Navigating DEI in a Post-Affirmative Action Landscape

Backlash against corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives quickly followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2023 decision to end affirmative action in college admissions. However, a recent poll from The Washington Post and Ipsos found that about 60% of Americans believe DEI programs are “a good thing” for companies to adopt.

In the recent Cornell Keynote webcast “DEI, Affirmative Action and a Politically Polarized Workforce: Where We Are, Where We’re Going and What Employers Should Do,” David Sherwyn, the John and Melissa Ceriale Professor of Hospitality Human Resources at the Cornell Nolan School, hosts Paul Wagner, shareholder and chief financial officer of Stokes Wagner, and Holly Lawson, Noble Hotels and Resorts’ senior vice president of human resources, for a discussion of the legality and structure of corporate DEI programs.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to allow mixed-motive discrimination claims. What is mixed-motive discrimination, and how does it pertain to DEI?

Wagner: “The 1991 amendment took the burden of proof from race or another protected class being the sole motivating factor . . . to simply a motivating factor. Congress significantly lowered the bar so that if an employer made an employment decision and was influenced by a nondiscriminatory, nonprotected class-based reason — such as disciplinary action by the employee or something on their resume that caused them not to hire — but the plaintiff could show that race or gender or religion or any other protected class crept into their decision as simply an element, the decision was still unlawful.

Opponents of DEI scrutinize these policies under the same amendment. You can trace today’s backlash to overaggressive DEI policies of employers in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. Perhaps as written, they were lawful, but as implemented and interpreted by the person in the interviewing room making the decision, if they had a DEI policy that was encouraging the hiring of underrepresented groups, whether it be gender, race, et cetera, they took that and interpreted it as a mission to choose that underrepresented candidate, regardless of how they stacked up against the other candidates.”

Was this law intended to protect against all discrimination or just discrimination directed toward underrepresented groups?

Wagner: “Definitely the latter because if you look at the Civil Rights Movement in the ‘60s and beyond, it was clearly to address [discrimination against Black Americans]. However, the law was not written in a way that said only the groups that had suffered from historic discrimination are actionable plaintiffs and have standing to bring a claim. It protects all of us, whether we’re in a traditionally underrepresented or discriminated against class or not.”

Sherwyn: “I agree with you completely. The purpose of the law is clear. In ‘64, it was a way to open doors previously shut by law, but it was not how it’s being applied in this conversation. The law was written with the goal of a colorblind society, and that’s how it’s applied.”

How do you build a diverse workforce without creating problematic or easily attacked DEI policies?

Lawson: “If you create a program from a place of fear — whether from legal or internal or external backlash — you’re not going to get to the core of the importance of the program. Noble House is a family-led organization within hospitality; within a family, there is inherently a sense of inclusion. We really do feel like our true north is having a culture of inclusion and leaning into that.

Last year, our program was more training-based and discussion-based, whereas this year, it’s more goal-oriented and action-based. We are emphasizing diversity, recruiting and representation at leadership levels, and representation in our partners and vendors. Next year, we want to get to a place where we can measure that action.”

How can HR professionals open doors for more diverse job candidates?

Lawson: “A lot of us within hospitality are focusing more on historically Black colleges and universities and, in general, visiting a larger network of college campuses. There’s also a great organization called Tent, which the founder of Chobani started, that emphasizes assisting refugees and getting them lawfully working in the United States. Labor professionals are thinking, ‘Where were we not looking before? What were we not thinking of? Where were we not going? How can we get amazing talent from those partnerships and opportunities?’ It’s been amazing to see more people and connect with them.”

Are there any legal issues with these recruitment approaches?

Wagner: “As described, no. Opening up your potential sources of applicants to nontraditional sources to attract qualified applicants from those groups is great. However, implementation can be problematic if interviewers give preference to minority applicants to meet diversity goals. An interviewer must take meticulous notes during the recruitment process to prove they expanded opportunities for some underrepresented groups, brought in qualified applicants and ultimately hired the best person among the group.”

How do you respond to the criticism that DEI programs are forms of charity work, and what is the inherent value of these programs?

