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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m Susan White, a national HR consultant, and I’m here with JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of The JoyPowered® Workspace, the inspiration for this podcast series.
Today we’re going to talk about issues, challenges, and opportunities women face in the workplace. Some of them are the same as men, but others are unique and worth talking through. JoDee, as a woman who has built a successful public accounting and human resources career, have you felt women have some different challenges than men as they progress in the business world?
Well, absolutely, I think it happens and I don’t, I don’t want to in any stretch imply that they’re not out there or that they aren’t happening. But I have to admit, Susan, that in my career, I can’t… I can’t say that I really had any significant challenges with this. And I started… I graduated from college and started in public accounting in 1985, and interestingly, that was about the year, maybe 1984, 1985, when women really started joining the ranks of public accountants. Not that, of course, there weren’t any women in it, but…
But I bet you were a minority.
Yeah, absolutely. Almost every single one of my leaders, managers, partners in the firm were men, but interestingly, we had a firm, probably at that time, maybe, of about 600 people, and there was only one female partner in the office, and I worked with her.
Oh my gosh.
She was – not just in the office, but in the entire firm – and she was such a role model and mentor to me from day one, that it just really made such a positive impact for me. But what do you think, Susan?
Well, you know, as I reflect back on my career, I spent most of it in a Fortune 50 publicly traded company. I, you know, I think I was always conscious of my gender. Now, I did start in the work world a little earlier than you did, so maybe I was a little more, more of a minority in the in the business world, but I always tried to be very conscious and careful about how I projected myself as a professional first. I tried to minimize the, I guess, the female component of it, because I wasn’t so sure that it was acceptable or really as respected as, as I would hope it would be. Sadly, I think I probably was not really bringing my authentic self, because I was concerned about maybe showing too much emotion or too much compassion, so when things got tough, you know, I tried to really get tougher. Now, I can’t say I always was able to pull it off, but I was really reluctant to show true emotion in the workplace.
And what about just going back one step, Susan. In college, were there a lot of women in your business classes, in college even?
No, not really. In fact, I can recall, I would say we probably were about 20, 25% of the business school at the time. I was… actually my senior year, I was president of Women in Business, and we were, I mean, pretty small group. Active but small. Yeah.
See, I think for me, again, that was a time when about 50% of accounting, or maybe even the business… probably not the business school as a whole, but the accounting classes were 50% women, so I don’t… I think I was so naive I didn’t even think about thinking that I needed to worry about my gender in the workforce.
I’m convinced it’s because of your positivity. You know, that’s one of your strengths. I’ll tell you, I had a CEO of a large business that I supported in this very large company, and one time he sat me down and said, “Susan, I want to let you know that you’re the nicest person I’ve ever worked with,” and I started to feel kind of good until he followed up with, “And that is not a compliment.”
Yeah. Yeah, nice doesn’t work when we’re swimming with the sharks and running with the bulls.
Now, do you think that was because you were a female, or maybe were trying so hard to fit in, or what do you think it was? Obviously, he could have said the same thing about a man.
Yeah, you know, I… honestly, I took it because of my authentic self is very compassionate and very empathetic and I… in the environment I was in, people really were very performance driven, action oriented, and there really wasn’t a lot of wanting to understand the why behind things. It was… it was the what, and so I think that I would be the one to always say “We need to stop. Let’s really understand what the person’s thinking.” I would bring, I think, some of those more historically female types of characteristics into the workplace, and I think it came across as just nice, and nice isn’t necessarily respected.
Interesting. And what a shame, what a shame for the organization that you didn’t have that sense of your authentic self. They missed out.
Oh, there you go. Well, you know, it’s funny. I just cannot imagine any of the very talented men that I worked with spent a moment worrying about how they were perceived because of their gender. Yeah. So hey, I did some research on this as we were getting ready for today’s podcast, and I found a survey that Mercer did recently, and it was actually, they talked about it in a webcast that they had done 80 question survey of over 3,000 U.S. workers, and what they found on this topic was that one out of three women, 33%, don’t feel like they can express their views or ideas in the workplace without fear of repercussions, compared to just 29% of men. Yeah, an interesting statistic was that more than one in four female employees, or 26%, said they don’t believe they can report an ethical concern without retaliation. I know we’ve talked about the fear of retaliation before, but I do think that it’s notable given that women may be afraid to come forward when they see something ethically wrong.
Yeah. You know, Susan, thinking back to our episode on negotiating salary, I think this sort of all ties in with this too, we reported then that women are much less confident about being able to negotiate a salary, and now to add on, they don’t feel they can express their views. They don’t feel they can report an ethical concern. I mean, in my mind, it just all ties back to a lesser confidence in themselves.
I think you’re right. I do. I do. And I love… one of the, JoDee’s other strengths is her self-confidence, so probably this feels like a pretty foreign topic. I do feel, though, that it’s pretty rampant in the workplace. Speaking of that, we did invite a guest here today. Saundra Schrock, who is a woman who had an amazing career in banking, which historically has been an industry heavily dominated by men in the executive ranks. She was the president of Bank One retail lending and later Executive Vice President of JPMorgan Chase’s network of over 3,000 branches throughout the U.S. and was responsible for over 30,000 employees. Today, Saundra is founder of Levelhead, which is a company that has created a mobile learning app focused on improving business performance and functional mindfulness. She also serves on the board of Elevate, Saundra, welcome to the JoyPowered® podcast.
Good morning, ladies. I guess it is still morning where you are.
And tell us where you are today.
I’m in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona.
That sounds wonderful. It’s starting to get miserable here in Indiana, so good for you. So, you know, Saundra, I’d love to start out with just asking your opinion. What do you think is different for a woman versus a man as they start to build their careers?
Well, that’s, that’s a great question. This one, it caused me a moment to kind of think back on that, and I would say, number one, the obvious one, is that women experience far more stress than men in the workplace, and it’s largely due, I think, for all the other family commitments that women have, and generally, they’re the ones that are called on for us to do that, and I think I’ve seen that over and over again, and I think probably the things that people don’t necessarily like to talk about are those things that women are subject to a different set of rules in the workplace than men.
Yeah, tell us about that.
Yeah. Well, I think that first of all, women are expected to work harder than others, and, and I think that we learn that, that in order for us to achieve and be able to be noticed and be able to move up in the organization, our performance has to be the top of the scale, as opposed to the middle or the bottom, and those are just something that you learn as you begin to spend time in any organization.
Saundra do you think that concept has evolved over your career, or do you feel that that’s the same today as it was when you started?
That’s a great question, and because part of… my other hat that I wear is I’m pursuing my PhD in psychology, and my research is in gender based stereotypes, or my dissertation, and most of the things that I found out was that what’s really interesting is the research has proven over and over again that in fact, as a woman moves up their performance increases, and also what happens is the implicit bias increases, and let me give you a quick example of that. There was what’s called a meta-analytic study that was completed, it was over 30,000 performance reviews that were that were viewed gender blind based on performance, and when you looked at performance ratings for men and women were generally about the same, and as we know, there’s a lot of regulatory scrutiny over that and so organizations have gotten a lot better at treating people fairly in terms of performance ratings, but where the difference showed, which is really beginning to tell the story of why women are not reaching some of the top levels of organizations or boards or other things is that on a paired comparison, men and women, when you look at the two of them, they may be performing the same performance rating, but the where the differentiation comes is where they are judged based on their ability to move up in the organization. Women are judged less viable for top positions than men on the basis of performance, and I think that that’s… some of that research is coming out and, again, I think as organizations have got better at managing discrimination, bias, and other things in the workplace, is that what’s happening is an unconscious or an implicit bias that’s occurring and things like that, where people aren’t even aware that they’re applying a different set of rules for men and women as they move up an organization.
