Candee Kicked Off Day Two of DEAMcon23!

Candee Chambers speaks into the microphone at the on-stage podium.Thursday morning began with DE Executive Director Candee Chambers observing the “cool vibe” DEAMcon23 had adopted during Day One of the conference. “Everyone seems to be having a lot of fun and conversation,” Candee noted. She also reminded attendees about the two “Reach Out for Happy Hour” sessions occurring that day. Beginning in 2020, DE launched these sessions as 30-minute virtual events. With the two live sessions at DEAMcon23, DE continued these outreach opportunities for members to connect directly with multiple veteran and diversity partners.

“The cool thing about these sessions is that you can do outreach while at the conference and can go back and tell your boss you were working. I was doing the right thing for this company,” Candee remarked.

Recruit Rooster Showed How Video Can Attract, Engage, & Nurture Top-Tier Talent

Drew Palmer addresses the audience while sitting next to Heather Hoffman who is smiling, seated on his left.Video content allows employers to showcase their employer brand and candidate experience in a meaningful way. “Bringing your facilities to life and showing day-to-day operations is really important[, especially] for people who might have to travel or relocate for the job,” Drew Palmer, Creative Director at Recruit Rooster, told a General Session audience.

However, many organizations struggle with the challenges and complexities of storytelling, as well as capturing and editing video content. Heather Hoffman, Chief Operating Officer at Recruit Rooster & RocketBuild, joined Drew for a demonstration of how employers can use the Talent Attract Video platform to engage the best candidates by producing videos without fancy equipment and added expenses. This platform empowers employees to share their authentic experiences and stories. With just a few taps on their phone, employees can now record their own testimonial and culture highlight videos through Recruit Rooster’s easy-to-use app, available via cell phone or desktop.

Drew explained the process of how talent acquisition teams can “take control of delegating content out to their [company’s] employees.” To easily assign employees, “you can send them an e-mail [with] a link. The link will lead them to the app store, regardless of whether it is Android or Apple. They will download the app, [which] makes it easy to just record [themselves, and] when they submit it you can approve or disapprove.”

“Or give them some feedback on how to redo it,” Heather added. While “other vendors in this space have a similar product,” what differentiates Recruit Rooster is “we give you access to our creative team,” she pointed out.

A Fireside Chat on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging

Errin Braddock, Candee Chambers & Torin Ellis, who is gesturing toward the audience, sit in chairs on the DEAMcon23 stage.Following his dynamic keynote address at DEAMcon22, Torin Ellis, Diversity Strategist at t ellis brand, returned this year for a fireside chat on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) with Errin Braddock, VP & Chief Diversity Officer at Enterprise Holdings. In an energetic and entertaining fast-paced exchange between these two dynamic speakers, the audience felt the exhilaration of the moment and left feeling highly energized and renewed.

DE Executive Director Candee Chambers moderated this insightful chat. She began by asking Torin and Errin to speak about their passion for DEIB from their different perspectives.

Following the murder of George Floyd, Errin, who was happily working as an employment law attorney, determined that he wanted “to give back to the community that I came from.” That led him to take on the “new challenge” of his current role.

“We get work done because it is required for humanity,” Torin pointed out. “So for me, the motivation is focused on the people inside of our organization. I understand the power of the tools. I get it. The process. I absolutely get it. But I am centered on the people inside of our organizations and every single thing that I say today is going to be centered on humanity.”

Fairy Dust & Treadmills

Moving on to the current DEI landscape, Torin noted that:

“In this moment, we have people that are in leadership and in power that continue to subscribe to band-aid-like efforts, throwing a little fairy dust of effort. Running away from the humanity that should be centered in our business. And what is missing is your voice. Because your leaders, answer to three people: stakeholders, shareholders, and the markets that they serve and support. And as employees – and I’m speaking to the larger body of employees – unless you are demanding that inclusion and equity is important in your organization, they will continue to do things that disrupt and devalue the efforts that we are working so earnestly at in DEI.”

“There is a lot of activity [… and] some of it is a little performative,” Errin observed. He continued:

“That is probably the magical pixie dust [Torin is] talking about. […] But I like to call it treadmill running. […] When I think of treadmills, that is to get me in shape and feel good. I see a lot of companies and people doing this treadmill running. That makes them feel really good. If we’re trying to get to the other end of that room, treadmill running won’t get you there. So we really want to focus on what is the activity [that will get us there], not just on the treadmill. […] It has to be about progress. […] There is this activity versus progress, and we have to be focused on progress. […] I’ve had to slow people down and tell them you’re on the treadmill. Get off the treadmill. […] Trying to get people back to progress is a shift that we need to start going towards.”

Errin elaborated with an example about shopping for a home:

A “huge movement is to no longer [use the terms] ‘master’ bedroom or bathroom, [and instead use] ‘primary’ bedroom, and ‘primary’ bathroom. Don’t get me wrong. All of that is important. Words are important. But I can tell you as a Black man, I don’t really care about that. Let me tell you what I care about in the real estate market. I care about when I’m selling my home that I don’t have to take down every Black picture that identifies a Black person owns this house. I care about when it is time to have an assessment done on my home to determine the home’s value, that I don’t have to have my white neighbor come over and sit in my house during the assessment. That’s what I care about.”

Training & Accountability

Both Torin and Errin said that training alone is not enough, rather there has to be real accountability. “If we’re going to focus on training, first and foremost, add certification to the equation,” Torin said. When people go through training, there are varying degrees of engagement, but “I can hold you accountable when I certify you,” he added.

Moreover, training should involve “a variety of subject matter over a variety of modalities,” according to Torin. “It is amazing to me how many large organizations do not include white papers, academic readings, books, podcasts, documentaries, all of that to help in this training of humanity.” Later, during the audience question portion of the chat, Torin added that this multi-pronged approach “is robust humanity. We will not become better at humanity because we are trying to train away someone’s biases.”