Lawson: “At Noble House, we’ve focused on the inclusion part to gather the diversity part. We want people to feel included. We want them to tell others about our culture and that they feel included. Naturally and organically, we want these people to bring others in who see themselves represented and continue to contribute to that because it’s the right cause. It creates a higher performing culture, and it’s not for any accolades or pat on the back or to check a box. If that’s your intent and purpose, I think people see through that, and you’re probably going to work backward in your process.”

Wagner: “My point of view is that the culture war scrutiny — mostly from the right — of DEI programs accuses them of being a charity case. That’s the way that group describes them and how it attacks them. But I agree with Holly that these programs have great value, and their goal is to reach out to, attract and ultimately hire qualified candidates from those underrepresented groups. If we do that under a modern DEI program and have the evidence to prove we’ve done it, we’re still okay, despite the accusations from the right saying that this is a charity case or somehow unlawful.”

How can labor professionals ensure that discussions and decisions on DEI initiatives are genuinely inclusive and representative of all communities, especially those historically marginalized?

Lawson: “You have to intentionally allow space for others to speak up and drive DEI programs. At first, we grappled with whether to ask certain individuals to make it very specifically diverse. In some cases, we have; in others, we’ve said let people speak up. We’ve intentionally created some space and drew some people in that we wanted their voices to be heard. I think the success of your program hinges on having a representation of the voices that champion this message.”

How do you ensure that employee resource groups (ERGs) promote inclusivity rather than exclusivity within an organization?

Wagner: “If you allow self-determination among employees to create ERGs and become exclusive, that leads to a lot of problems. I’ve seen a lot of very informal ERG policies at many of my clients’ companies and some that are structured. I like the ones that are more structured and intentional by the employer so that you are driving for maximum inclusivity. The groups can be specialized when it comes to certain things, like people who are interested in the safety committee.

But when it comes to these issues of DEI, I’d recommend and much prefer an ERG where inclusivity of anyone in the workforce is the principal maxim. I think you have to really look at it with a critical eye of how is this going to support my DEI program, how is this going to support my culture, and most importantly, how am I going to get my employees to feel good about it? We want them to participate in a positive way and not see this as a series of little exclusive country clubs.”

What does the forecast for DEI programming and affirmative action look like for the near future?

Lawson: “It’s really important to allow different voices with different perspectives to guide DEI conversations. I don’t know what our DEI programming will look like two years down the road because I want our actions to guide that. I want to hear from other people what’s working and what sticks and let that guide our next step. I don’t want to be marred down by the polarized world we live in where you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, but rather continue to move forward and progress our policies without fear or concern.”

Wagner: “Traditional affirmative action means to go out and hire on the basis of a protected class to meet your goals or to redress past harms. Going forward, though, I predict that the executive order administered by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will be deemed unconstitutional. I would encourage employers to focus instead on DEI programs because, if designed correctly and monitored and implemented well, you’re going to continue to withstand the scrutiny and win lawsuits or hopefully avoid them. As much as there are forces from the right in these culture wars attacking these programs, there are forces in favor of diversity and a multicultural society. For instance, look at all of the gender pay equity laws that are cropping up all around the country. I want to make sure that my clients who want to achieve those diversity goals withstand the scrutiny and win at the game because it is a game worth winning.”

To learn more about creating an inclusive work environment, explore Cornell’s HR in Hospitality, Hospitality Labor and Employment Law or Business Law programs — all authored by David Sherwyn — or one of our Diversity & Inclusion certificate programs.

This post has been edited for length and clarity. Experience the full Keynote for “DEI, Affirmative Action and a Politically Polarized Workforce” on the eCornell website.

Cornell Keynotes podcast: The American South braces for a huge unionization push

Auto worker using tools on metal car parts

Will auto industry unionization in Tennessee and Alabama galvanize a new labor movement in the South?

In a new episode of the Cornell Keynotes podcast from eCornell, Andrew Wolf, a professor of global labor and work at Cornell’s ILR School, joins host Chris Wofford to discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead for both auto manufacturing companies and labor organizers.

Unionization is shaking up the auto industry, delivering meaningful gains toward fair pay and other benefits for workers in the U.S. The efforts are particularly significant in the South where a legacy of racist labor laws continues to propagate disparity within the workforce.