I believe that’s true. Yeah. Yeah. Saundra, one of the things that’s always impressed me about you is, I know that when you started in banking, I think you started as a teller and you actually worked your way up to an executive vice president in one of the largest banks in the U.S. What obstacles can you share with us that you faced, and maybe some of the ways that you overcame those obstacles?
You know, the number one thing, I was thinking back on this, is that being treated as a woman not treated as an individual, and here’s what I mean by that. I think as I look back, and I have to be completely honest, there are many times being a woman went to my advantage. For example, a lot of times, people would be surprised that a woman had this kind of ambition or ability, and it would draw people’s attention, and actually, there, there have been times when I got noticed because of that, because it was surprising to them, because the expectations were low, I mean, be honest, and as you continue to rise in an organization, you, you really begin to see that it… you had to learn how to adapt to a male-dominated structure, which means there was a set of behaviors that I was expected to perform, and, and I had to figure out how to navigate it, and number one thing was that, that I took the time to figure out what the dynamics were among the group, and I did my best to be a good team player, and was satisfied to kind of work behind the scenes to make sure that we could get done what we had to do without taking a particularly highly politicized stance in a situation where it was all men, knowing that the behavior… that it would not accomplish what I needed to accomplish.
Interesting. Saundra, in my career experience, I saw a lot of women opt out as they got to the higher ranks at the organizations versus what we know Sheryl Sandberg recommends, that we lean in, I saw them opting out. Do you think that maybe that happens because, as you just mentioned a few minutes ago, maybe women have to work harder to get there, or have have you observed that at all, about women opting out?
I think that that is true. And I think that it is related to stress, frankly, related to to the fact that when they look around, they go, “is it really worth it to do this,” but I’m not so sure that if you would look at the research today, that you might not find that true of men and women.
So Saundra, you mentioned that it’s not only in the world of work, but it’s also corporate boards, and we’ve read a lot about why there are so few women on corporate boards, and… from what we hear businesses are out there trying to really search for women, but they’re not coming up, but do you have a point of view on this, either from your research or from your own experiences, because I know you serve on boards as well.
I think there is a… there’s a lot of interest and a lot of research going on that’s related to that. So this is part research based, my, my response, as well as my own experience, but I think number one is that they, most boards recruit from… fish from the same pond as they always have. They fish from the pond of CEOs, current and former, that had previous board experience, and that little pool is… doesn’t have a lot of female fish in it, and so when they look to that population, they come up and say that, you know, the whole standard, “there’s not enough qualified women to serve on boards,” when in fact, if they would cast their net a little larger, for example, I think there is some indication that they’re fishing a little further out, where there are a lot of women currently performing in functional roles in organizations, and as they do this, they begin to see that there are a lot of women that have the capability to be on the board, but they don’t look like and have the same kind of experience that previous board members have had, and so generally, most people look for board of directors potential candidates from… they ask people on the board who they know, and guess what, who they know are people like themselves.
Right. So Saundra, talk to us about mindfulness and how that became an important ingredient in your approach to business and how you are sharing it with others.
Thanks for asking about my passion project. First of all, I have meditated and practiced yoga for many, many years, and frankly, it was the only way I was actually… I was able to travel multiple decades, nearly five days a week, crisscrossing the country, and I would say that helped me minimize the stress and kept me from, frankly, falling apart, and then I left JPMorgan. I, I kind of reflected on what you want to do next, I really began to deepen my practice of mindfulness, going to almost any kind of silent retreat. I started really trying to dig in, and thankfully, I began to see some huge changes in myself, and like watching a black and white movie and then suddenly discover that the world is in living color. You know, things just come alive and you begin to feel better. You see people different, and it was like, it was almost like a miracle, if you will, and so I began a six year journey of reading every piece of research I could find on it, all the way from neuroscience, positive psychology, and I began to understand that it wasn’t magic. It wasn’t a miracle. There was actually a learnable skill, and so over that course of that time, I began to help other people begin to practice and, and discovered something that really was concerning to me, was that… and I taught three years at a university, at the graduate level, mindful leadership, and I used, we’d practice at the beginning and the end, and I began to notice the short attention span, the honesty that the students would say, “Saundra, it’s not likely that I’m going to be able to practice at this level every day. What else can I do?” And so, through the course of a lot of practice and a lot of research, I developed a program called “functional mindfulness,” which is a way to take ordinary, everyday activities and turn those into mindfulness practice, and frankly, it’s the way you do these normal, everyday tasks that turn them into the ability to train your mind to be in the present moment, so that’s my mission now, and we actually turned that into a business by developing an app that delivers this kind of a program into the workplace with all the things that I know a business needs, a dashboard, analytics, the ability to engage the employees while they’re in the program, creating kind of, like, if you will, the gamification kind of things that you can do, and it’s been extremely well received, so we’ve taken that whole business idea and launched another business which is creating this platform for any content, which as we all know, the world is going mobile. People want to do everything on the phone. Thank you for asking about my passion project.
Oh gosh, yes. And if people want to learn more, give us your website.
Saundra, can you… I’m really intrigued about this concept for a couple of reasons. I’ve… number one, I’ve had several friends of mine encourage me to go to a silent retreat, which maybe is a message in and of itself, that some friends have encouraged me, but it just seems impossible to me to do it. How do you get beyond that? Do I… Do I just need to sign up and go?
Well, you know, you could do that, and you would enjoy it, and you would, you would feel absolutely incredible, and after about a day or so, you would, you would go, “Gee, I don’t want to talk to anybody ever again,” but it is true, and it’s kind of a weird thing, that you began to get comfortable with your uncomfortability with silence.
But here’s what I know about that – and I wouldn’t discourage you from doing that – is that what we know about mindfulness, it’s like any skill. If you go to a weekend long or a week long intensive golf session where you learn all the greatest things and at the end of that you’re feeling great, “I can really play this game.” If you don’t do it every day, or practice some sort of regular way, you’re going to lose all that ability.
And they’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on sending executives to do that, and then they come back and go, “Oh.” Well, and you ladies know, because it’s like any sort of training or education program is the same kind of thing. People do it and feel great, and then if it isn’t sustained, you know, nothing changes.
That’s so true.
And secondly, Saundra, can you give us an example of what you mean by taking a typical everyday task and turning it into a mindfulness activity? What might that be?
Whenever, whenever I get in the car, this is a really simple thing to do, is that I don’t turn the radio on, which everybody goes, “Oh, no!”