As an example, Torin mentioned Crip Camp on Netflix. “If you don’t know who Judy Heumann is, then you haven’t been focused on disability in the DEI workplace. She passed away [recently]. She is centered in that documentary. I have all of my clients watch Crip Camp. That is total learning and development.”

“But they’re also people who don’t know, don’t care. Training doesn’t help them,” Errin pointed out. “At the end of the day, if there is no accountability, it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t force those who don’t want to learn […] So, figuring out how to drive accountability […] that becomes what is most important. Training is the baseline you have to have. […] If you don’t have accountability to go with it, we will be back 20 years from now having the same conversation.”

Yet, “accountability is not always punitive,” Torin interjected, and Errin agreed. “Accountability can be beautiful and aspirational,” Torin stated. He suggested adding the question  – “What did you do to support our company’s DEI efforts  – to performance evaluations. “Accountability does not always have to be punitive, but it does have to engage,” Torin said. “We need to activate engagement.”

“When we talk about accountability, [DEI should be treated] like you treat everything else that is important [when evaluating job performance],” Errin stated. “It’s got to be –this is a part of who we are. This is what we require. If you choose not to do this, that’s fine. But you need to find work elsewhere. That’s accountability. I think that’s how you move the needle.”

Artificial Intelligence Enters the Chat[GPT]

Turning to the topic of artificial intelligence (AI), Torin observed, “[i]t is here to stay. The question is how do we utilize it to our best benefit? And the key is it always has to be people-centric. […] There is a human element that always has to be a part of it.”

Because “AI is pulling from the bias that we write” into our systems, we “always need human checks and balances,” Torin explained. For instance, Torin said that when he goes “into certain airports or certain corporate bathrooms, and I place my hands up under the sink for the soap dispenser or for a paper towel, sometimes the machinery doesn’t recognize the pigmentation in my skin. […] It doesn’t work. Because the data used to develop that piece of technology was [based on] a white skin. Caucasian skin.” On this point, Torin suggested reading the AI Now Institute’s report, “Discriminating Systems: Gender, Race, and Power in AI,” noting that it includes recommendations for addressing bias and discrimination in AI systems.

Importance of Relationships

Both men emphasized the importance of relationships. “It is not always responsible to call people out. Sometimes we have to call people in,” Torin stated. “I am a person focused on the relationship,” he continued. “I work with a high frequency of love. So that’s who I am and how I show up. I just want us to call people in because when you don’t recognize that the equipment doesn’t work in the bathroom for people who look like me, that’s an opportunity for you and [me] to engage about something entirely different, build a relationship, [and] add dimension to that until we keep moving forward.”

“You hit the nail on the head. It is relationships,” Errin echoed. “I just need to know about the people that I deal with and what they’re going through and individualize it so I can make their surroundings better. I have this concept – focus on the three feet in front of you. […] [I]f you try to do too much too soon, [you] will be back on that treadmill. It is focusing on relationships and the three feet in front of you and what you can do to improve the life and experience of those people that you deal with every day. That’s how you learn. You don’t have to sit in this room to do it. You just have to develop relationships.”

Practitioners Described J.B. Hunt’s AAP & DEI Journey to Meet Its Goals

Mark Jostad stands beside the DEAMcon23 on-stage podium during his General Session presentation.Two HR compliance practitioners from J.B. Hunt –  Dana Deason, Senior Manager, People Compliance (and a DE Board Member), and Mark Jostad, Senior Director, People Compliance (and former DE Board Member)  – spoke about how they developed Affirmative Action Programs (“AAPs”), specifically Functional AAPs (“FAAPs”), that better facilitate communication of their organization’s goals. They told the story of how the compliance team, represented by Mark, teamed up with the inclusion team, represented by Dana, to do that.

Company Structure Lent Itself to FAAPs

Mark began with a quick overview of J.B. Hunt’s structure. Using an integrated multi-modal approach, this Fortune 500 company provides transportation and logistics solutions all along the supply chain for customers throughout North America, Canada and Mexico. The company has four primary business units (1) Dedicated (servicing a single customer); (2) Final Mile (delivering and installing freight); (3) Intermodal; and (4) Highway Services. “We organize our AAPs based on these four business units. We are organized regionally within each of those business units,” Mark said.

Their recruiting teams are (1) Corporate Driver Recruiting, reporting to the Senior VP of Safety, and (2) Talent Acquisition, reporting to the Senior VP of People. “We’re using two different systems reporting up to two different senior VPs,” Mark observed. Each team uses a different recruiting approach. The Driver Recruiting team actively reaches out to passive drivers in the industry who may be interested in coming over to J.B. Hunt. In contrast, the Talent Acquisition team uses more traditional recruiting methods, including job postings. “Our team coordinates with both of the recruiting teams regularly as it relates to [OFCCP compliance],” Mark reported.

Using transportation-themed graphics, Mark and Dana went over the company’s compliance and inclusion journey. To start, they noted key moments at J.B. Hunt, starting with its first Employee Resource Group (“ERG”) in 2014 and ending with the creation of its sixth ERG in August 2022. Along the way, in January 2021, they transitioned to FAAPs. “We hire by business unit [and] by region,” Mark noted. Accordingly, “[i]t really made sense for us to jump into FAAPs […]. It is how we hire drivers [and our] office and maintenance teams.”

Next, they illustrated the following roadblocks and solutions they implemented:

Compliance Roadblocks & Solutions

Dana Deason gestures with her hands while speaking to the audience.(1) Establishment-based AAPs weren’t relevant for the business and did not have consistent “ownership,” in terms of responsibility, Dana observed. When they transitioned to FAAPs, they met one-on-one with the managing officials charged with ownership of each plan. “[W]e explained to them what they are, what they mean, what they do, what their goals were. And we just introduced the concept,” she said.