Listen to Episode 32: “The American South Braces for a Huge Unionization Push” and read more on the Chronicle.

3 strategies to keep your best employees

Three cheerful employees working at laptops.

Though U.S. employers kicked off 2024 with the addition of 353,000 new jobs, the job-switching trend that catalyzed The Great Resignation continues at near record-setting levels. Some sectors are experiencing greater churn than others. At 5 percent, the quit rate in hospitality is significantly outpacing other industries, and engineers are increasingly seeking new professions altogether.

Hiring is just half the battle — particularly in an employment landscape transformed by artificial intelligence (AI), flexible work options, economic uncertainty and worker disengagement. Employers must adapt quickly to stop the revolving door.

As director of the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies and the William J. Conaty Professor of Strategic Human Resources at the Cornell ILR School, Bradford Bell contends that while attracting top talent remains crucial, retention is the real test of organizational resilience. He recently shared three steps organizations can take to keep their best employees.

1. Foster a skills-based culture.

One challenge in the talent management space is the rapid transformation of jobs due to technologies like generative AI that have shifted the competencies employees must have to be successful at work.

“Companies can address this challenge by becoming more skills based. Understand and assess your employees’ current competencies and figure out what future skills employees will need to be successful in their work as their jobs and your business evolves,” Bell said.

Through industry research and trend analysis, leaders can identify skill gaps and train current employees to close them. Some organizations might see benefits in relaxing degree requirements for internal upward mobility and providing personalized learning in mentorship programs, on-demand courses and external online certificate programs instead. Leaders can also restructure performance reviews to evaluate employees based not only on past performance but also on skill development.

“The future of work is a whirlwind of automation and disruption,” Bell added. “Help your employees navigate change, solve complex problems and increase their value within your organization.”

2. Learn to lead from a distance.

Remote and hybrid work models are changing the nature of leadership. Organizations need new strategies to make up for the distance — real and perceived.

“Leaders must set the course for their teams, making sure that all members are clear about the mission, goals and expectations to avoid the conflict and confusion that can arise particularly when members are virtual,” Bell said. “Managers should also support the social climate by being more purposeful about orchestrating interactions and building relationships among team members.”

Department heads should empower employees to be more responsible for managing their own work. To assist workers, Bell encourages organizations to facilitate the effective use of technologies by ensuring all team members have access to necessary tools.

“Now that employees and organizations have experienced flexibility and the benefits that it can offer, hybrid work models are here to stay,” Bell said. “No matter where employees are located, leaders must ensure they are using technologies and tools in the right situations and can adjust based on how tasks and environments shift over time.” 

3. Drive a positive employee experience.

Replacing experienced personnel can incur considerable costs in recruitment and training. High turnover can erode morale in a manner that damages current team dynamics and fosters a reputation that repels new talent. By effectively engaging employees, organizations can mitigate these risks.

“When we look at the research, we see a few key factors that impact employee engagement: the design of work itself, learning and career development and leadership,” said Bell, who asserts that it is important for employees to perform meaningful, varied tasks and view their work as significant.

Bell encourages leaders to consider how they can design jobs themselves to be more engaging and ensure that employees have access to professional development opportunities that present clear career paths within their organizations.

He encourages managers to look inward as well: “Leaders who are more transformational as opposed to transactional — those who can build strong relationships with their employees — are able to drive higher levels of engagement within their teams.”

Bell also encourages leaders to examine how they listen to employees, formally and informally. He recommends that leaders capture employee sentiment and voice through surveys and one-on-one discussions.

“This needs to be a multichannel and ongoing process in which organizations and leaders are constantly listening to employees, identifying the pain points employees are experiencing, taking action on the feedback and communicating back to employees the changes they are making,” he said. “Through that listening process, you create a productive cycle that enhances employee engagement and increases retention over time.”

Learn the latest best practices for talent management in one of Cornell’s online human resources certificate programs, including several coauthored by Bell: Hybrid Work StrategyHR AnalyticsRecruiting and Talent Acquisition and Strategic Human Resources Leadership.

Is It Time to Return to the Office?