I put my phone away, I do all those things, I get in the car, and I begin to take in the environment around me, and not only is this practice, it’s also a good safety thing to do. People driving completely focused on the moment. I take in the colors, I notice the sounds, the smells, you know, I can’t tell you how many times, even though I do this every day and go the same way, I see something different every single day, and one very simple thing I do is whenever I get to a stop sign, a red light, or any of those things, I’m actually excited about it, because I actually begin and I ask myself, “where’s my attention?” and I refocus and use it as an opportunity to come back to the present, bring all my senses to that moment. I’m still driving, I’m increasing the safety of my, my journey, and by the time I get where I’ve gone, I’ve got in my 15 to 20 minutes of my mindfulness practice.
That’s beautiful, Saundra. I love that.
That’s great. All right, well, thank you. So what advice do you have for businesses who want to close the gender gap at all levels in the organization?
Asking the question is a great place to start. Right? And a lot of people, a lot of people would just assume, just assume, well, then we must be managing, you know, all the biases, and this is, this is for any kind of bias, whether it’s a bias related to the kinds of decisions they’re making, a bias related to how they run their business, and gender, is that… to be aware that every single human being has a filter through which they see the world. Everybody does, and it’s the ability to understand that there is a filter and being able to learn how to think differently, and again, back to being able to practice being in the moment, always asking, “What filter am I looking at the situation through, and is there another way for me to look at it?” And secondarily is to engage all of your employees in an open conversation on a number of factors. Those conversations are taking place, and if you’re running the place, it’s your job to know what those conversations are and be able to embrace ambiguity and the uncomfortability of hearing those things. That’s the only way that you can actually make sure that your your company is going to continue to be high performance and close the gender gap or any other thing they’re trying to do.
That makes sense. I think that’s great advice for businesses. How about advice for women who are just starting their careers or even mid-level career, anything that you think that they ought to be paying attention to in order to help their success?
You know, a lot of people will say things like, get clear on what you want, be focused, and all those things are great, but you know what? One of the things that I found is being able to embrace the opportunity that you have, and it’s absolutely amazing to me that when you’re focusing… again, back to that present moment, and actually making sure that what you’re doing today is satisfying, and not necessarily look to other people to make that happen. You can make that happen by the way you look at your job, the way you find meaning. Viktor Frankl and many of… he’s one of my… read his books over and over again. He talks about finding meaning in the moment, and I think for women – men and women – as you go to work every day, you can make every moment meaningful to yourself and to others, and if you do that, it becomes what I call a virtual spiral up for everyone around you, and… stop thinking about what’s next, really focusing on now.
Saundra, I love that advice. I wrote a book in 2016 called “JoyPowered®,” where I talk about that same concept, where I think we’re, we’re waiting for someone else, or we’re looking for someone else to bring us joy or to help us with a career. I mean, it’s okay… it’s a good idea to have mentoring and help, but I think we have to take charge of it ourselves, and we have to seize the moment, if you will, and drive that forward, so I… that’s beautiful advice.
Sounds like we’re on the same page, and I know you’ve discovered this, but when you do that, what you find out is people want to be around you, and when, when others want to be around you, you’re going to find mentors, and not a formal mentor, but everyone’s gonna be able to give you a gift, if you will, that will make your life better and then help you help make other people’s lives better. Right? It’s just, it’s just the way of work.
I love it. That’s great. Okay, Saundra, thank you so much for today. Is there any other advice or anything you want the listeners to know before we bid you farewell?
No, I think… I think we did a lot of that this morning, and I really enjoyed it. Ladies, it was great to have this kind of conversation.
And to our listeners, again, reminder to check out Saundra’s business at getlevelheaded.com
Great, thank you.
It’s Levelhead. No -ed.
getlevelhead.com. Thank you. Oh, that’s great.
All right. Thanks ladies.
Thank you, Saundra. Thank you. All right. Bye.
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So, JoDee, today we’re going to talk about the implications that exist for individuals as they grow older at work and what it means for employers who are having employees working longer in life than ever before, so really, the topic is ageism. Do you read much or see much about ageism?
I definitely think it’s out there, and I have to admit some of it, I think, borders on discrimination still, with regards to age, which is…
…out there, but a lot of lot of concepts that people hold in their heads about hiring people when they’re older.
You know, sadly, I think you’re right. And I think it extends into the workplace for people who, maybe they started at a job early on, and they put their head down, worked really hard, they looked up 30 years later, and people start to view them a little differently. So, you know, when we talk about ageism, the definition I would use would be the stereotypes attributed to people who are considered old. And of course, an old is really in the eye of the beholder. Now, in the United States, there is an age limit. There’s the age limit, there’s a… there’s a number associated with “old,” and that is the age of 40. Based… I know, it makes me laugh too, the further I get beyond 40. But it’s… ADEA, which is the Age Discrimination Employment Act that was passed in 1967, was really passed to protect individuals age 40 or older in the area of employment, to help them not be discriminated against. So, thinking… how many years ago that was, I remember back in 1967, I thought 40 was old as well.
Right. It is interesting that that is such a low number.
Honestly. But, you know, let’s talk about some research that has been done on ageism, really, in the workplace. Dr. Michael North, who’s a researcher at Columbia University, did a research project that was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and one of their findings was that in developed countries, 60% of employees who are over the age of 50 believe that age discrimination is the biggest obstacle to their employment. Now, I know that you do HR consulting in a pretty broad spectrum, but have you worked with people inside organizations who felt that because of their age, they were not getting some of the same perks or breaks or opportunities as people younger than them?
Absolutely. Lately, I think there’s a stereotype about older workers and technology, maybe not being able to keep up with that. Definitely this exists in the recruiting space, that many employers are hesitant to hire older workers, they’re afraid they won’t stay on as long, which is interesting and ironic, of course, because it’s the millennial generation who has much more of a stereotype of looking for new jobs and not staying in jobs very long, so even if you hired someone at the age of 50, or 55, even 60, they might stay longer than a 22 year old might stay. So it’s definitely out there.
I you know, honestly, I have seen it both on the employer side and I’ve seen the fear factor with… on the prospective employee side. On the employer side, I’ve been part of discussions where they were trying to decide maybe who to put into a management… internal management training program. I’ve seen them thinking about who do we want to send to this leadership development course, and honestly, as they look at the employees, I’ve heard managers say, “Well, you know what, they’re really toward the end of their career. Is this really somebody that would be interested in doing this?” I’ve heard the expression, you know, “Their runway’s really short.”
And… I know! And so you can imagine, I’m in those discussions, I’m like, “Stop. Age has nothing to do with this.” And I… really, then, I think people get kind of quiet and they nod, “Of course, of course,” but I wonder what’s going on, you know, behind behind that face. Now, on the prospective employee side, I’ve done a lot of career coaching, and when I do get a career coaching client that is over the age of, let’s say, 50, they’ll say, “You know, Susan, how hard is it? You know, I… is someone going to really want to hire a 58 year old woman or a 58 year old man for this position?” And of course, I say, you know, we don’t know what… we never know what’s in the eyes or the minds of prospective employers. You need to bring your A game. You’d… it’s not an issue in my mind. And most companies are going to be sly or covert if it’s an issue in the hiring manager’s mind, and we can’t control that. What we can control is you making sure that you tell your story, and how you bring the skills and requirements necessary for that particular role.
Right. And obviously, that experience can be such a benefit for a future employer, to bring someone on who has that wisdom and experiences, and maybe you’ve even had some failures that… of course they’ve had some failures along the way, that they have learned from, as well, too.
