebody thinks “Well that’s okay, but here’s a better way of doing it.” Most groups say, “Yes, we want that better way.” But around this, it’s like, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t talk. Oh, that was really bad, but I’m going to be quiet.” That’s not helping the organization grow. It’s not helping the organization go forward. And it’s positioned the organization poorly for when people come into the organization new and have that expectation that the organization is further along in understanding this than they are.
Judith Katz: [00:29:44] The one other thing I think we can’t forget is how AI also has bias built into it. And a lot of organizations are using AI as a way to do an initial sort on resumes. And so one of the things I would say, we have to look carefully at, Fred and I wrote an article about this recently, is about how bias is built into the AI that we use.
And so whatever software companies or companies you’re hiring to do your initial sort for HR, for applications, for resumes, et cetera, we need to really relook at that. Because we have to make sure that AI is not biasing even before we get to the pool of who’s in the pool. You know, there’s lots of ways in which technology helps us, but there’s a lot of ways in which also it reinforces some of the old cultural things and norms and biases that we’re trying to get rid of.
Roy Notowitz: [00:30:29] That’s so interesting. Fred, in the process that we worked on together, we were very thoughtful about the questions that we asked and, not only that, we thought about what is it that we’re listening for in responses? We didn’t just do that in a vacuum. We did that with the whole hiring team, the collective group. And I felt like that was a huge difference in terms of really getting people on the same page.
Fred Miller: [00:30:54] Questions with a purpose, questions that are going to help you go to where you want. We’re not asking questions for questions’ sake, we’re asking questions to see where the person is and what they’re thinking. And for some of the questions we came up with, it didn’t matter what their answer was.
We wanted to hear how they would think about the question. And how they would position themselves inside of the question and all the answers were good. And some of the questions, obviously there were questions where there were answers that we’d like more than others, but the intent was to engage the person in a dialogue, engage them in a conversation to hear their thinking, I mean, you have a snapshot in time to really engage and hear that person.
We sat in comfortable, wonderful chairs. We sat around in a circle. And we had a dialogue with the person and that made a big difference in the quality of the answers, but also in the quality of the engagement. So we could see how the person responded in a group meeting.
Roy Notowitz: [00:31:52] I think, oftentimes, when you get to a finalist candidate where you do the offer and you’re ready to hire them, it goes right from interviewing to offer and then the person starts. Each and every person’s going to come at this from a different way and need to be supported in a different way coming into the organization. And making sure you’re taking time to be thoughtful about that onboarding or that indoctrination process. It’s not just a template that you can use. It’s by the individual, right? And, and what they’re bringing to the table and, and what their needs might be specifically, and how that relates to the rest of the organization. Can you speak to that at all?
Fred Miller: [00:32:26] Yeah. Several years ago, we were working with a large organization, Fortune kind of 10 company. And they were bringing in someone in an organization that normally promoted from within, but because they wanted diversity and they wanted some different views, they were going to bring somebody in, into a higher level from outside the organization. And as they were doing this, to your point, I was saying to them, “I really think it’s important that you build a whole ecosystem around the person to be successful and make sure they have a buddy make sure that he have this, that, and the other, check ins and all that.” When they talked to the person, the person said, “I don’t want all that. Treat me like everybody else don’t… I don’t want a mentor. I don’t want this. I don’t want that. You know, I know I’m different than the norm, but you know, I’m good.” The person lasted six months.
You know your organization, you gotta be clear in your organization. What helps a person be successful? And you got to build that ecosystem around the person. So that they can be successful. The person doesn’t know they’re coming in, they’re trying to impress, they’re trying to show their independence. They’re trying to show they can do the job. All well. Good. That’s all the reasons you hired them, but it doesn’t mean they know how to be successful in that particular organization.
And if you don’t build a system around them to be successful, you at minimum, are having them work uphill .Probably you’re on a course where after X period of time, they’re going to feel like they made a bad choice.
Judith Katz: [00:33:54] I love everything you said, Fred. I think the other thing I would add is, you know, onboarding is more than just a half day of learning about HR systems and practices. It’s making those connections. We’re in a lot of organizations where relationships are so important, how do you help that new person connect and make those relationships? One of the things we’re seeing more and more is, particularly for people who are different from the norm, is in one of our client’s systems, just recently an African American woman talked about how for the first six months that she was there, she ate alone at her desk every day.