Many Americans favor the flexibility that comes with working from home, a sentiment captured in recent surveys showing that more than two-thirds prefer remote work options, and nearly a third would willingly accept a lower salary to maintain this work style.

While introducing remote work or hybrid models can meet employee desires for greater autonomy, it raises concerns of potential disconnect, reduced team synergy and decreased retention rates. Employers are faced with the challenge of evolving a work environment that respects individual preferences and maintains the integrity and collaborative spirit of a cohesive workforce. Finding a balance is critical.

In a recent Keynote webcast, “Work from Wherever,” Nick Fabrizio, a distinguished senior lecturer at Cornell’s Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, shared his views on the return-to-office debate and key perspectives of both employees and employers.

What are the main causes for dissatisfaction among remote employees?

Fabrizio: “In a new Gallup survey, it’s stated that only 28% of workers feel connected with the organization and that is at an all-time low. Last year it was 32%. You would think that with a variety of different work arrangements, people would be really satisfied. But in terms of being connected with the organization, it’s not there. And that should be alarming to organizations.

People complain that they don’t really know what’s going on in the company. They know what’s going on with their projects and their responsibilities, but they often feel they are losing connection to the whole organization.”

Why do companies want employees back in the office?

Fabrizio: “There are a few things that are complicating this. One is the feeling of disconnectedness at work, one is retention and another one is losing bright young workers because there is no process for them to be evaluated, connected and advanced in the organization. Organizations feel like they can’t create those opportunities being disconnected.

A lot of these organizations now are paying a lot of money in real estate for empty offices. That can’t continue. Some industries are going to force people back because of that. While others are going to force workers back because they are working on recruitment and retention, and others will force people back because they have a hybrid arrangement strategy.”

How can remote leadership be practiced in virtual work environments?

Fabrizio: “As an organization, what you want to create is touchpoints. Managers must deliberately try to create connections so that remote workers can make connections with other people in the organization.

There are five or six different modes for us to communicate, and some workers are saying they feel overwhelmed by that. Organizations should pick one method and do that. It’s very hard even for the worker then to realize and look at a Teams meeting at 3 p.m., [a client Zoom meeting] at 2 p.m., something else happening at 4 p.m., so they start to feel disconnected because there’s so many different mediums to keep track of.”

How can employers encourage productivity among remote employees?

Fabrizio: “Certainly not more forced interactions, but I think it’s the employee’s responsibility to be deliberate about keeping track of what they’ve accomplished. Sort of your value to the organization. It’s like a personal self-inventory of what you have accomplished, what you feel like you mean to the organization, how the organization is a benefit to you.”

Which work arrangement will become the new standard in the future?

Fabrizio: “I’m very effective working at home. Now, [I’m] hybrid, so I have that client-facing part of my work, but when I come back to the home office, I’m very productive.”

I think we’re going to quickly go to a hybrid scenario where better-performing organizations will have to define what their work arrangements are for different business units within the organization. I think organizations will have to do a better job of defining within the same organization what roles [will] be five days a week in office, two or three days in office and what roles are going to be completely remote.”

​​Discover how Cornell’s remote leadership and hybrid work strategy online certificate programs can make you a better manager and equip you with the competitive advantage needed in today’s evolving world of work.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Experience the full Keynote “Work from Wherever” online.

What is Your Style of Decision-Making? Strategize for Influence.

Imagine unlocking the secret to success in both business and day-to-day life. It’s all rooted in one critical talent: strategic decision-making – the essence of exceptional leadership, the engine driving meaningful change, and the spark igniting innovation.

Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, adjunct professor in Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business, is a pioneer in shaping our understanding of this crucial skill. She is an accomplished author, educator, the creator of the AREA Method – a game-changing problem-solving approach – and the author of the Complex Decision-Making Cornell certificate program.

Her insights have reshaped how leaders steer their decision-making strategies and offer valuable lessons for navigating the complexity of the corporate world and your career.

Einhorn shared some key decision-making guidelines in a recent Keynotes webcast hosted by eCornell:

Understanding Strategic Choices

Einhorn believes that our problem-solving styles are behaviors with which we feel most adept and comfortable. She asserts, “we all have a comfort, a dominant problem solver profile. And we can all become more dynamic problem solvers.” This perspective champions the inherent adaptability within each of us to navigate different problem-solving styles.