I once had a manager say, “I would much rather hire somebody who has had some failures, because they went through an on the job training that we may not be able to recreate. In fact, we don’t really want to recreate that, but they have learned from it.” So taking somebody who’s seen and… and has made some you know, stumbles along the way is so much better than hiring somebody green, perhaps, who’s never experienced any conflict or any type of problem, right?
You see so many more people these days, too, Susan, who are starting new second careers, right, who maybe have… have gone back to school or gotten a certification or are just starting a whole new role in a new industry or new area that they haven’t done before, that they’re excited and they’re energized and they’re ready to spend some… many years in… in re-energizing their career.
My husband went back to school when he was 50 to get his master’s in construction management. He’d been an architect and project manager. And I will tell you that now he’s been teaching construction management for the last nine years, and I want him to teach another 20. So. I keep reminding him, “you’re going to be teaching for a very long time,” but he loves it. It really is, as you say, a very energizing encore career.
So, you know, you talked about some misconceptions, and I think that’s probably the root of most discrimination, is that people get locked in their head ideas, stereotypes about people based on how they look or where they’re from, or, in this case, how old they are. Well, Pew Charitable Trusts did an economic mobility project that refuted many of the more common age related stereotypes, and specifically, they cited misconceptions about older workers, including that older workers are thought to be resistant to change, older workers’ job performance suffers as they get older, people don’t perform as well as what they do. Thirdly, older workers are less innovative, and then fourth is outdated skills. Kind of goes back to the technology. And they’re… that they’re less reliable because of old old age aches and pains and things like that. So this study, I thought, was really good, because they took each one of these misconceptions, and they actually did pull data and statistics to show how older workers are not resistant to change. You might have that old curmudgeon somewhere sitting in the office, but that is not the norm. Employees are adaptable, and they… older employees do want to keep learning. And that their performance, as you say, based on their experiences, they’re often better or the best performers, and they are innovative, and they do come up with creative ideas. And then about reliability, it’s not that they’re out because of aches and pains. They are more likely more dependable to be at the workplace each day and every day. You know, any other misconceptions you’ve heard or you’ve seen, JoDee, in the workplace?
Well, I think that one of the big ones that I’m surprised didn’t come out in their study, that I mentioned earlier, is just that they won’t be around as long, or you mentioned the “short runway” approach, but when I listened to your thoughts there, Susan, I’m 53 and I think I’m open to change, a good performer, innovative, and have up to date skills, so this definitely has to be a true study.
I agree, you are all of those things and more. So, you know, I thought as we were preparing for today’s podcast, you know, why is it important for our listeners to confront ageism and ensure it doesn’t take root in their workplaces? And I really do believe that as an employer, it is your responsibility to… common types of discrimination that takes place, kind of like sexual harassment, if you don’t have a firm policy, a firm approach, and if you don’t take it very seriously, bad things happen. Well, the same thing with ageism. If you don’t have a very intentional approach that age is not a factor in your selection of people, your promotion of people, how you treat people, if you don’t really think about it, talk about it, it’s real easy for bad things to happen. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that by 2050, the 65 and older group of the labor force is expected to grow by 75%.
That’s huge. Whereas 25 to 54 year olds, that age group is only going to grow by 2%. And this is as percentage of the labor force. People are working longer, sometimes because they have to, sometimes because they want to, and this is really unprecedented in the history of the United States.
Well, and especially at the time when our unemployment rates are lower than they’ve been in many years, as well, too, people need to figure out a way…
Yes, that’s right.
…to hire older workers specifically, because that is going to be a good part of their workforce.
Absolutely. You know, it’s interesting, older workers or people, you know, over the age of 65 that we normally would have thought of as retirees… a 2013 Employee Benefit Research Institute survey found that 69% of workers expect to work during retirement, so post age 65, but in reality only about 25% actually do. And there’s a lot of reasons for that. Sometimes it’s because they change their mind, but mostly it’s because it is very difficult for an older person age 65 or above to compete with younger workers. It may be that because of their pay, they have worked up to a certain pay level in their life, and now they may be very willing to take lower pay, but employers are thinking that the person will get tired or bored and frustrated if they’re not earning what they were earning.
Four in 10 employees were polled by Lee Hecht Harrison Penna in the United Kingdom in 2017, and those employees reported that the most common cause of workplace inequality, even ahead of gender, is age. So it’s a… people are feeling it, and I think it’s important that employers recognize it and start to do things about it.
Right. Not only, as you mentioned, out of necessity, they need to do it, but also, obviously, you also mentioned the Age Discrimination Act. You know, employers need to be careful that they’re making good decisions with regards to keeping people on and hiring new employees and thinking about what their approach to this is and how they can be fair and equitable to all.
That’s right. So let’s… let’s do talk about, you know, how can businesses attract and retain mature talent? There was a SHRM Foundation report called “The Aging Workforce: Leveraging the Talents of Mature Employees,” that really encourages creating a workplace culture that embraces mature staff. They cited an AARP and SHRM 2013 research on what matters to 50 plus year old workers, and what they came up with – I’d be interested how this resonates with you, JoDee – the things that they said really were important were flexibility, one of our favorite topics, right, workplace flexibility; finances, usually as people age, they are concerned about money, more so perhaps than people earlier in their career, and about how they’re going to be prepared when they ultimately, eventually, do stop working; insurance, they’re very concerned about health care insurance, certainly until age 65 when in the U.S. you’re eligible for Medicare; retirement, really thinking through how can they have a quality retirement at that right time down the road; and then caregiving came up as very strong, because so often as people age, they may have very elderly parents or loved ones still around, or they may have a spouse who may need their caregiving.
Right. I love, again, that number one issue was flexibility, which we think of as such a stereotypical millennial need, and really it is so important to employees of all ages to be able to have some options around that, especially based on your item number five, which is caregiving, right? They might need flexibility for different reasons or different purposes to do that, but it’s still important. And the insurance, I know I’ve heard so many people I’ve talked to where they need to work, or they need a spouse to work, or they need a certain kind of role because of being able to get health insurance, so very important to people.
You know, I would think it’d be important to all people, but I do think that when you’re early 20s, mid 20s, it is not…you’re usually very well.
And so it doesn’t seem to be as high a priority.
Right. Well, or sometimes you can get it for a less expensive price when you’re younger, too.
So it becomes more important when you’re older, because it might cost you more.
Very good point. So let’s think about recruiting. You know, before 1967, before the Age Discrimination Employment Act, it was not unusual that ads would be run, you know, asking for fresh college graduates interested in this or interested in that. Or they would say things….
Isn’t that funny?
Yeah, they could… they would say things about age that they certainly could not say today. But what can we do as we’re trying to source the older candidate? As you said, the smart employer in this very tight job market is out there trying to figure out how to woo in people, non-traditional candidates, and maybe these are people who have retired from a full-time job and are now looking to do something a little more flexible. What are some things, perhaps, that you can do to attract older employees?
One of my favorites is rehiring your alums. I think that there is such an untapped market out there for companies to go back to…at any age, quite honestly, but maybe specifically for the older workers, to think about people who had worked with them before who were successful and left for any number of reasons at the time, that might consider coming back. And I think that’s a very undervalued or under…underutilized tool, really, that companies track those people, keep in touch with those people, and not rethink about getting them back, because maybe 10 years ago, they left for a particular reason, that particular reason might be completely different.
