• Katica Roy

What Does A “Safe” Workplace Look Like For Knowledge Workers?


Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)


If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.


The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.

  • Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.

  • Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.


Be Brave™



Defining Workplace Safety In The Knowledge Economy


Question:

What do knowledge economy workers mean when they say they want a “safe workplace”? The phrase seems too amorphous to be substantive. (And frankly I’m sick of hearing it.)


Answer:

I cannot generalize for all knowledge economy workers who use the phrase safe workplace. What I can do, however, is tell you what a safe workplace looks like in today’s knowledge economy.


First: safe workplaces are equitable and inclusive by default.


You can hire for diversity, but you must build for inclusion and equity. The infrastructure that organizations use to build their cultural and operational foundations must be embedded with inclusion and equity. Employees should expect inclusion and equity to be the default option—not a perk, a benefit, or something to win.


If you’re not sure whether inclusion and equity are the default at your organization, ask yourself these questions:


  1. Do workers receive equitable pay without having to fight for it?

  2. Can employees invest their mental real estate in performing meaningful work instead of questioning their worth?

  3. Are criteria for promotions objective and transparent?

  4. When bias slips into performance reviews (and it does), is it automatically flagged?

  5. Do workers receive equitable rates of promotion on all rungs of the ladder?

  6. Are knowledge and know-how disseminated fairly throughout the company to prevent information asymmetries?


If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then it’s time to drill down into the foundation of your workplace culture to understand what’s prompting the “no.” And if you answered “I don’t know” to any of these questions, then it’s time to start collecting data so you’re not shooting in the dark.


When you’re ready to embed safety, equity, and inclusion into your workplace, I recommend turning to behavioral science and advanced technology for solutions.


Software powered by machine learning, NLP, and cloud computing can remove bias from employee lifecycle decisions and assist users in making more intelligent talent decisions.

As it stands, less than 20% of employees believe their managers can fairly evaluate their performance. That’s despite the more than $8 billion spent on diversity training every year. We need to turn to augmented decision-making to eliminate inequalities that arise in talent management.


Second: safe workplaces don’t silence employees.


Translation: we need to end the over-reliance on binding arbitration. The use of binding arbitration in employee agreements has grown precipitously in the past 28 years. Today, nearly 40% of US employees are covered by binding arbitration.


That means when an employee covered by binding arbitration faces discrimination or harassment at work, they must resolve their case through private, not public, proceedings.


Binding arbitration is an economic inhibitor because it overrides labor laws designed to protect workers. As such, employees are less able to assert their rights when unfair treatment in the workplace occurs.

Silencing employees is neither a sustainable nor effective business practice. In the post-#MeToo era and amid the economic fallout of COVID-19, now is not the time to ask employees to choose between their economic security and physical safety.


It’s time to say goodbye to binding arbitration to create safer, more welcoming workplaces for all. And while we’re at it, let’s make inclusiveness and equity the standard, not the exception, by using the tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.



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© 2021 Katica Roy™, Inc.