The Adaptability of Problem-Solving Styles

Contrary to popular belief, problem-solving styles aren’t prescriptive. Instead, they offer space for adaptability and growth. Acknowledging our problem-solving styles provides a valuable opportunity for self-awareness and interpersonal development.

Einhorn defines five distinct styles of decision making that offer unique perspectives into the world of strategic problem solving:

The Adventurer: Einhorn describes the adventurer as “a very decisive decision maker. She knows what she wants. The future is endlessly more interesting than the present.”

The Detective: With a strong need for concrete evidence, the detective is “a slower decision maker because she wants to find data.”

The Listener: This style of decision maker is “relational, collaborative, trusting,” Eihorn said. “She emphasizes the importance of gathering input, and she likes to gather the wisdom and opinions of others.”

The Thinker: Someone who “values understanding the why and thinking about the different options.” This style represents a “thoughtful, careful decision maker.”

The Visionary: “A big, creative, out-of-the-box thinker.” Einhorn warns, however, that “this kind of decision maker could have a planning fallacy.” Visionaries can dream big and are often the source of innovative ideas, but they must stay grounded to avoid unrealistic expectations.

Decision-making styles are dynamic, changeable over time, and influenced by various factors such as age, experiences, and environments. For example, your style at work might differ from your style at home. Einhorn explains that you have the freedom to choose your problem-solving style based on the situation: “You could decide that you want to plan a meal as a visionary. You want to take a vacation as an adventurer. You want to buy insurance as a detective. And each of these opportunities are available to you once you understand the five different profiles.”

No “Perfect” Combination

Harnessing the power of strategic decision makers isn’t about achieving a “perfect” combination of problem-solving styles. The real value lies in understanding and leveraging diverse profiles to become more effective leaders.

Awareness of these profiles can offer insights into the kind of information each leader needs and highlight any cognitive biases that might obstruct effective problem solving. “You can learn what this means that you’re good at and the places where each of us might have mental mistakes that are most relevant to getting in our way. And then how we can make better choices together,” Einhorn said.

With this knowledge, we can fill gaps in perspective, ensure a more comprehensive understanding of situations, and contribute more effectively to collective problem-solving processes to foster strategic leadership and decision making.

In mastering the craft of strategic leadership, we pave our own route toward personal and professional achievement. Adopt an introspective approach and learn to leverage your unique problem-solving styles in Cornell’s Complex Decision-Making certificate program. You’ll gain a dynamic skill set to boost your confidence, empower your choices, and drive significant change in all aspects of your life.

Watch Einhorn’s Making Difficult Decisions Keynote webcast on the eCornell website.

Navigating the Future of Hospitality Management

Labor market shifts and workforce issues continue to challenge the hospitality industry due to the lingering effects of global travel restrictions and safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. With decreased interest in hospitality jobs, many people exited the industry, creating a need for new talent and a push to bring back those who left. The profitability of travel and tourism businesses relies on how well hospitality leaders can address these issues.

In the Keynote webcast, “The Next 100 Years: Hospitality Workforce of Tomorrow,” industry experts J.D. Barnes, vice president of global workforce innovation and optimization at Hilton, and Katherine Grass, CEO of Optii, joined Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration faculty J. Bruce Tracey, professor of management; Vincent Slaugh, assistant professor of operations management and Tashlin Lakhani, assistant professor of management and organizations, to share valuable insights on adapting and thriving in the evolving landscape of human resources in the hospitality industry.

How have pandemic-induced labor market shifts transformed the landscape of HR in hospitality? 

Barnes: “The emerging trends around greater flexibility, the reset from the pandemic, the rise of the gig economy – all of these considerations are things that are now impacting the labor market. At Hilton, we’re keen on embedding greater flexibility, choice and control, bringing in the best talent and modernizing some of the roles and assignments within our hotels to make them more appealing to different generations.”