What I love about that, is that you know about that alum’s reliability, you know, their skill set, and that they’d gone out, maybe worked somewhere else 10, 15 years, they’re going to bring you back even more.
What I’ve seen some companies do is that they’ll, for anyone that leaves them on good terms, that they will invite them to join maybe their Facebook group or their LinkedIn group, and so that they can stay in touch with through social media in a very easy, easy way. So I think that is an excellent idea.
Right. What other ones have you seen?
Well, I think that, you know, unlike ever before, that there’s actually some very good websites that older Americans will go to who are looking for work. Some of the more popular ones is AARP has a Life Reimagined for Work website, and they do quite a bit of work on talking about encore careers and really celebrating people who have kind of reinvented themselves post-retirement, so that, the AARP website, I think, is a wonderful place to go for you as an employer to post jobs. Another one is seniorjobsbank.org. And then, of course, there’s always Federal One Stop Career Centers. Another great idea is think about employee referral, and if you have done a nice job of bringing in some senior talent, they may know other senior talent out there, people that are older. Now, there may be that you’ve got younger employees too, that know older people. But I would always want to keep it open, but sometimes tapping into people who have…are on their second career or third career, they may have people they can recommend to you. So I think employee referral’s a good source, right? I have loved some of the ads that I have seen. Do you remember the McDonald’s commercial where they had, you know, high schoolers, like, sweeping up, and next to them was, like, someone who looked like my grandmother. And, you know, they really started to put into their advertisements pictures of older workers, and all of us want to work places where we think we will fit in. So I think that’s a very smart idea.
Right. I like that, too, or one of my favorite movies, The Intern.
What a perfect example of someone who was looking for an opportunity to get back into a work environment and brought such needed value to the organization that it was… it was a fun way to encourage the use of hiring older workers.
Absolutely. And I think he was, like, 71, but he ended up being Anne Hathaway’s mentor and coach as an intern. So I thought was a great example of the type of value that an older worker can bring into the workplace.
Right. That’s another good thought, too, Susan, is thinking about this concept of “reverse mentoring,” right, and how younger employees… going back to the stereotype that younger people might have stronger technology skills, how might they reverse mentor some of the older workers in technology or in other skills, and then also utilizing the older workers to mentor younger workers at the same time.
Oh, yeah, I agree. So let’s talk about when you do have older workers, you know, how can we make sure that you’re engaging them and really retaining them? Because I really do think they are, as you said, really a hot commodity for companies that can attract and retain the older workers. There’s some companies out there that are doing some creative things. Caremark has a snowbird program, and they’ve actually had it since 2004, and this is where, at a CVS drugstore, they will have workers who are… during the cold weather, they are down in the south or in warm climates, and in the warmer weather, they’re back up in the north and other places, so that as their business really booms, they have plenty of workers in that location, and when the tourists all leave, so do their snowbird workers.
I love the creativity of that concept, as well as just the opportunity to keep great employees, right? And doing what works for them, what works for the company and the individual as well.
I have heard of people individually who’ve gone out to, like, the national parks during the summer to work as retirees, and then during the winter, they’ll, you know, go back home. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a round the year type of thing, but if you’re looking for seasonal workers, it very well might be that an older employee might want that flexibility to go work for three or four months and then have the rest of the year off.
There was a time in my career that I worked in a banking institution, and we would recognize that we’d have employees, tellers that would want to have the summers off with their kids, and we would open up summer staff jobs to teachers, because some of them wanted to work full-time, so they would teach during the year, and then they would work as tellers during the summer. So that was a really effective program that could very well work for people who need flexibility or want flexibility.
Right. I, of course, grew up in the CPA firm world, where we hired many seasonal employees from January to April, and I remember as a young staff, even back then, working with some older, retired people who just wanted to work for a few months of the year. And I thought that was so, so great for both our company, who needed the help, and them to be able to just work a few months of the year.
That’s wonderful. There’s another concept called “bridge employment” that some employers are doing, which is as individuals are starting to think about maybe they would like to retire, but they’re not ready to be off, you know, full-time sitting at home figuring out what to do, so what they do is they work individually with those folks who are thinking about retirement, and they start to reduce their work hours over time. So that let’s say we’re three years out. Maybe this year, we’re going to go from 40 hours to 30 hours, next year, 20 hours, maybe that last year, you’re working 15 hours a week. But I think that’s fairly smart. So you are retaining that institutional knowledge for as long as you can, hopefully doing knowledge transfer to others that will follow. And you’re retaining somebody who’s really adding value, right?
I love the concept, too, of just ongoing skills training, right, and not making the assumption that they’re not ready to learn or take on different skills or maybe thinking about taking on a different role in the organization, and how might they best utilize their skills and strengths in the organization by doing something different or doing more of what they do really well.
I agree. So JoDee, I know Purple Ink offers intergenerational training. Is it something that you would recommend that businesses consider?
I do, and I think the overall message from that is about not making assumptions about people, right? And no matter how old they are, or what their skills are, or how little or long they’ve worked, but talking to people individually about what is most important to them. I think it’s interesting we… as I’m actually writing my second JoyPowered® book on JoyPowered® families, we asked the question in the book about work life balance and… or work life integration and how it worked for people with their families and with their work, and what was really interesting to me, I think it’s not rocket science, because we all know this, but yet to see it as people responded to our survey about this question, that we had people who talked about how they needed more flexibility because they had young kids. And yet on the other end, we had people, older employees who said they needed more flexibility because they had aging parents. And we had people who had stayed home and were ready to get back to work, and people who were working and were ready to stay home more. And it was people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and skill sets who responded to it. And I think you just… you can’t make assumptions about someone’s age and what might be most important to them, because we’re all at different places in our lives.
Very fair. Well, we’ve talked about the employer, but let’s switch viewpoints to the mature worker themselves. I had an article published on Inside Indiana Business entitled “Growing Gray at Work,” I think it was when I started to go gray. I just thought, “how am I going to pull this off in the workplace?” And the advice that I gave in this article was really how to stay relevant and not only survive but… but thrive as you age in a multigenerational office. So, you know, all of us are getting older every day, and I do think that it’s smart for individuals to think about how do I come into the workplace every day and try to help dispel some of the, sadly, assumptions people might make. So, here’s what my advice was, JoDee. First of all, I think you need to be the most optimistic person in the office. You know, I believe in positivity, and so you need to come in and think about where can we be going, what can we be doing. Secondly, I think because you are older and you’ve had a chance to experience a lot of things that not everyone in the office has yet, you know, confronted, that you should be generous with your time and your resources. Be the person who says “I’d love to share with you experiences I’ve had on this.” Just make sure… you maybe don’t want to bore people with what… what has happened in the past, in history, but make sure that you make yourself available to share some of the subject matter expertise that you’ve gained. My third piece of advice is engage in every training opportunity at your disposal. So if they’re offering online training, if they’re offering a chance to go and hear a speaker, to do whatever, jump on it, you know, be the first one signing up. And then my fourth piece of advice is never stop building relationships. I think some people get really comfortable. “I know everybody I know, I like who I like.” And that’s crazy, because people come in and people go out, and it’s…I think building relationships needs to be just perpetual.