“[It] was a clear win for us,” Mark added. “We finally had owners that we [primarily Dana] could meet with […,] as we started down this journey.”

(2) Frequent changes to company structure. “We structure our business according to […] customer needs,” Mark stated. These constant structural changes made embracing affirmative action concepts across the business a challenge. To address this challenge, “we’re constantly manually adjusting the plans to match the current structure,” he reported, adding that they “realign each and every year.” As a result, they ended up with 35 FAAPs this year compared to last year’s 31.

(3) Frequent turnover in both recruiting teams. Working for the recruiting teams is fast-paced and demanding, Mark noted. Therefore, they work hard on training their recruiting teams and record those trainings so they’re available for new employees. Furthermore, they are “always considering new material that we need to fold into that training as it relates to just the nuts and bolts of affirmative action [compliance … W]e can’t take for granted that they understand their obligations there, particularly the new folks coming into the recruiting teams.”

(4) Industry impact on Rehabilitation Act Section 503 disability self-ID survey participation. Disability self-ID is particularly challenging “at J.B. Hunt because […] almost 75% of our employees are company drivers,” Mark explained. “Company drivers are subject to Department of Transportation rules and regulations. There is a constant uphill battle to gain trust and gain their understanding about why we do the self-ID exercise and what we’re going to do with that data.”

To address this challenge, they “strategically identify some times throughout the year […] to emphasize disability self ID for new employees […] and employees that have been here a long time,” Mark said. “We shot some strategic videos to get the message across [as to why they are doing the disability self-ID survey…]. ‘We can’t help you unless we know’ is often the big message specifically to our drivers [who are] thinking about that DOT obligation and they don’t want to self-ID themselves out of a job. Which is not going to happen. But we need to give them trust and comfort to know that we’re going to use the data in the right way.”

Inclusion Roadblocks & Solutions

(1) Requests from the business for diversity metrics. To respond to these requests, the company built an internal dashboard with an emphasis on leading metrics and FAAPs. They worked through what data would actually be helpful to specific leaders. “[W]e are looking at the current workforce, applicant flow, who is going to training, how they are being selected for the training that they are participating in.” Dana elaborated.

(2) Related to the above challenge, they also wanted to determine what data would best measure progress. This work included agreeing on what terminology to use. They wanted to not only present accurate data but to ensure that data were relevant to the specific leaders with access to it and also “showing metrics that mattered to them,” Dana stated.  While they are keeping tabs on the inclusion space across the United States, they also want to “[form their] own identity and [make] sure how we show up is what makes sense for our organization.”

(3) Perceived “ESG” expectations around goals. This challenge is about “knowing your identity and sticking with that, but refocusing perspectives [on factors that influence] a long-term impact,” Dana explained. The inclusion team established goals “that are going to lay a groundwork and a foundation. We have to know where we are to know where we’re going to go.”

“Dana has worked really hard with our inclusion director to get to a meeting of the minds that the goals that are driven by the FAAPs are the gold standard,” Mark added. While the business can identify other inclusion-related goals – [and] “we have to be careful what those look like” – the FAAP goals are “what will drive what we’re doing,” he said.

(4) Creating a training strategy that will positively impact the varied population of employees. To meet this challenge, they have deployed training with the goal of “focus[ing] on individual contribution and having everyone be able to see themselves in this process,” Dana reported.

Next Steps

Among the next steps they have planned is reviewing their program structure to assess the potential combination of establishment-based and functional plans. For example, they are looking at the functions that are in their corporate headquarters-based departments. Even though these departments are aligned with the business units, “some are so unique, and it is a challenge to know where they fit within the larger AAP structure,” Mark said. Therefore, they will continue to assess the viability of establishment-based plans for these corporate offices.

They are also considering the potential impact of government compliance initiatives such as the proposed changes to OFCCP’s audit Scheduling Letter.

Finally, they plan to deploy position-focused training that introduces the concepts of intersectionality. Noting that people fit “into multiple buckets,” Dana explained they want to focus on “[h]ow can they work together and represent the vastness and the complexity of our people.”

Recruit Rooster’s RocketBuild Software Engineers Rolled Out Their New Talent Community CRM Tool

They also taught us how to gradually lure passive candidates to apply

Tyler Poling, Aaron Makkar and Jeff Ringgenberg sit in chairs, addressing the audience in a concurrent session.They were pretty excited, and with good reason, as they debuted Recruit Rooster’s new Talent Community Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) tool. They also used it to conduct a clinic for the Talent Acquisition Community demonstrating features and techniques to gradually build a deepening relationship with passive candidates for employment and turn them into active applicants.

Tyler Poling, Director of Product Development at RocketBuild – part of Recruit Rooster (DirectEmployers Association’s wholly-owned for-profit recruitment tools subsidiary company) and his colleague Jeff Ringgenberg, RocketBuild’s Product Manager on the Talent Community, Talent Attract (and on the entire suite of products RocketBuild/Recruit Rooster has built) paired up to describe how to build talent pipelines and obtain a competitive edge.

“What if we thought about using CRM tools for the candidates that we’re trying to encourage to apply to your company”?, Tyler asked.

Answering his own question, Tyler then taught us that CRMs like Recruit Rooster’s Talent Community could allow companies to improve five key components of their recruitment programs:

“(1) talent pool (2) employer brand (3) segmentation (4) engagement, and (5) streamlining”

And then, consulting with the “experts” just for fun, Jeff playfully asked ChatGPT online live in the meeting room to identify the biggest talent acquisition challenges facing recruiters today. Chat GPT immediately responded:

“Talent shortages, competition from other employers, technology and automation, using technology, and Diversity and Inclusion.”

Jeff then noted that Recruit Rooster’s Talent Community could be paired together with some marketing tools to improve some of these five key components to a successful recruitment program. “What if we were able to leverage marketing concepts to sell the company’s brand to candidates and job seekers”? Jeff asked.