Grass: “It’s all about how to keep these new entrants into hospitality happy. How do you train them? How do you make things very easy for them? How do you engage in ways that maybe, as J.D. was saying, they were used to in other industries and offering that flexibility. And sometimes the challenge of hospitality is offering flexibility in new ways because you don’t always have that work-from-home option.”

What are some ways hospitality HR professionals can attract and retain talent?

Barnes: “We have an ability to bring in students who might not have traditionally looked at our employment because they can’t give up an eight-hour shift when they’re working in between classes or managing a workload. For them what’s important is a four, five, six-hour shift, which is why they may have looked at gig endeavors. And then similarly, (we have) encore retirees and people who have left the workforce but want some level of flexibility in between their retirement to pick up a different level of work.”

Lakhani:We really need to focus I think on the retention and the growth opportunities, telling the stories but also creating the stories, showing them that there are opportunities for growth and that they can see their colleague being promoted to positions, and that there is really a space for them to grow and have a lifelong career.”

Grass: “There’s all these different (talent) pools coming in who maybe are not familiar with hospitality, so how can you embrace them, how can you help them, how can you train them and bring them into the culture as quickly as possible?”

Which positions are first in line when it comes to redesigning work?

Barnes: “I do think that housekeeping, in particular, is one of the biggest areas in our hotels from a staffing perspective. If you look at the contribution that those team members make in terms of the guest experience and the amount of time they take in preparing a room, that experience is important.”

Lakhani: “Some of the most severe labor shortages are in housekeeping or in the back of the house – where we can’t create hybrid work.”

Barnes: “The more information we can gather ahead of the arrival of the customer, the more we can infuse that into the actions that our team members take in delivering that service and experience. Technology is playing a big part in making sure that it’s seamless, that it’s fast, and that the preferences are known.”

What are the influences of AI and other technologies on hospitality management?

Barnes: “We’ve incorporated AI from a training perspective in our ability to use virtual reality in helping team members understand what their duties are, how to personalize services, the sequence of steps and things like that. It’s really interesting for us to think about how we’ve morphed training across some of our hotels.”

Slaugh: “I think we completely miss frontline service work as a domain for analytics. There’s a lot of opportunity for growth. In recent years, I’ve worked on a hotel’s housekeeping scheduling problem. And that’s just a new model for our field.”

Barnes: “Things like text messaging recruiting. A lot of this AI technology is coming in here. Being able to schedule a candidate and say, hey, come in three days. We’ll be able to interview you in person. We’ve got to modernize a lot of that approach to recruiting.”

Grass: “Just even the diversity on the language front when you are managing departments: There can be a dozen languages spoken, so how does your software in real time translate conversations for them? We ensure that we do inline and real-time translations so that if a team leader is communicating something in Spanish, everyone is receiving that in their (preferred) language. All those communications are happening in real time. It’s giving that sense of community and ensuring that everyone has a voice and can make that voice be completely understood.”

How can leaders in hospitality increase the industry’s appeal?

Lakhani: “We’ve seen innovation. We’ve seen compensation go up. But I think there’s still work to be done in terms of changing the perception of what it means to work in hospitality.”

Grass: “When you have this personal connection and personal interaction, (you ask) how can the technologies help me eliminate or simplify the rinse-and-repeat that gets a bit monotonous, especially for people who are new to an industry and step in and say, ‘Oh, this is really kind of same-old, same-old every day.’ How can you smarten up and remove that monotonous bit to allow people to have more quality time to interact with the guest in better ways?”

Barnes: “The greater desire is for us to continue to emphasize that life doesn’t have to fit into work, that work should fit into your life. And so enabling that functionality, enabling that choice and control for our team members across all our hotels. It’s also the flexibility of allowing that choice and control for the team member and for them to inform us about what works for them.”

Explore Cornell’s hospitality certificate programs to gain an edge in today’s transforming industry and prepare for the workforce of tomorrow.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Experience the full webcast “The Next 100 Years: Hospitality Workforce of Tomorrow” here.

New Cornell certificate emphasizes dialogue in DEI

Photo of group dialogue with one young woman facing camera.

In 2020, hiring for diversity, equity and inclusion roles surged. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, three years later – amid recession fears – companies are cutting DEI leadership positions at a rapid and disproportionate rate, leaving practitioners to seek new ways of continuing efforts to create welcoming work environments.

