Resource Actions: Google's rocky road toward inclusivity
Editor's note: Welcome to Resource Actions, our occasional, back-and-forth column covering everything from the bizarre to the day-to-day that, despite everything, impacts HR departments. Please feel free to send all tips, thoughts and windbreakers to [email protected] and [email protected].
Kathryn Moody: Google is in the news again, surprising no one, but we did a fun game of connect the dots around here when we saw the high-profile tech company is expanding its list of behaviors key to good managing from eight items to 10.
Ryan Golden: The two new bits, “Collaborates across Google” and “Is a strong decision maker,” aren’t exactly groundbreaking managerial maxims, but their inclusion seems logical given the tech giant’s past year (more on that in a bit).
Personally, Kathryn and I found Google’s other edits to this list — the company made additions to two existing items, Quartz’s Oliver Staley notes — more interesting. “Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being” fleshes out the original third rule, and “Supports career development and discusses performance” rounds out the sixth.
Kathryn Moody: It’s notable that the company, often lauded for its employee management techniques, is taking a second look at its own policies, especially now that the zeitgeist around many of these issues is shifting toward more inclusive, highly-engaged leadership from managers.
“Discusses performance” wasn’t on the original list, and we see a lot more companies enforcing a more regular performance review schedule. And that keyword “inclusive” has shown up everywhere as of late, for good reason.
We can’t ignore the elephant in the room, though, can we? Google has been sued on at least five different occasions in the past 14 months for wildly different employment-related reasons.
Ryan Golden: Let’s recap:
First, the U.S. Department of Labor sued Google over its alleged failure to disclose information about pay and its equal employment opportunity program last January; that was quickly followed by a class-action suit filed by women employees who said they were paid less than men while performing similar work.
Last month, another former male engineer sued, saying he was fired in retaliation for speaking out against alleged sexism, racism and homophobia within the company’s ranks on an internal forum.
And lastly, two more claims have been revealed in the past week: one from a female former employee who alleged harassment and physical violence due to a persistent “bro culture,” and another from a male former YouTube recruiter who alleged hiring discrimination against white and Asian men.
In the span of just over a year, Google’s been accused of a) gender pay discrimination; b) being too eager to support diversity; c) suppressing calls for diversity; and d) a fostering a culture of harassment and discrimination.
Kathryn Moody: A bit of a mess, to say the least, but it illustrates just how difficult diversity and inclusion efforts can be.
No one is saying management is easy. Strong leadership sometimes requires taking a second look at how and why you do things, especially when those you lead bring up their concerns. It takes a certain amount of grace to re-examine the way things are.
But the inclusion process — with all its difficulties and hiccups — is deeply important. Making room for everybody is the second step in building a diverse workforce after "actually hiring a diverse crop of candidates," and one that more companies are remembering as calls for diversity grow louder.
Ryan Golden: Tech companies get a bad reputation for this but these Google cases involve broader societal conflicts that will affect every organization to some extent. Pushback against diversity measures is nothing new or unexpected. Employees want to feel that they are heard, and HR’s reputation as a resource for workers is at stake (although some reading this will doubtlessly shake their head at the notion that an HR department can or should maintain that image).
The real test of HR, management and executive leadership in our uniquely polarized society will be to maintain a space for thoughtful, respectful discourse while balancing the needs of business. Sounds easy, eh?
Kathryn Moody: Real inclusion and appreciation is a long game that requires buy-in from every aspect of the organization, from the C-suite to the shift managers — and HR has a responsibility to put the pieces on the board in the first place.
By the way, could there be a more appropriate discussion for today, Employee Appreciation Day? TL;DR, one of the best ways you can appreciate an employee is by listening to them when they have something to say. And that’s not an easy thing to do masterfully, or even correctly.