Nobody ever invited her to lunch. Nobody ever saw her. Another woman we know, when she started her first day, her manager forgot that she was joining that day. She sat for six hours in the lobby because there was nobody there to greet her. In another organization, they didn’t have a desk for her. They didn’t have a computer set up for her. They didn’t have any of it. So all of those are signals to a person about whether we really want you, whether we’re really ready for you, whether we really want you to be joining us in a certain way.
Roy Notowitz: [00:34:52] Those are simple things, too, like just general kindness.
Judith Katz: [00:34:56] Of course they are. But who’s thinking about these things? It’s almost like, “We hired the person, we’re going to business as usual.” There’s gotta be thoughtfulness about how do we make this person feel welcome? How do we integrate them into this organization? Who is taking the responsibility to really help them connect into the organization? Which is really how things get done.
Roy Notowitz: [00:35:15] In what ways do you think COVID-19 and the evolution of remote working will influence your work and what will companies need to be successful in the future?
Fred Miller: [00:35:26] It begins with being online and in Zoom and that whole process. And getting clear that we’re always going to have a larger percentage than ever before, of people who are working from home online and fewer people that are actually physically in the workplace. And so how do we create a culture that works for that type of community?
And I think we’re all still in a learning pattern around that. We’re going to have to figure that out. We’re going to have to figure that out together, how that, how that’s going to work. The other thing is I think all of these things that are happening right now, really have people’s attention. And so I’m finding people more conscientious about this stuff, more alert about it, more willing to learn and more willing to participate than they may have previously.
I think this is an incredible opportunity and I think that’s one of the reasons our phones are ringing off the hook because organizations are feeling like, one, they’re behind on some of these issues. And, and people in general, I mean, it’s really about how are we as an organization? How are we treating our people? And then how are we treating subgroups within our people population? And for us, that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about how do we up the game for all organizations around people? And that’s a big thing where, you know, we still have so many, any relics from the industrial revolution and the postindustrial revolution time.
You know, the thing about, you know, don’t talk unless you’re spoken to. I’m the leader and you’re the worker, you know, we’ve got things we, you know, we still got this salary thing about exempt and nonexempt and yet, when one of our clients, when the pandemic hit, all of the exempt people went home cause they were not essential and the essential people were the hourly people.
So, I mean, I think we’ve got lots and lots of relics that I hope this will clean out some of them, but there’s also some things that we have thought had to be. We had clients that said, you know, I didn’t think our people could work from home. I thought we had to be in the office and now they’re like, we don’t, maybe we don’t need to do that.
So people are learning, you know, when you do a pause, whatever the pause is, good news or bad news for the reason, it really creates people doing that. So I think we’re in a place where organizations are exploring and organizations are pretty open to changing and being different. One of our clients said, “In some ways, I’m glad we had to leave the workplace because it gives us a chance to have some training and some education, and then we can do a reset when we come back to the workplace or when people continue to work from home.”
I think for many organizations, clearly the organizations we’re talking to, their expectation is they will be better, more humane, more caring about their people, more communicating with their people and, and more listening to their people as a result of the pandemic that, that we’re going through.
Judith Katz: [00:38:16] And, you know, we’re adapting and changing in terms of doing this remotely like everyone else. You know, we’ve always had to adapt. We’ve been in business 50 years, the work has changed. The world has changed. We’re having new consultants join us. And we’re really trying to think about what’s the fundamental learning that people want to have?
And what we’re finding, as Fred said, given COVID and given everything that’s going on, there’s an eagerness. I think this moment in time, there’s an eagerness to really address systemic racism, to really want to be different. And organizations know that some of what they’ve done up until now, has not gotten them all the results that they wanted to.
So I think that we’re in this amazing moment of rethinking and relooking at structural racism, how it’s embedded in our organizations and really thinking about how do we prepare for the future in a very, very different way?
Roy Notowitz: [00:39:07] That’s great. So you’re so passionate about your work. And when you think about your business, where it is today and the capabilities of your team, what exciting things do you see happening with your current work as well as how are you envisioning the future?
Fred Miller: [00:39:22] Yeah, I love our work. I love what we do. I love the opportunity we have to work with organizations, work with leaders, and we work with organization leaders who want to be different, who want to be progressive. At the end of last year, I was knowing that I needed to make a transition about the consultants in the firm.