Focusing on the “Candidate Experience”

Recruit Rooster’s answer to that was to build an electronic tool that would increase the Talent Pool, elevate the employer brand, organize the data, help understand the potential job seekers coming into the Talent Community, and engage them.

We later learned in a question-and-answer session with a Recruit Rooster Talent Community customer, Aaron Makkar, that keeping up with changing technology options is key to currently successful recruitment programs. Aaron is a Senior Recruiter with NANA, an Alaska Native corporation operating in remote parts of the state near the Arctic Circle, known as the NANA Region. Aaron reported that while he was previously accustomed to a 23% click-through rate when using email recruitment campaigns, using Recruit Rooster’s SMS text campaign feature in recent campaigns increased his opt-in rate to almost 60%.

Start Simple and Build Up Layers of Candidate Information

Like other speakers on recruitment topics at DEAMcon23, Tyler emphasized that a good Talent Community pool technique is to keep it simple and start small to not burden and drive off prospective candidates. So, Step One, Tyler advised, was to get “general connections to the jobseekers that maybe are interested in your brand, maybe in proximity to the job, or location.”

Tyler reported that Recruit Rooster’s customers successful in the recruitment space started small by first merely gaining contact with a “passive candidate” (one who has not yet decided s/he is even ready to make a move to a new job) perhaps by obtaining only a name and an e-mail address, possibly a cell phone number, too.  And then, little by little, Tyler explained, through e-mails and eventually texts (once the recruiter was able to obtain the coveted cell phone number) the recruiter could gain the confidence of the candidate.

That increasing connectivity would eventually allow the recruiter to obtain more information about the candidate useful to develop an understanding of his/her interests and qualifications. That increasingly deeper understanding of the candidate would then eventually allow the recruiter to often enjoy full-on relationships with the candidates. With that foundation, Tyler explained, the recruiter was then best positioned to turn passive candidates into “active” applicants seeking a job at your company.

Below is a list of customer tools Tyler and Jeff reported they baked into the Recruit Rooster Talent Community CRM. And just to add more fun and drama to their only hour-long presentation, as Tyler described each tool, Jeff built in real-time and online within the tool an entire job seeker marketing strategy. Tyler explained that “the Talent Community is the hub in which the job seeker data sits allowing you to market to them.”  In the end, Jeff built his entire job seeker marketing strategy from start to finish in less than 30 minutes complete with messaging campaigns drawn from pre-populated message scripts embedded in the Recruit Rooster Talent Community CRM software.

Editor’s Note: So, Tyler was probably pretty pleased with this division of labor since all he had to do was talk, while Jeff created, built, and delivered to the audience a complete job seeker marketing strategy without Tyler once breaking a sweat! Here are some of the Recruit Rooster Talent Community’s features of interest:

“Save Search”

This is a popular tool, by all accounts: “This is a little bit more active way that someone can come into the Talent Community,” Tyler explained. “Let’s say, I would like to look for a certain job. I’m a software engineer, perhaps, and I want to have your company send me jobs as they become available.” Tyler went on to draw the picture of these “passive candidates” by observing that they are the ones who are “not just sitting in a Talent Community waiting for someone to contact me. I want to see the jobs as they’re coming through.”

Aaron Makkar, the Alaskan customer, later during his Q&A session brought home how powerful the “Save Search” feature of the Recruit Rooster CRM tool is:

“80% of the people who are coming to us with talent community have used Save Search. It is a very minimal process early on,” Aaron reported. “They’ll put their name, their e-mail, sometimes their phone number, and they’ll opt-in by telling us whatever way they want to receive information.”

Editor’s Note: WOW! 80%!

“Segmentation” tools

Jeff explained it this way: “If you want to segment ahead of time, you can add a question about their job(s) of interest when they sign up through the Recruit Rooster Talent Community form, it automatically gets segmented into a list. So, it’s not something you manually have to do later. It can be automated,” Jeff emphasized.

“On-The-Fly Forms, including Landing Pages, to Start Collecting Information to More Deeply Engage the Candidate”

A great tool for Job Fairs.  “What if we were thinking about a very unique scenario that we want to leverage?,” Tyler asked. “We talked about talent attract in video and how phones are really important and those are becoming very prevalent,” said Tyler. But then he asked the audience to envision a scenario “where maybe we’re going to a career fair. We built a tool that you can set up yourself,” Tyler reported.

He also pointed out that this Talent Community software tool “will allow you to become less dependent on your Marketing or other corporate departments.” As Tyler spoke, Jeff constructed a landing page on the fly from templates in the Recruit Rooster Talent Community software for candidates to complete. It was clear from the templates that candidates would be able to fill them out very quickly, perhaps from an iPad the company would make available at the career fair. Jeff was able to do this so quickly only because the Recruit Rooster landing page builder allows for drag and drop template building. From there, Tyler observed, you could then “generate a list and start to market to candidates who signed up.”

“Custom URL For a Landing Page to Hyper-Streamline Contact Connections”

If the candidate in which you are interested Is not an iPad user,” Tyler suggested that recruiters could use a Recruit Rooster Talent Community customized URL those candidates “can maybe hit after the fact. Maybe they take something away, they don’t want to fill it out right now. Setting up a simple URL for a landing page you create allows candidates to go to the URL later when they have the interest or time to do that,” explained Tyler.

Editor’s Note: Tyler often spoke as though he had experience as a recruiter. That’s a frightening picture: a software systems engineer cross-mated with a recruiter. You can’t unsee that!

“Messaging Options”

Tyler then explained that the Recruit Rooster Talent Community will allow a user to build lists, segment them, and send targeted audiences messages from pre-prepared template lists of possible messages either via e-mails and/or text messages as part of broader campaigns or individually. For example, a company could use the Talent Community messaging options to send an e-mail to a candidate in the Community inviting him/her to share their cell phone number for future messaging given how more quickly candidates seem to respond to texts.

