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5 Questions Partners Should Ask to Uncover Unintended Bias

As difficult as it is to find and hire qualified employees these days, you certainly don't want to lose them. If, like most Microsoft partners, your workforce is more diverse than it was a decade ago, taking an objective look at your company culture would be well advised. Through the eyes of your new employees, the cultural and business practices that have developed over time may feel more like barriers than opportunities.

To recognize and address cultural and organizational bias in your organization, you need to ask hard questions and be open to uncomfortable answers. Some questions to get you started on the journey include:

  1. Are all voices heard and respected? A number of studies have highlighted the reticence of women and minorities to speak up in meetings when they are outnumbered. Assign an objective observer to a variety of meetings in your organization to see if all employees' voices are heard and respected. Coach all employees on how to be respectful in meetings.
  2. Are company events inclusive? While going to the local bar for a beer on Thursday was great when the team was three or four, it doesn't scale well. As your staff grows and becomes more diverse, team building activities are more important than ever. Fostering personal relationships, especially with employees from different backgrounds, will help build an environment of respect and inclusion. Choose activities and venues that are appropriate for everyone on your staff. 
  3. Are public-facing opportunities shared? Over time, most partner organizations come to rely on one or two people to present at webinars, seminars and speaker opportunities. They are knowledgeable, dependable and experienced. When speaking opportunities always go to the same people, it may be seen as a barrier to advancement by newcomers in the organization. Cast a wider net to identify a new generation of presenters. Give them opportunities to shine and build their speaking skills.
  4. Do you have a mentoring program? Make sure your employees know they are not alone from day one. Formal mentoring programs validate the company's commitment to employee advancement. Consider mentoring teams who can focus on different aspects of an employee's professional development.
  5. Have you asked women and minority employees for honest feedback on organizational practices? The most valuable exercise you can undertake is to ask for honest feedback. As easy as that sounds, the level of trust with employees has to be high for them to provide unfiltered answers. Ask for feedback through channels that are safe for employees. Start with an anonymous survey and move to one-on-one conversations. The highest levels of leadership should be actively engaged and involved.

As in all of tech, the work environment for Microsoft partners is going through diversity transformation (in addition to our well-worn digital transformation). Partners need to take a hard look internally to make sure their organizations are welcoming and inclusive for the next generation. Employees who feel valued and empowered bring more value to customers, delivering long-term dividends to their employer.

How are you supporting a more diverse workforce? Send me a note and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on February 14, 2018