I think, another comment on that, Susan, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve interviewed over the years that were maybe later in their career and for one reason or another lost their job. It could could have been because of performance, but might have been the company closed or relocated or had a big downsizing, and how so many of the people have told me that they weren’t doing any networking or building relationships outside of the workplace.
And as I suggested to them to talk to their networks and share what they were looking for, so many people glazed over a bit at me and said, “I don’t have a network,” or “I don’t have a network outside of work.” Now, the people you used to work with can still help with that as well, but… but getting some people outside of your network, whether it’s through community activities or a church or your neighborhood or whatever that might be, I just think building relationships inside and outside of work can be really important.
I do. It’s really healthy and I think it’s extremely important to your ongoing employability. And my final point or a piece of advice would be, it’s important as an older employee, make sure that you admit mistakes quickly and share what you learn from them. I think that keeps you very genuine and I think it makes you approachable, and it’s important to be real. So, JoDee, anything else you want to add?
I think sometimes it’s easy for us, myself included, to label ourselves sometimes as, “Oh, I’m old. I… I don’t want to learn that new technology,” or “I’m old, so I’m slower than you are,” and almost…so I’d love your advice about being the most optimistic person in the office and thinking about what we mentioned earlier of the concept of reverse mentoring, you know, take one of those younger employees out to lunch and learn from them about what they’re doing to be successful and is it… technology is so important, and you might not be the best person in the office, but keeping up with that core level of skills, I think, is critical.
Our topic today is communication strategies with a multicultural workforce. I have to admit, I have very little direct experience with this topic. I have hired many people with diverse cultures, but they have all spoken English. Well, Susan, you’ve worked in a global role with the global workforce, so I assume you have lots of stories.
You know, I do have a lot of experience when we tried to bring up some of our operations sites and operations centers in other places in the world and really getting strong English speakers with accents that were very easy to… and comfortable for our clients was very, very important. And then we’ve also had issues in the U.S., because we needed to really train a lot of our customer service people on how to speak lots and lots of languages based on the communities that we serve. So language is really an important and interesting topic, and I’m so excited that we have a guest speaker here today.
Yes. So our guest today is Marina Waters. Marina is the brand new president of LUNA Language Services.
She is an attorney by trade, has dedicated 20 years of her career and academic interests advocating for the civil, political, and cultural rights of communities facing discrimination. Marina, tell us more about yourself, your background, and how LUNA Language Services got started.
Thank you, JoDee, and thank you, Susan. I’m really happy to be here and… and yeah, share a little bit about what we do and how we work with companies to help them adjust to the changing demographics in our society in general. And as you mentioned, my background is in law. I was one of those people that never thought I was gonna be a lawyer and run a business, but, you know, sometimes in life you feel like you’re on a track and you’re picked up and put on a new track, and it isn’t until you look backwards in your life you realize, no, you know, I was actually on the right track and gaining all the skills I needed…
….to do exactly what I’m doing now. So I’ve had that experience several times. I did practice law, and I was practicing international human rights law, so my interest and passion was always in international work. I had the good fortune to meet my husband, who lived here and had just started a business, and when I came out here, he… he needed a partner, he needed some help, and not intending to run a business or run a business with my husband, you know, we just sort of fell into it again. I had the skills that he needed operationally, and also just needed to create sort of a brand around that business, and at the time, here in Indiana, there was a real need for support, for language services. The diversity was just pouring into the city, and you’d see this across the country, really, mid-sized cities were really facing that crunch. And so the need was there and the business opportunities were large just to source the talent of and train the interpreters to help the businesses provide that service.
And Marina, was it any particular language, or was it multiple languages? The need.
It was really multiple. So, you know, Spanish is, you know, is a big language, has been spoken in the U.S. for a long time. And so a lot of companies did have resources, people on staff that spoke Spanish, but some of those fringe languages, you know, they didn’t have. And also, the Spanish speakers had a job to do. Their job was not to be an interpreter. Now we have a position that we call a bilingual position, so it’d be someone who had served as an interpreter and in another role, but back then, people were being pulled constantly…
Off their normal work, right?
Off their normal work. And, you know, when the need got too big at a hospital or at a court, it didn’t work anymore, there was a need to bring in people.
Well, and I was at a client’s last week, Marina, where they were talking about that they were going to have to share with their workforce that they were needed to downsize. And they have a very heavy Hispanic population, and they have this situation where they just pull people off the floor to translate to them, and so they were planning to use the same person to do this. And I said, you know, maybe this is an opportunity to bring in someone from LUNA Language Services so that you can be sure the right message is being spoken and not to put that person in the position of being the one to share the message.
JoDee, you bring up such a good point, and it’s… it demonstrates why we enter so often into a company through HR. Because a lot of times, the personnel and the team in the HR department understands what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in terms of information sharing, and especially if there’s a conflict or someone’s doing a review, or something like a termination. So you… you bring up the perfect opportunity to have a third party come in and just help support information, but in a confidential manner.
So important. You know, Marina, we understand that language services is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation. Why do you think this is so?
Well, it is. It’s amazing. So, I think if you look at the data… in 2014, one in five U.S. residents spoke a language other than English in the house. So that’s a lot of people not speaking English as their primary language. And so, why? I mean, I think we’re a global economy, and America, in the United States continues to be the place in this world that provides a lot of opportunity for people, so we have immigration here, we have refugees being placed here, and we just have more families that are choosing to speak a language other than English in their home.
By intention, you know. So I, myself, send my children to a language immersion school. They learn Spanish all day long and they don’t need an interpreter when they go out. But there are a lot of families who, by choice, will immerse their children in a language other than English.
What language do you speak?
So, I speak a lot of languages, but just enough to get myself in trouble. When I was practicing law, I worked in a lot of Spanish speaking countries, so I learned a lot of legal terminology and a lot of street Spanish.
I myself am a Greek American, so I was raised primarily in the U.S., but going to Greece quite a bit. So I know enough Greek to have a great conversation with my grandparents, who are no longer alive, but I did that over and over and over again. And then, you know, working in my industry, we’ve picked up a lot, so I can do some basic phrases in… even in sign language, which is really good to know.
Oh, that’s important.
Yeah. Nice. So, I’m headed to Poland in a few days. Do you have any tips for me? Do you… I didn’t… I didn’t prep you for this. If you know any Polish words for me?
I would say go on Amazon, and same-day delivery, get a phrase book. But also, you know, YouTube is one of the best sources right now for language learning, and Duolingo. I have no affiliation with them, but Duolingo is an amazing website and app that will help you learn phrases in a brilliant way.
Yeah, I did… I went to Germany last year, and I used Duolingo before I went. And my daughter’s a big fan of that, and it is a really cool tool.
It is. It is.
JoDee, you can’t go wrong saying “toilet.” I’m telling you, they seem to pick up on that one anywhere I’ve ever been
Good, good. So Marina, teach our listeners about the landscape of languages spoken across the U.S., and maybe specifically right here in Indiana.
Each state is a little different in terms of what languages are needed. I can speak… here in Indiana, our top languages are not the languages you would expect.