So, at the end, before we went to Questions and Answers, the hardworking Jeff had built a complete A-Z job seeker marketing strategy using the Recruit Rooster Talent Community software CRM tool. That mock job seeker marketing strategy had:

  • a talent pool list,
  • employer branding conveyed to candidates in the Community,
  • lists of candidates segmented by job interest,
  • engaged the candidates in the segmented lists through targeted marketing campaigns inspired by or driven entirely by pre-populated message scripts for e-mails and text delivery, and
  • an A-Z solution to take a candidate with little or no active interest and converted him/her to an active applicant made possible through an initially streamlined general contact information collection which grew in depth as the recruiter’s relationship with the candidate deepened over time.

And Tyler and Jeff made a good team: Tyler did all the talking and Jeff did all the work, (Ha-Ha!).  But they both shared in the credit and more importantly survived the adventure of software engineers talking to people…with words not in computer code generated with zeroes and ones!

Partnering with HBCUs: Knowing the Lock & Understanding the Key in the George Floyd Era

Timothy Branner talks animatedly next to the DEAMcon23 on-stage podium.“The number one rule, don’t come looking to check a box,” cautioned C. Timothy Branner II, Associate Director, Affirmative Action Programs at Raytheon Technologies who spoke about developing an engagement strategy and cultivating meaningful relationships and partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (“HBCUs”) in the era of George Floyd. HBCUs are looking for genuine and active partnerships, he emphasized.

“When we talk about HBCU talent, I’m not talking about the leftover bin. I’m not talking about go [to] the land of broken toys and [find some] nice brown kid that we should go do things for,” Timothy stated. “I’m talking about talent. I’m talking about going and getting the talent that is there and taking advantage of the talent. […] Where and how we want to end up is with the development of a clear and sustainable relationship and partnership with an HBCU that allows us to get – and this is my tagline whenever I was on campus, my unfair share of the best talent.”

“You know recruiting, but I want to give you a different perspective about recruiting,” he told the audience. Noting that he is not a recruiter, but “a dedicated alumni of an HBCU working in the service of my company, […] I want to see us get our unfair share of [the best] talent.”

The Lock

Timothy provided an overview of important HBCU fundamentals and what he means by “The Lock.” The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as, “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.”  Currently, there are 101 HBCUs across 19 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands, he said.

“[HCBUs] have answered the call to educate, protect, nurture, and develop Black and Brown talent,” Timothy noted. However, it’s important to note that “[t]oday [the] HBCU population is more than 25 percent non-African American and growing depending upon the school.”

“There is a lock because HBCUs  – given what they have come through – have become very protective. They have become very concerned with the development of their students, with the progress of their students’ futures, and the impact that their students can have not just in their homes, but in our country. Again, this is who you want on your team.”

The Key

Because HBCU leaders are cautious and protective of their students and their futures, the key to recruiting at HBCUs is viable relationships and partnerships. “[W]e don’t do speed dating,” Timothy noted.

With that in mind, he detailed the “Top 5 Things You Need to Understand and Do (Maximizing Outreach and Engagement with the HBCU Community)”:

1. Identify and target HBCUs that align with your organizations. “Engage the university before you come. Learn about the university. See who in your team, your staff, your organization may have gone to that university,” he advised. “HBCUs generally have an underlying specialty. Look at that specialty. Look at how it aligns with your organization, your organization’s goal, products, culture, and then build,” he added.

In addition, seek partnerships beyond the obvious and best-known HBCU flagships. “Everybody is recruiting at Howard,” he said. Therefore, “[m]aybe that is not where you want to start. Maybe you want to go back to that map and say, okay, who is near me, near our headquarters that we can build a relationship with? Who is there?” Moreover, “[d]on’t just look at universities, look at organizations who give you a wider cut, [such as]  The United Negro College Fund and The Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

2. Don’t expect to show up and go to the front of the line. Remember, HBCUs are highly relationship based. HBCUs have to understand what your company is and what you can do for their students before they will want to continue. “Now, they’re not going to be rude,” Timothy stated. “But the priority is going to get to the people that they know.”

3. Invest in your HBCU relationship the same as you do for your other key college and university partnerships. “Again, this isn’t a discount bin. This isn’t where you go and throw a couple of pennies and say, okay, we were there. […] Invest. Create a relationship. Meet the deans. Talk to them.”

4. As you create these genuine partnerships, build specific, personal affiliations/connections that are not transactional, but relationship based. Involve your alumni, where possible, and involve your staff as liaisons, he recommended.

5. Partner with HBCUs to develop curriculum and academic offerings that align student development with the needs and skills sought by your organization. “HBCUs, probably more so than other schools, are very willing to adjust and build programs around key recruiters” as key partners to help both their students and the organization,” Timothy pointed out. “Join their advisory boards. Develop relationships with them and their students and their clubs, their organizations. Tell them what the skill set it is that you’re looking for and say, ‘How do we build that here?’”

Other Valuable College & University Relationships

Finally, Timothy reminded the audience about the value of relationships with Tribal Colleges and Universities (“TCUs”); Hispanic-Serving Institutions (“HSIs”); Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (“AANAPISIs”).

How Qualifi Tools Helped Reid Heath Reduce Onboarding Time From 60 days To Two Weeks


  • 60 days from application to onboarding at Reid Health (RH)
  • 2 hours for job seeker to complete RH’s (long form) application
  • later pushed back in the selection process in exchange for an upfront two-page “Short Application”
  • recruiters called and e-mailed jobseekers to schedule onsite interviews
  • 45-minute interviews of all (count them) 50,000 annual jobseekers

Seated in chairs, Zaigen Halcomb and Jessica Burton smile at Darrian Mikel during their presentation.Editor’s Note: Not to worry, though: RH was budgeted for four full-time recruiters, but had only three on-roll.

