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Your Burning Questions: The Hire Authority’s Q&A with Readers

Posted by Elaine Varelas  May 2, 2011 08:00 AM

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Here at The Hire Authority, we occasionally receive questions from our readers. This column is dedicated to answering some of your most frequently asked questions:

Q. My workplace is not very diverse, but we do enjoy a collegial and supportive culture. Most of us are white, middle-class parents who live in the suburbs (even our single assistants are white and middle-class). We are set to do some hiring and I’d like to look for people to make the workplace more diverse, but the leadership is questioning me. They aren’t resistant, they are just curious about how diversity will improve our workplace. Why is diversity important and where do I start?

Kudos to you for pushing for diversity. Research shows that diversity in the workplace is not just a “feel good” strategy, it can be linked to increased employee retention, productivity, and can impact the bottom line. Ideally, a diverse workforce will be made up of people from diverse lifestyles, different cultures, religions, ages, and races. We all bring our background and life experiences to work with us everyday. By diversifying your employee base, you are inviting different perspectives and experiences to work. This leads to more creative approaches to solving problems, helps to foster new ideas. As our world becomes more diverse, your organization will also be better equipped to respond to your customers’ and clients’ varied needs, and even expand your products or services.

The key to creating diversity in your hiring is to grow your network. If your contacts are made of up white, middle-class suburban parents, you may have trouble finding a person of color, someone non-US born, a gay woman, or a multilingual college grad. Expand your network by reaching out to those groups and organizations whose membership you wish to recruit.

It also helps to have a diversity “champion” on the leadership team to make sure that the process is not just about hiring the “token” anyone to a management level, but to make diversity part of the business strategy and the company’s culture.

Q. My boss seems to be suffering from burn out. He’s apathetic at best and hostile towards me and my team at other times. What can I do besides looking for another job?

Your question brings to mind lyrics from an old blues song: “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.” Are you sure this isn’t really about you? I sense that you may be projecting because you’re unhappy in your own job. Instead of leaving or lashing out (and creating a more hostile environment) take some responsibility. What can you do differently? The first step should be to have a candid conversation with your boss. Remind him that you are on his side and that you are concerned about him. Ask what you can do to help make things easier for him and offer your support. You may realize after you have this conversation that this unease you are feeling at work really is more about you. That is okay too. Maybe you need to look for ways to revamp your own job. You may also want to check out next month’s column, “Relaunching Your Career,” for some creative ideas for reinvigorating your job.

I haven’t had any training in years, mostly because of budget cuts at the company and it didn’t feel right to work on my professional development when so many people at the organization were losing their jobs. I know I could be a better HR manager with some training and development. How can I get my boss to support me when cash flow is still tight?

Desperate times call for creative training. While it may sound appealing to jet away to a tropical location for a few days of R&T (relaxation and training), effective training can happen closer to home and less expensively. Look within your company walls. Where internally can you develop skills? Could the IT department assist you in learning a new software package? What could you learn from the sales or marketing team? Is there a stretch assignment that would challenge you?

Local professional associations also offer low-cost training options. For instance, HR trade groups often have seminars where you can brush up on your skills. You may also want to look at some vertical industry associations. Do the groups to which your clients and vendors belong offer any programs that might interest you? Many trade groups also offer webinars and online training.

The most important part of this process is for you to document how your training is helping you do your job better. If you can demonstrate the value to your boss, he or she will be more willing to support it in the future.

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About HR Columns

Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.