Nope. You know, of course we have a big showing of Spanish speakers here. But one of our top languages, especially in Indianapolis, is actually Burmese.
Yeah. We have over 15,000 Burmese residents here in Indianapolis. And so what you’ll find is some key languages like Spanish and Chinese and Arabic, those major languages that you see across the world now, right? And then, depending on what city you’re in, there are the immigrant and refugee populations that cluster. So we also have a big showing of Pennsylvania Dutch here.
Oh my goodness.
Because of the Amish communities. Yeah.
Oh, that would make sense.
So… so it’s one of the top 15 languages that are prevalent here, Pennsylvania Dutch, which you would never guess it. But in Burmese… with the Burmese language, we have several dialects here spoken and, I mean, every city has their own languages and… and that’s why it’s important to look to a company or a resource that has trained professionals.
Right? Because if you’re looking at communicating topics such as unemployment package, or if you have a insurance issue that you’re trying to work out, a complaint, God forbid, you know, a workman’s comp issue, something that has… there’s a lot on the line, you need someone with a really high level of whatever language you’re speaking, so when you’re talking about some of those rare languages, it’s really good to to have a resource you can trust.
Marina, does your firm get involved in compliance types of documents and when an organization that might be customer facing needs to have all their terms and conditions translated, is that something that your organization does?
Yeah. So, sometimes what we’ll go in and do is create something called a “language access plan.” And I like to equate it to almost like a evacuation plan in a building. You know, it’s something that every building needs to have in case there’s a need for it, right? And a language access plan, really, we go in, and HR’s a big voice at that table of the planning, and we look at the needs of the organization from beginning to end, and… and then sort of try to plan ahead. And that plan is evidence of compliance. Having that is evidence of compliance for organizations that are required to provide those language services. And, you know, we get calls at LUNA quite a bit, “Are we required to provide an interpreter here?” There’s this sort of a simple test. If your organization has any crossover with the federal government or federal funding – and that can come from all kinds of sources, healthcare is a huge one, because a lot of people will accept Medicaid or Medicare – there is a requirement, a black and white kind of requirement, that there has to be a plan in place and some sort of accommodation made, and then beyond that, you know, companies are just more and more doing it because they need to let their employees and staff know about their own processes, about their own policies, and just to avoid that sort of liability. That may not be set in stone from the federal government, but that just makes business sense.
Because, you know, if someone can’t communicate back and forth about the problems they’re having at work, they’re likely… there’s gonna be a retention problem, right, there’s gonna be issues that come up, and no one’s gonna know why. So the idea of translating all employee handbooks, it’s a preventative solution to avoid quite a few problems. You know, just having that spelled out when employee comes on board.
And so, just to clarify that, too, it sounds like you do a lot of verbal translations, but also written communications, as well.
Yeah. So you want to know a fun fact?
Okay. So, every time I… when I talk to people in an audience or, you know, on the radio, or on a podcast, I try to give them a good takeaway. So here’s a good thing to know. And now that I’m teaching you this, every time you hear it incorrectly, it’s gonna annoy you.
Oh, good. I need one more thing to annoy me.
So, interpretation and translation are two different things. Translation is the process of taking a written communication and changing it from one language, a source language, to a target language.
So translation is the exchange of communication through a written… written process. And then interpretation is an oral process, verbal or sign. So, for American Sign Language, it will be, you know, a signed process, but translation always refers to some sort of written communication.
I am so glad to know that, because I’m sure that I have called, when I’d hired someone to come in to do sign language, I’m sure I said “the translator will be here at ten.”
And I was wrong! The interpreter will be here at ten.
So, there are some nuances. But in general, those are the those are the categories we talk about in our industry.
Yeah. Good to know, good to know.
Do you feel that diversity is becoming more important to organizations today?
Oh, I mean, absolutely, for so many reasons. Our diversity makes us stronger. I mean, if you just look at genetics alone, and look at that, but if you look at just the diversity of ideas, diversity of cultures, I think so many organizations are trying to reach out to a diverse society, the diverse society we’re living in, and they need to be able to source diverse candidates. They need to be able to have their input on, you know, how to outreach their services or products to a diverse audience. So the idea of taking the concept of diversity and all it represents, and then ingraining it into your business processes through language and culture, are just really important. And it’s… what we see, you know, are the companies that are seeking that support and really integrating a commitment to diversity at all levels. We see them really thriving, you know, and… and all different levels of… would you like to hear a few examples of that?
Would love to.
Okay, so, you know, we have a lot of clients that are, like, hospitals and courts, but then we have some companies that are very mindfully using language services. And so one, for example, could be Pepsico, Gatorade. Another that I can think of is Walmart, DHL, and these are companies that are hiring people that English is not their first language, and they’re bringing them on, and they’re very mindfully going through a process of not only, you know, translating the documents and having the interpreter there during shift changes and reviews, but also looking at how to bridge diversity gaps within their organization. We have a company here, Telamon, who brought us in to actually do some training on that very issue, multilingual training, because when you have different languages and different cultures, you know, that also creates conflict, right? And it’s really conflict we all have, even when we speak English. So the idea of, like, looking at internal biases, it really is beneficial to the whole team and the whole organization. But we’ve seen some companies very mindfully look at that.
You know, I really find that encouraging, especially given in the United States today, how politically charged all the issues are about immigration and language, and yet in… contrary to that, we’ve got companies that are embracing it, working on assimilation, and using your services. So that gives me hope for the future.
Yeah. Well, and I think, too, we’re… we’re in an economy where unemployment is so low that employers need to be creative at thinking of different ways to hire people. And I suspect, to some extent, some companies might be focused on the recruiting and hiring piece, but not following up with the integration, assimilation of that. So I’m glad to hear some success stories, but I’m sure you see some the other way too?
Sometimes we’re brought in because there’s been problems or there’s a problem with retention. But we’ve seen some great success stories with companies that are actually targeting specific cultural groups, and so, in a way, instead of, you know, trying to source information in 12 different languages and English, maybe they’ll focus on three, and really focus on three communities. And so… and in that way you allow people even within those groups to rise up in their own positions and take on a managerial role and… and so that provides a lot of interesting opportunities for people, as well, when they’re thinking of different strategies for staffing.
Right, very good. Marina, why should our listeners intentionally think about hiring culturally diverse employees, even if they don’t speak their language?
Yeah, well, that’s an easy argument for me to make, only because I’ve seen, even within our own staff, so much talent that’s coming into the country, into our communities, from other countries. So… so often, what you’ll find is immigrant or a refugee who comes to this country they’re… they have professional degrees, they’re doctors, they’re lawyers, their business owners. And because of their language barrier, they may not be able to practice here, they may not be able to pass certain tests, or they might just not… they might be looked over entirely. And what we find is often people are working janitorial jobs, which is… nothing wrong with those jobs, but that might be someone who’s been running a bank in a foreign country. So this idea of kind of getting beyond our own biases, again, our own internal biases that because someone’s English isn’t as smooth as ours. What’s behind that? You know, what have they learned already to prove their ability to learn? Most people that are out there looking for work here want to learn English, and will if they’re given the opportunity. One thing we find is some companies are actually providing English training inside of their corporations. So that’s another service we provide and another strategy, you know, so they’ll give their employees an hour, two hours, three hours a week.