Quick Math: 50,000 job seekers divided by 3 recruiters =16,666 interviews per recruiter per year

45 minutes x 16,666 interviews/yr. = 12,500 hours/yr.

Special Sub-note: There are 2080 hours in a full-time work year: 52 wks. x 40 hrs. (without PTO or holiday offsets)

So, RH was basically short 10 recruiters for each of its 3 recruiters


AFTER (sanity returned):

  • 14 days average time lapse from application to onboarding; 21 days is now rare
  • only a short period of time for job seeker to complete an RH “Short Application” via cell phone/online and an 11-question asynchronous automated phone screen interview
  • Recruiters got out of the business of scheduling jobseeker interviews due to a change of process and move to digital self-scheduling
  • RH recruiter interview time decreased from 45-minutes to an average of 15 minutes due to answers job seekers supplied in response to the 11-question Qualifi-managed automated telephone interview
  • RH did not use the telephone interview as a prescreen. Rather, RH used it as an automated “interview”

By What Magic This?

By changing the front end of RH’s selection process AND introducing Qualifi’s 11-question telephone interview format

First, RH installed several interlocking digital processes at the front end of its selection process obviating the need for paper files, snail mail deliveries, and to exchange missed telephone calls to schedule onsite interview appointments

  • RH pushed its lengthy (2-hour to complete) Application form to the back-end of the selection process (post-recruiter interview) and replaced it with a “Short Application taking only a few minutes to complete online via cell phone or computer
  • Completion of the “Short App” then leads the jobseeker into an 11-question telephone “interview” Qualifi manages for customers with helpful warnings embedded along the electronic path of the call and with pause buttons to allow the candidates to prepare for the next question and to edit their prior answers
  • The Qualifi tool provides prompter telephone interview questions for its corporate customers, but also allows the customer to substitute in whole or in part the Qualifi stock questions for the customer’s own customized questions, and to vary the number of telephone interview questions (less is more)
    • The Qualifi tool then delivers audio recordings and digital transcriptions to the customer for recruiters and Hiring Managers alike to review at their leisure
    • It was the answers to these 11 telephonic “interview” questions that accelerated the time between a job seekers expression of interest and RH’s onsite interviews of jobseekers AND reduced interviewer time from 45 minutes to 15 minutes (thus tripling the number of available interview time slots)
    • RH did not use the telephone interview answers as “pre-screen” questions to knock out candidates from the selection process. Rather, RH continues to interview all (approximately 50,000) job seekers who annually complete the short application and the 11-question telephone interview
    • RH reported that 99% of its job seekers said they were satisfied with the telephonic interview format even though it was new to most of them
  • Second, RH adopted use of a standalone automated telephone scheduling tool to allow job seekers to asynchronously accept available interview slots from their cell phones. This change of RH process then accelerated both the time to schedule the job seeker interview and also separately eliminated the need for recruiters to spend their precious time placing telephone callbacks and manually entering interview dates and times and giving directions to the interview room,
    • RH reported that this automated interview scheduling tool freed up considerable recruiter time, too, and obviated the need for recruiters (or any RH personnel) to be on the phones chasing down jobseekers to schedule and then book interview time slots
    • Qualifi will soon announce it has added an automated interview calendaring and scheduling tool integrated into its telephone interviewing tool

Now Roll The Credits

The Recruiter Survivors Who Lived to Tell This Story

Zaigen Halcomb: HR Generalist, Reid Health (from Richmond, Indiana, a regional hospital system spread across 9 different counties in east-central Indiana and in Ohio and headquartered near the Ohio border-where they obviously grow them up strong!)

Jessica Burton, HR Generalist with RH (and from the same neck of the woods)

The Rescuer

Darrian Mikel, the CEO and one of the co-founders of Qualifi. Darrian describes Qualifi as a “high level telephone screening platform” and “powering phone screens at scale: everything from phone interviews, audio-based interviews, and getting candidates through the next stage.” And soon: an automated recruitment scheduling tool.

“Qualifi is the phone screening platform typically for teams that need to hire hundreds or thousands of primarily hourly based employees, we provide asynchronous phone interviews, screening, and scheduling so that teams can identify the best candidates faster and ultimately get them hired more efficiently,” Darrian told the assembled crowd at DEAMcon23.  And Zaigen and Jessica could not agree more!

From Diversity Metrics to Analytics: A Creative & Analytical Approach to Driving Impactful DEI Outcomes

Carolyn Broderick speaks to the audience from the DEAMcon23 on-stage podium while her presentation slides show on the screen in the background.“[Y]ou can build the foundation and all the work that you do for regulatory [metrics and use that to] further your DE & I metrics,” Carolyn Broderick, Sr. Business Intelligence and Compliance Analyst at The Mount Sinai Health System, told the audience in the introduction to her presentation.

Carolyn shared how practitioners can enhance their current metrics, build a plan to create a new DEI analytics strategy, gather relevant data from non-traditional sources, and use relevant data from engagement surveys, Employee Resource Groups (“ERGs”), and outside sources.

“None of these things are ever carved in stone. You always have to reflect, review, revise and always improve what you’re working on. And new dimensions are folded into this area all the time.

“Getting to good diversity analytics is not metrics or business; it’s a mixture of both,” she instructed. “You need good HR practitioners to carry out the policy work and the initiatives, and you need data folks to get at the numbers.”

You should engage your analytics people to not just “run reports” because they have insights into the data, i.e., what works and what does not work. “It’s better to engage [these] folks because they know where all this data is,” Carolyn advised. “They know if you have disparate systems and there might be something over here that’s useful that this system doesn’t talk to that system, but still, you might be able to utilize the data. So, you really should engage your analytics people as experts, not just report writers.”