Dialogue for Change, a new online certificate program from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP) delivered through eCornell, provides a fresh approach to DEI for team managers and supervisors, executives and all employees interested in building equitable cultures.

“The certificate focuses on four key development areas: human connection, social identity, intergroup communication and strategic change,” said Adi Grabiner-Keinan, executive director for academic DEI education and director of the IDP. “Our goals are to develop participants’ awareness around the four development areas and to strengthen their capacity to make meaningful change at personal, interpersonal and institutional levels.”

Together with Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education and professor in the Cornell ILR School, Grabiner-Keinan is co-author of the Dialogue for Change certificate. The duo intends for the program to help professionals promote sustainable institutional change no matter their position on the organizational chart.

In three courses – Counteracting Unconscious Bias, Dialogue Across Difference and Strategic Influence – participants learn and practice skills for intentional connection and communication, and examine ways to impact change in different spheres of influence, including within their teams and organizations. These skills, according to Grabiner-Keinan, are crucial well beyond the field of DEI.

“Skills such as active and generative listening, strategic questioning, purposeful sharing, perspective-taking, withholding judgment and questioning assumptions allow us to lead, communicate and collaborate effectively,” Grabiner-Keinan said. “They enable us to broaden our perspective, learn from a variety of people and situations, bring people together, think creatively and create meaning and vision. Unfortunately, such skills are seldom taught in schools or colleges.”

Dialogue for Change engages students in weekly live sessions. Trained IDP facilitators guide participants through practice conversations within small groups of experts and peers. Each dialogue builds on earlier coursework, enabling the cohort to use new knowledge in real time. Students who complete the program earn professional development credit hours toward human resources and project management certifications.

Each student who earns the Dialogue for Change certificate, Grabiner-Keinan says, will recognize their power to foster inclusion, connection and equity in any role. “An integral part of this program is to identify the agency and responsibility that each of us has. It’s true that leaders and supervisors have more power in institutions, but this program helps people understand that they all have power to make change interpersonally and institutionally within their workplaces.”

The Dialogue for Change certificate program is now enrolling students. Visit the program website to learn more.

Five Trends HR Leaders Need to Leverage in 2023

The rapid pace of workforce transformation is pushing human resources leaders to adapt for employment trends that have earned catchy monikers — the Great Resignation, quiet quitting and stay interviews. Yet, other underestimated developments are already impacting the dynamics of work.

Expert faculty in Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR School) identified five HR trends that will drive change for companies in 2023.

Read the full story on the ILR website.

New eCornell program offers wellness counseling skills

Wellness – defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” – is essential not only in the health care industry but in every profession and everyday life. However, creating a culture or achieving an optimal state of well-being can be challenging.

To better equip helping professionals, the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures (CIHF) has developed a Wellness Counseling certificate program, offered through eCornell. Ideal for any human resource or wellness professional, this program offers best-in-practice, demonstrated counseling techniques and steps for achieving and creating a culture of wellness.

“Whatever industry a helping professional is in, the ability to effectively lead and curate a culture of wellness is integral,” said program author Beth McKinney, lecturer in nutritional sciences in the College of Human Ecology and CIHF faculty fellow. “This program develops those skills, enabling professionals with the tools to create rapport, elicit behavior change, have open and empathetic communication and enhance their overall effectiveness.”

This program consists of four two-week classes:

  • Understanding the Person;
  • Understanding the Deeper Need;
  • Eliciting New Behaviors; and
  • Promoting Organizational Wellness.

Upon completion, participants will receive a certificate from the College of Human Ecology and 40 professional development hours.

For more information, visit the eCornell website.

Careers, Family, and Gender: Managing Effectively in Today’s Shifting Workplace

Over the past fifty years, America has seen steady shifts in the makeup of its workplace. Managing these changes in career, family, and gender have needed to be addressed by both HR and workers themselves. Pamela Tolbert, professor from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, has been studying how social changes affect organizations and vice versa. She sat down with eCornell’s Chris Wofford to discuss how organizational leadership can address challenges for workers in today’s workplace and what they can do to create a more progressive environment that leaves everyone at the table more fulfilled.

