June 30, 2022
Photo: Bill Varie/Getty Images
Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Heading into a long summer weekend hits different with a looming recession and continued layoffs and hiring slowdowns in the tech industry, but scroll down for a little optimism on the hiring front. Today: how to avoid unconscious bias, how to take care of your current employees after a layoff, and the job market might not be as bad as it looks.
Layoffs aren’t going away. Since last week, job cuts have continued to surface at companies including Tesla, Netflix, Backstage Capital and Substack.
And while business needs drive job cuts, decisions about which individuals to keep aboard — as with so many other employment decisions — can be influenced by unconscious bias.
“You start with the theoretical: OK, we’re going to be business-minded. We’re going to be objective,” said Kieran Snyder, co-founder and CEO of the augmented writing software maker Textio. “But in the end, there’s human beings making decisions.”
I spoke with a few experts about how to keep unconscious bias out of layoff decisions. Here’s what they told me.
Use objective criteria where possible. Employees should be subject to ongoing review so managers have clear ways to evaluate them, said Chris Zatzick, professor at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University.
Train decision-makers on unconscious bias. Many leaders are aware of the potential for unconsciously privileging employees based on traits like their race, age or gender. But many aren’t aware of their own biases, and should be challenged to confront them.
Allow for open discussion and dissent. Leaders won’t necessarily agree on which employees should be retained. Ideally, execs should be comfortable asking questions and pushing back, Zatzick said.
Because unconscious bias can affect all kinds of personnel decisions, from hiring and promotions to layoffs, it’s crucial that organizations work to root it out along the way rather than waiting until a crisis moment.
“The challenge for companies is you can’t always know ahead of time when you’re going to be in those moments,” Snyder said. “If you haven’t done the continual work, then it’s much harder to be fair and equitable when those moments do come up.”
Layoffs have swept across the tech industry as companies reckon with financial uncertainty and whispers of a recession. Taking care of laid-off employees is critical; companies like Carvana and Klarna have come under fire for carelessness with mass Zoom call layoffs and minimal severance packages. But another demographic of workers often flies under the radar: the employees who make it through. These are the folks charged with holding the company together, picking up their former co-workers’ assignments and maintaining morale amid hiring or salary freezes. Impostor syndrome, mixed with the uncertainty around possible future layoffs, leads to a sort of survivor’s guilt. Whether or not managers listen to their concerns can make or break a company’s culture. “We’re being asked to just believe in the company,” an employee at OneTrust told me. “Just have faith. It’s hard to do that.”email | twitter)
Why full-stack observability should be a priority as enterprises face the next wave of innovation: Full-stack observability with business context enables companies to digest IT performance to easily identify where they can prioritize performance and tackle issues that strategically impact their bottom line. This correlation of technology and business data allows IT leaders to make smarter, strategic decisions based on actual business impact.
Recession or no recession, workers are still seeking greener pastures. Hiring software company Greenhouse recently surveyed 1,500 U.S. employees and found that despite many respondents’ sentiments about a spiraling economy, they’re still optimistic about the state of hiring. So if you thought a recession would bring a possible end to The Great Resignation, you might want to think again.
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