Where to Begin

“Diversity metrics are personal and local,” Carolyn observed. “There are no cookie cutter solutions. You can’t copy off what one company did and go to another company.” Rather, you have to figure out what is important to your organization and what is going on in your workplace. In addition, recognize that different companies are at different stages in this process. “I might also suggest [that you are] perhaps ahead of the curve because of the kind of conference that you’re here attending because you care about these kinds of things,” she told the audience.

Carolyn then went over various aspects of making a plan, the foundational elements, and finding meaning in the numbers. The majority of elements Carolyn discussed are well-known to OFCCP Affirmative Action Program (“AAP”) practitioners. “Most folks have affirmative action programs as contractors so you’re already taking a look at your external environment,” she commented.

From Regulatory to Diversity Metrics

“Once these elements are in place, you can move to the diversity metrics and start mixing and matching and comparing data,” Carolyn stated. To that end, her suggestions included:

  • Good job groups can lead to good diversity groupings. “[Job groups] are unique to your company,” she pointed out;
  • An issue with promotions in your AAP could be built further into your diversity plan, and used as a good faith effort if you get results;
  • Your regulatory plans are foundational to your diversity initiatives. One builds on the other. “Whatever work you’re doing [in your diversity plan, such as] developing people in your ERGs, giving people projects, opportunities, [and] exposure, that could be a good faith effort,” she said;
  • If you analyze your recruiting areas, you can measure what skills are in your labor market. “With Covid and all of this remote work, […] I think we’re going to be changing our recruiting areas once we analyze where we’re getting folks from especially for the remote jobs,” she forecast; and
  • International data considerations “You may have to pull it up a level or you may have to age it a bit if it’s not as new. But if you’re looking at creating different strategies globally, it’s all not the same. There [are] different regulations and concerns across the globe,” she pointed out.

The next step is assessing and analyzing the data. “You want to figure out what data do we have, what data do we need?,” she recommended.

The Merging of Numbers & Practices for Results

“This journey to getting to good DE&I analytics is a mixture of both practices and results,” she noted. “So, when you don’t have […] the results you want, you have to add practices, changes and enhancements, and it will always need changing. It will always need updating. You’re never done.”

Using Engagement Surveys, Mentoring Programs & Affinity Groups

With engagement surveys, when you ask demographic questions, “you can take stock of what the demographics are on certain categories of folks, and that gives you insight into your workforce,” Carolyn told the audience. “It’s anonymous. It’s confidential. And people might feel more comfortable, especially if your culture is not there yet.”

Moreover, practitioners can divide data into groupings to determine engagement levels and inclusion among different groups. “[If your engagement surveys show] certain areas of concern, you might do smaller focus surveys and that’s where your affinity groups could come in to help you improve the culture,” she suggested.

Carolyn also offered some tips for small and medium sized businesses, such as providing a welcoming, respectful, and communicative, work environment, tailoring all of your messaging to be more inclusive, expanding your reach when you have job openings, considering how to integrate inclusive offerings into the company’s products or services and consider diversifying your suppliers.

Finally, Carolyn suggested looking into the “untapped talent pool.” That pool consists of “folks with criminal records, adults with disabilities, veterans and veteran spouses, and caregivers, and also [unemployed] folks that want to remain in the workforce and maybe can’t retire yet or don’t want to retire.”

The Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Team Talked About So Many Employer Services We Could Hardly Write Them All Down!

Michelle Krefft, Vickie Sible, Tara Gunderson & Jason Rubel sit in chairs and address the audience during their concurrent session.What a surprise. They were dynamic, funny, energetic (like “Energizer Bunnies”), highly interactive with, and supportive of, each other, and down-to-earth Midwest practical. [But can you really be “Midwest” in the Eastern time zone?] And they taught a lot of experienced hands in the audience a lot about disability accommodations which they did not know.  The four of them from Iowa could finish the sentences of their co-workers. An oiled machine.  Did I mention energy (I looked to see if they had perhaps raided the 5-hour energy drink supplies from the conference goody station).

I had been forewarned they might be the best Voc Rehab state team in the nation. They were on fire. They just took over. Buckle your seatbelts. A lot of travel ahead.

Special Bonus: At the end of this report, we provide some insight as to why this Iowa Team is known nationwide for its professionalism and excellence.

So, What Did They Say Already?

“Our learning objectives today are going to be talking about how to create an inclusive hiring process,” said Michelle Krefft, Director of Business and Community Engagement for Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation to start us off. “We’re going to explain and describe how it went into practice in Iowa and then the feedback that we’ve gotten from some of our business partners on why they like that particular service or how that particular service benefited them. How public Voc Rehab can help you become more innovative in hiring practices. How to connect with high school students as a pipeline to your talent.” Michelle said laying out an ambitious agenda for one speaker, let alone four.  

With that, Michelle and her three colleagues then tied disability accommodation notions to specific programs Iowa had developed for and with its business community. Business seems to have a true partnership with Michelle and her coworkers. Vickie Sibel, a Transition Counselor as well as a Business Specialist, joined Michelle along with Jason Rubel, a supervisor in one of Iowa’s 13 employment offices in Iowa, and Tara Gunderson, a Counselor in Northwest Iowa.

Here’s the catalog of their thoughts and employer services (although check your local state workforce Voc Rehabilitation Offices since services vary from state to state):

1. Create a Business Culture in Support of Diversity and Inclusion to Include People with Disabilities

You can’t have diversity without inclusion,” Michelle emphasized right out of the gate. She then talked about how companies could bring “inclusive language” into their job descriptions, job postings, websites, interview processes, and company publications. Indeed, Michelle persuaded us that companies need an “inclusive language” audit.“

Words do matter,” Michelle reminded us. Cleverly, Michelle and team brought some examples of inclusive language they took from companies who were using these inclusive statements in their workplaces:

“We cultivate a culture of inclusion for all employees that respects their individual strengths, views, and experiences”

“We believe that our differences enable us to be a better team, one that makes better decisions, drives innovation, and delivers better business results”

“We’re committed to upholding a culture where inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility are valued and respected”

“Your entire experience starting with your application is designed to be the beginning of an inspirational journey where you are treated warmly and with transparency, dignity, and respect”

“We actively hire individuals with disabilities and provide reasonable accommodations and assistive technologies”

“Our company is committed to offering reasonable accommodations to job applicants with disabilities, If you need assistance, or an accommodation due to a disability, please contact us. We want to help.

