HRA Blog

Workforce Consolidation – Oil in Water?

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

When a large oil producer announced in 2012 that they were relocating and consolidating all their employees to their headquarters in Houston, TX, it was met with great resistance and frustration. Nearly 2,100 employees, their spouses and families were faced with the reality of a new life in Texas. Over the past year here in the Washington, DC region, I have had several friends and colleagues who have been affected by this move and have been leaving the area.

I’ve worked with many companies that have gone through this transition over the past several decades and it seems that no matter what, your workplace is inevitably affected in ways both good and bad.

Over the past three decades many organizations have built business models that ensure a physical presence in many locations across the nation. With the rise of technology and an increase of remote working environments, many companies are re-evaluating the cost effectiveness of relocating employees while they explore the feasibility of instead moving them to a remote workforce.

There certainly are pros and cons to both strategies. In the past, I’ve written about the upside of a remote workforce and remote leadership teams. So for the purposes of this blog, I’d like to focus on two things that may give organizations pause before deciding to relocate everyone to a single location.

You will probably need to replace some of your best employees

Asking a sizeable portion of your workforce to pick up and move their entire lives will inevitably result with employees that decide the move isn’t worth the personal sacrifice. Sometimes there is no amount of compensation in the form of relocation bonuses that is enough to move the needle when you are asking your employees to move their families, change jobs, schools, etc. Ultimately, organizations need to be prepared to recruit and subsequently train a new batch of employees.

Your workplace culture will change in ways you never expected

Regardless of the size of an organization, it’s extremely difficult to implement a standardized workplace culture. Different offices, different cities, different vibes impact different locations with sometimes stark contrasts when it comes to workplace culture. Uplifting and reintegrating an amalgamation of multiple cultures, personalities and outlooks can lead to a challenging work environment. Organizations need to be prepared to take great strides to implement programs to ensure that relocated employees feel a sense of satisfaction in their decision to move.

No organization makes the decision to centralize their workforce lightly, and we’d be naïve to suggest that organizations shouldn’t make this choice if it’s helping the bottom line. However, while HR will often be at the forefront of making this move happen, they shouldn’t be solely focused on the relocation portion of this endeavor. They need to be thinking beyond the relocation to what inevitably may be the most challenging aspect of the entire move, the impact on the employees, and what can be done to mitigate any challenges that arise as a result of the relocation.

The Hidden Biases of the Workplace

Written by Mary Lake on .

The most important asset any organization has is its people. Being able to hire and retain the right individuals is important to any organization’s overall well being. At HR Advisors Group we have been involved in many searches where resumes are reviewed and potential candidates are phone screened in an effort to identify the crème de la crème for our clients to interview. Other times, clients do their own preliminary reviews and ask us to participate in the in-person interviewing process so that we can provide our input on the final candidates they have selected. We have helped many clients find the most qualified candidate who is the right fit for their culture and organization. Our clients strive to be Equal Opportunity Employers and we have enjoyed assisting them in this goal.

I have recently completed some research on implicit bias that I hope will allow both our clients and HR Advisors Group to do an even better job in ensuring that the best candidate is selected. One of the sources of my research has been the book “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald. Their very readable study on hidden biases of good people brought out some very interesting points and questions about what I knew about my own thought processes. As I was reading their book, I began to gain a greater understanding on how my own life experiences affected how I thought and reacted to people and situations and the implications this can have on truly being an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Benaji and Greenwald contend that our life experiences influence our expectations unconsciously and therefore cause biases in our behaviors that we are not only unaware of, but of which we consciously wouldn’t approve of. One of the examples in Benaji and Greenwald’s book is the practice of blind auditions for symphony orchestras across the country. In the 1970’s most professional, symphony orchestra musicians were male. In the 1980’s the practice of concealing an applicant’s gender on an application and having the audition performed behind a screen where the applicant was heard and not seen, increased the number of women who were successful candidates.

While it is not possible for most employers to do the blind auditions that were done by the symphony, there are some things that we can do as employers to minimize the impact of implicit bias. The first is to remove, or block out the candidate names on the resumes that we review. Surnames will often identify the nationality or ethnicity of a candidate and a first name can at times identify a candidate’s race. In addition, names such as Latisha Washington or Jamal Jones are often identified as African American names. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research “Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback.” See the National Bureau of Economic Research for further information. Removing the ability to view candidate names removes any unintended implicit bias that employers might have in selecting candidates to interview.

The theory of Benaji and Greenwald’s study is that if we know our unconscious biases we can put actions into place to counteract those biases. The problem comes in identifying our hidden biases. If you want to test yourself with this concept, you can take an anonymous test to identify your hidden biases.  The Implicit Association Test measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to express. The IAT measures the strengths of associations between concepts and evaluations or stereotypes.   If you are interested in taking the test, visit the Harvard Project Implicit website. The test results combined with further reading on the topic (readily available through an Internet search) is a start in understanding ourselves, our life experiences and influencers in hidden bias.  I would not suggest that the IAT will answer all of your questions about whether or not you are looking at hiring without bias, however, it may help shape and enhance your current hiring practices.