This year’s Labor Day was marked by more than baseball games and family picnics. Government numbers released earlier this month showed that the unemployment rate in the U.S. rose to 9.6 percent in August and the nation lost 54,000 jobs. Now is not the time most would consider voluntarily changing jobs or switching careers. As the biggest recession of our lifetime looms, most would put aside ideas of taking their chance on the open marketplace. But according to Giving Notice by Freada Kapor Klein, dire economics may not keep the best and brightest from leaving the workplace. And for those in business, answering how to keep these employees happy in their current jobs is the $64 billion question.
That is the figure the author says corporate America will lose each year when great employees leave good jobs due to hidden bias. This bias can come in the form of bold blatant comments or subtle whispered jokes, prejudiced reprimands or not-so-funny emails. No matter the form or how unconscious the cause, the cost has a staggering effect on more than 2 million professionals who end up leaving their jobs because of it. Using data from the nonprofit organization Klein helped co-found, The Level Playing Field Institute, Giving Notice highlights what prompts those employees to leave and what managers need to do these days to keep valuable staffers (and reduce their HR costs).
It shouldn’t surprise any of us that both the problems of hidden bias and the solutions are in the hands of business managers. Leadership, as the author writes, is crucial in creating an equitable workplace. That’s why Giving Notice devotes considerable time to correcting some of corporate America’s common mistakes. Klein breaks down the ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’ of everything from recognizing abilities and the need for alternative work hours to fair pay and better benefits.
Giving Notice also puts the spotlight on an area everyone needs to recognize: cultural differences. It’s a small world, after all, and the impact of global business on the marketplace cannot be overstated. U.S. businesses of every size have international offices or foreign assignments. And that means that U.S. businesses of every size need a proper understanding of the new culture of global business. One false assumption or the lack of knowledge concerning legal and social differences in other countries can derail even the most balanced business from its unifying company culture track.
Luckily for those of us in business, Giving Notice doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. Establishing a business with a firm set of values about the workplace, a clear plan for how people should be treated and a way to ensure that employees actually receive that treatment is not rocket science. It’s just good business.
Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande is Dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University. Follow him on Twitter: @Benjamin_Akande