What follows is an abridged version of that conversation.

Wofford: I think one of the through lines to today’s conversation, the thing we’re going to be talking about is work-life balance. Why is that an issue today? What’s the landscape look like? Give us some perspective.

Tolbert: So this gets into how organizations affect social life in part. And I think there are a couple of things that have led to this becoming a really big issue today particularly. I mean people have always worked, people have always had families. But there’ve been changes in both families and the workplace that have kind of lead to a perfect storm in how these two spheres relate to each other. We moved from the kind of traditional family where you have the husband is the bread winner, and the wife stays at home and takes care of things, to a place where you have dual earner couples are common place. And that change occurred pretty quickly actually. About 50% of all families, the husband worked, the wife stayed at home. By the 2000s, it was somewhere between 60% to 75% of the workforce were dual earners.

And then the workplace really didn’t change that much. You know, you have this big social change going on outside the workplace that affects it, not so much adaptation.

Wofford: I’m curious what companies are doing.

Tolbert: So there are a couple of major experiments in particular that I think are really promising. And part of the thing that makes them I think work, is that they’re really focused on rethinking how we work. Not just trying to help people manage work family relations, but the basic premise, these are a couple of experiments. One was done at Best Buy.

Wofford: What happened at Best Buy?

Tolbert: In the case of Best Buy, it was called Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). So in that case it was started by their HR, but they were very conscious of the fact that part of what had gone wrong in the accommodations arrangements, where you have to ask your supervisor if you’re going to take a leave, or you have to make a deal to have flexible work arrangements. So it’s clear that it’s very important to get the supervisors involved in this. That it’s not something that’s just imposed upon them. So what they did was to bring together teams of employees and their supervisors, and the supervisor was responsible for helping the team come up with the ideas and to think the processes through essentially- everything is fair game. Let’s think about the meetings that we have. Let’s think about whether we could use technology more effectively to do things, rather than having all these meetings. If we made some kind of scheduling arrangements, could we then allow people to have more time off, so that they’re not having to be there constantly? Just to be more effective in thinking about the arrangements for coordinating and controlling.

Wofford: They would close the loop on a lot of their initiatives.

Tolbert: Yeah, yeah. So they could readjust. And it turned out it was a very effective program. I mean the employees were incredibly enthusiastic about it. It spread to a large number of others- it started at headquarters, and then it spread throughout the company, and actually a number of other organizations adopted it. They had data, it reduced turnover by almost half.

And the employees reported that they were getting more sleep, they had more energy, they could focus better, because of being able to control their work. So I think part of what’s important here is that because people were motivated to try and think, how can I work better? Because they have the carrot at the end, that your life would actually be improved. It’s not like, think how to work more efficiently so you can work more often.

With a national policy you could kind of provide incentives for employers to spread the work out a little bit more. Everybody would benefit. Including families. And all kinds of things. So that’s one direction that things could go. We also have model organizations to provide pathways. I mentioned the SAS corporation. There is a case study from … I think it’s in the Harvard. But anyway, it’s about this big data analytics company which has been around since, I don’t know, 1976 maybe. It’s a successful company. Always done well. This is the one where they have a 35 hour work week policy. Although people are also expected that if you’re needed you will be there. But the norm, you have a norm that work is not supposed to wake up every day of your life. They provide childcare policies. It’s a very employee centered company.

And the case makes it sound like Shangri-La. But the thing is is that it’s a private company and I think it’s easier to do that than in a public company because in a public company you start getting pressures from stockholders to cut out the fat and make it run more effectively. It is a private company but it’s had like a 10% sales growth on average every year since it was founded. Clearly it’s succeeding. It’s not like the “fat” is being wasted. You can’t make it an HR sort of project. You’ve got to get it spread throughout the company. But HR’s historically been sort of the champion of these kinds of initiatives.

So I think that the thinking about work and family as kind of integrated whole is an important thing for policy. For national policy but also for company policy.

Want to hear more? Watch the recorded live eCornell WebSeries event, Careers, Family, and Gender: Managing Effectively in Today’s Shifting Workplace, and subscribe to future events.