Many of our more senior consultants that have been with us 15, 20, 25 years were retiring or semi retiring. And so I was in the process of bringing in a group of younger consultants to the firm. When the pandemic hit, all of a sudden, our phone started ringing, all of the sudden, those younger consultants, which I thought I had a two year runway of training and orientating and getting on board and bringing in some more newer senior consultants also, that all of a sudden we have weeks and we’re still struggling with that. How do we get them on board with the KJCG way of doing things in the next month as we have to try to deliver services? Who do we match them up with? Who can be teaching them? What’s my availability?
So I’m excited about a new group of consultants coming into the field, coming into our firm, being independent contractors with us and helping us continue to influence organizations and influence people. It makes me nervous because the demand is great and the upscaling is not overnight. It’s not a light switch. I mean, I usually feel like it takes people a couple of years to really know our technology, know what we’re doing to really feel like it’s theirs. And so how do we take what takes a couple of years and do some process that’s a few months that at least gets them on board and able to deliver?
They’re all coming in with competencies. So it’s not like they don’t have the competence. What they don’t have as the KJCG way, the KJCG style. Now, like I just said earlier in this thing, our style’s got broaden now to accommodate them. So we learn and we do it as long as we’re able to meet our client’s needs and help them be even better companies because of the experience with us.
The other thing that’s always good is we always learn from our clients. And so we all will learn about what we need and how we need to be different, how we need to grow. This is a firm that has been able to be around for 50 years, not because we stayed the same, but because we were great at changing and we will continue to change.
I’m the old man of the group, I’m all for it. And I support it and I applaud it and I look forward to them having many changes.
Roy Notowitz: [00:41:40] I just always remember walking into meetings, you were always on your laptop doing work in every spare moment, you know, you were always present and engaged when we started the meetings and stuff, but you’re also multitasking constantly. And, you know, to some degree we experience the same thing in terms of bringing people in and ramping up in our firm and, and being passionate about our work and always trying to learn and evolve. And we learn a lot from our clients as well.
Fred Miller: [00:42:05] Yeah. I mean, the funny thing about Zoom is I can be with three or four clients in the same day. So when you saw me in those rooms, when we were face to face, I was with one client, but another client was saying, “Fred, how about this? Fred how about that? Or consultants saying, what do you think about this? I’m in a meeting and, and what is our position on this?” And so I had to respond in some way, obviously at the appropriate break or at the appropriate time or before the meeting, or after meeting. But I had to do that, but now I, you know, three or four clients in the same day, plus whatever’s on the iPhone.
So in that way, it’s allowing us to accelerate and build up the group of clients who are really serious about going forward. Clearly I still say, as we try to do culture change inside these organizations, then we’re going to have to slow down and really be there. And whether it’s face to face or on Zoom, that takes a lot more intensity and a lot more strategy than just responding to questions or giving thoughts about particular issues.
Roy Notowitz: [00:43:07] Where can listeners of the podcast find your books and how can people get in touch with you if they want to work with you?
Judith Katz: [00:43:13] So, best thing is to come to our website, www.kjcg.com. Our books are listed there, you can also get them on Amazon or Berrett-Koehler, which is our publisher. And obviously, there’s articles on our website, we have more information about kind of our practice and who we are.
Roy Notowitz: [00:43:31] I really appreciate you being on the podcast today. And I learn so much from you all the time. And I also am so appreciative that your firm brought us into that project.
Fred Miller: [00:43:42] We were lucky to find you and, you know, we live in a world now where wherever the talent is, you bring the talent from where it is. You don’t let distance stop you. And so you’re, you’re extremely talented. You did great work for that organization. And I’m pleased that we have continued our relationship because we have more things to do together going forward. And that reminds me of one of those old Western movies, where somebody starts off riding by themselves and then somebody joins them and they’re riding together, then there’s five, and then there’s 20, and then there’s 50. I feel like that’s what we’ve done in life. It’s lovely to be in a world and a life and a timeframe when we can find kindred spirits and join them in his quest to make the world a better place.
Roy Notowitz: [00:44:22] Yeah. That’s a great analogy. And that’s an awesome way to, to wrap up the podcast. And I really appreciate you for all the work that you do and for taking time to share that knowledge and wisdom with us today.
Judith Katz: [00:44:35] Well, thanks Roy. Thanks for inviting us. And thanks for holding these conversations. I listened to some of the prior podcasts and they’re wonderful and informative for people. So we all need to be learning and listening and finding better ways to bring a diverse workforce and inclusive environment to all our organizations. So thank you.
If you know somebody who would be interested in what you heard today, let them know that they can find this episode wherever they listen to podcasts.
This podcast was produced by Anna McClain. For more information about her great work, visit aomcclain.com.