And it’s a benefit to those employees, and it’s sort of a win win situation for them.
You’re gonna be able to retain those employees. I think it’s a brilliant idea. So Marina, how about telling us and our listeners, where would you start if you’re a company that really has not been trying to attract a very diverse workplace because they were afraid that they would not have people… would not have the language skills they needed? What type of tips do you have for any of our listeners that are thinking, “hey, I want to do this”?
Yeah, well, I think what you first start with is are you prepared? You know, because going out to source talent in multilingual and multicultural communities might take a multilingual posting.
And knowing where to post it, knowing who’s going to answer that call or answer that email. And so that’s why a lot of times just knowing you do have a resource available and a company to call. So, one thing a lot of language services companies provide is a phone number, a simple phone number that they can call in and get a phone interpreter on the line within a matter of seconds in any language. And just so knowing you have that resource available. You know, I think you plan ahead. You decide what sort of resources your company is willing to invest in, say, translating a handbook, putting a multilingual posting on a website, you know, those sorts of planning, and then when it comes to source the talent, I mean, there are a lot of resources that are out there in the community. A lot of times, there’s actual organizations that are… one of their services is to help these different cultural and ethnic groups find work. So…
And I know you’re not probably able to recommend any group, but do you have any suggestions of names of ones for employers out there that would want a partnership with some of those organizations?
So, you know, a great resource to look at is actually, in every city there… almost every city, all major cities, there’s going to be actually a refugee resettlement organization or two or three, that usually have an employment arm. Here in Indiana, ours is called Exodus Refugee, and there’s also Catholic Charities.
But there are organizations like this across the country, and one of their actual responsibilities or one of the services they provide is usually employment services, so they are going to be well linked. There’ll be other multicultural groups out there, Latino groups, or, you know, even just looking to your language service provider to recommend, you know, the groups that they are sourcing for their own talent, because remember language service companies…
You’re an employer, too!
…are employer, we’re a big employer, you know, we have close to 1,000 interpreters here in Indiana. And so we are constantly also looking to source talent. So a lot of times, we might know people who are looking for, you know, a good opportunity, or at least the other organizations that you could source.
So once an organization does hire some diverse applicants, we talked a little bit about the retention of those, but if there is no shared language, and besides hiring LUNA Language Services to help them, what other things might they do to help retain their talent?
Well, there’s a lot of tips that I can offer and, you know, if you think to creative ways that you can share information, I look at IKEA. You know, when’s the last time you bought something at IKEA? And did you notice the manual? And… or, you know…
I can’t read it.
Well, there’s no words in it. Okay, so if you look at the instructions on how to build something very complicated, there are actually no words in there. So, there are three ways that you can communicate a lot of information. Through images, through video that doesn’t necessarily even have an English narrator. But some organizations will do safety training, they will take, say, one video and then have us do voiceover in… or we could provide a script, you know, that they can read along. There are other techniques, you can use just simple phrase books that are specific to that company. So say there’s five languages spoken at, you know, a bicycle building company, we might go in there and help them identify a glossary of terms, right, and then translate it. And so that way a manager, if they’re trying to address, you know, a key issue with their team, they might be able to know a few command words or questions. You know, more importantly than that, though, JoDee, I think, is just the bonding that needs to happen, the relationships that needs to be built inside an organization. And so it’s just as important in that phrase book to ask questions like, how are you? How is your day? What are your children’s names?
You know, how is your family? So those are the other kind of things we always recommend, is just team building and understanding how you can create important relationships by just exchanging a few things in someone’s sort… first language.
You know, speaking of that, now that I know in Central Indiana, we’ve got 15,000 Burmese individuals, could you share with our listeners and JoDee and I, are there a few phrase words in Burmese, maybe like please or thank you, that we could learn?
Oh, well, I can… I can do that. I can try my best. So, you know, to say hello in Burmese, it’s “mingalaba.”
Yeah. So, okay, I’m gonna say “my name is Marina.” Okay?
And then I want one of you to try it.
So, “ja ma nau na meh Marina ba.” There it is.
“Ja ma nau na meh JoDee ba.”
Wow, that was very impressive.
I have one more. This is my favorite. Ready?
I’ll say it and then I’ll tell you what it means. “Ja ma bama saga ah chenay ma gong bu.” Any guesses?
The weather is going to be very nice later today.
I’ll say, look for the joy in your day.
I love it. You know what it is?
It’s an expression in Burmese that means “my Burmese is in really bad shape.” It’s basically “my Burmese is in a bad situation.”
Oh, that’s funny. Well, it sounds very good to me.
So what else, if anything, do our listeners need to know about this topic, Marina, as we wrap up for today?
Yeah, I think that one thing I like to point out to, especially my HR people, when I talk to them, is just identifying, like, your whole process of hiring and then retaining. We talked a lot about that today. But if there is a deep commitment to diversity inside of your organization, try to integrate that from the very first contact… contact, all the way through. So I think a lot of organizations say “I want to be diverse and I want to do the right thing,” but maybe they’re not communicating that in their first interview. And that’s not to the people who are not the English speakers. I’m saying to everyone they hire, right? So the idea is, in every interview we do at our company, you know, we’re just sure to communicate that, “Hey, this is a company that values diversity of all types. One of them is language, culture…” and you can go on and on with that. We go on and on with that and expand that further, but then every time there’s a training opportunity, you can sort of integrate that into it. Another thing that’s really good is to just identify what I kind of talked about, is crucial conversations. And it’s… it’s identifying those opportunities we have at work to build relationships and trust and try to capitalize on those. And so there’s things that the HR department can do to help set up prime cultural exchanges that may not require language. Those might be making sure there’s a shared meal where people bring in food from their own culture.
I love it.
That idea of exchanging not words, but some other offering. It might be making sure that a manager knows they need to connect with everyone on their team in the same way they would with most people at a water cooler.
So that means just intentionally setting aside some time, and it might be to call in an interpreter or have an interpreter on the phone and say, “Hey, I just want to connect with you.”
What’s going on with you in your life? Or… and, you know, those are the things we take for granted…
But it’s… there’s a real dearth of connection there when the language isn’t… isn’t available. So those are the kinds of reminders I like to give, and… and… and that will help build that relationship and trust that if there is a problem that arises, there’ll be some confidence in having a conversation and a possible resolution.
Right. I love it. I love it. So how can our listeners find LUNA Language Services on the web, social media phone number?
Yeah, we’d like to be a resource to anyone who needs it. So we are online. We’re www.luna360.com. We’re on social media, I think @GoLUNA360. But most importantly, you know, we can be a resource to anyone. We often get calls from other states, companies all over the nation, and if we can’t source a need – often we will – but we can find them a resource closer by to do that. So we have interpreters all over the nation and companies that are like ours that we have a strong connection with as well. So if… I can be a personal resource, but there’s many people in our company who can, so. Yeah, we can be found online.
Well, you do important work, so we’re so glad you shared it with our listeners.
Thanks for joining us today.
Thank you so much. Thank you so much. I look forward to seeing how our society continues to integrate all of our diverse population and… and really help them all get a fair shot at work opportunities. And so just happy to be here.
Very good. Thank you. Thank you.
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Thanks so much.