2. Job Descriptions Which “Include” and Do Not “Exclude”

Taking the handoff from Michelle, Vickie then opened the discussion about job descriptions:

“One of the most important things that we need to think about is whether we are creating a job description that includes or whether we are creating a job description that excludes, Vickie (a former school teacher) forcefully observed.

Thinking about ambulatory needs, Vickie posed this example of an essential function she had recently found in a company Job Description:

“Walks around the perimeter checking exit doors.”

“What is the word that we want to get rid of,” Vickie asked. “Is it essential that we walk? No, it’s not. Right? So maybe we just say ‘move.’ We’re going to move around and check. So, when you open that up and I substitute the word ‘walks’ for ‘move,’ think about how much more inclusive that is, she invited.

Another example of an asserted essential function Vickie stumbled upon: “Drive.”

As to this job requirement, Vickie then asked: “Is it essential that I drive a reliable vehicle, or do I just need to make sure that I have transportation to be able to get to work?”

3. Website and Publications Accessibility

Michelle then took the microphone back to explore accessible publications, whether in print or online.

WEBSITES & PUBLICATIONS: “So another important thing is to make sure that your website and publications are accessible for all individuals,” Michelle reminded the audience.”

Alt text all your pictures. In most publications, it is a right click to get to a [word] description of the picture,” Michelle suggested. She also challenged the audience to think broadly about other corporate communications. “Your presentations. All your social media. Anything on your website should be readable by a screen reader.”

CLOSED CAPTIONING: Michelle recommended to the members of the audience that they use “closed captioning at every meeting that you have.” She also suggested that companies mention the availability of closed captioning technology on meeting invitations and Webinar brochures. “Mention the availability of closed captioning if you’re having a staff meeting, make sure that you say closed captioning is available. If somebody is requesting an interpreter, make sure that is on your advertisement,” Michelle explained, “because you’re opening it up to more people and more inclusion within your organization.”

COLOR CONTRASTING: “Of course contrasting,” Michelle intoned. “Look at the color contrasts in your presentations and websites.” Michelle also noted that there were free online resources through which you could run your presentations to check them for proper color contrasting.  “And so, we like white on black or black on yellow. A lot of contrasting,” Michelle reported.

FONTS AND SIZING: Michelle recommended that corporate safety warning signs on company walls be large enough to read. “Of course, your fonts should be big enough that people can read,” Michelle warned. “Not too thin. I think the preferred font is veranda.”

PICTURES ARE OFTEN WORTH 1,000 WORDS:  Michelle suggested that companies consider Including photos and diverse images of people in their corporate publications. “I think this is one is super important. In Iowa we do a lot of video resumes,” [to show that a candidate can do the work], she said.

CORPORATE ONLINE PORTAL VIDEO UPLOAD CAPABILITY AND VIDEO RESUMES: Michelle reported the surprising fact that most companies do not have the technological capability in Human Resources departments to allow job seekers to upload video resumes to the company. “By watching them on the video resume, it allows you to see really what their skills are,” Michelle pointed out. “So, we create video resumes for our job applicants, but most websites only take a traditional resume. They don’t allow videos to be uploaded,” she reported. “So just an easy fix for people that would need an alternate type of a resume,” she suggested.

4. State Subsidized Externships

Who knew? Michelle reported that Iowa, like many states, has monies available to subsidize up to 50% of the costs of a paid “externship” for up to 320 hours. This allows the company to give an “iffy” candidate a tryout to see if the candidate can do the work and if the fit is there.

5. Other State Workforce Office Services

  • Sensitivity training for corporate employees (very popular and available for the asking)
  • Review of Job Descriptions (usually accompanied by onsite visits from the Voc Rehab counselors who undertake job analyses. This not only results in updated and more accurate job descriptions, but Jason noted that these onsite visits help the Voc Rehab team visualize your workspace and refine their ability to make job referrals to the employer. Jason described many times working a job onsite in an Iowa company for up to a week to get to know the job. Free for the asking.
  • Advice about work opportunity tax credits, federal bonding, and federal tax credits
  • Small business tax credits advice for disability interpreters
  • 50% subsidies of wages for up to 320 hours for on-the-job training. Check your local state workforce office for details
  • Job coaching and employee support services (interfacing with disabled employees on behalf of the employer). Jason offered some important advice:
    • “Job coaching is oftentimes a pretty important component for businesses that are hiring people with significant disabilities. And sometimes people think job coaches are supposed to come in and teach individuals how to do the job. Job coaches should really be there to teach the businesses and the workers and the supervisors how to work with that individual, how to motivate that individual, and really build those natural supports so that as we exit job coaching, that person is still going to be successful. So, everything that we do is to set that job candidate and business up for long-term success.”
  • Job retention. Closely related to “job coaching” is the service of helping businesses retain a disabled employee who may need some sensitive counseling the employer might otherwise not wish to undertake,
  • Windmill training. “Windmills is a highly interactive disability inclusion training to empower employment professionals to value every individual and change perceptions of ability.”
  • Specific disability training. Onsite autism training for coworkers is especially popular, Jason reported. “It completely changes culture.”
  • Disability awareness training. General introductory training to help the employer measure perceptions and mindsets to set the stage for later changes in attitude.
  • Safety assessments
  • Customer Service Academy. This is interesting:“We identify job candidates who wish to work in the customer service field. They then come to our Academy. It is on Zoom. These are your facilitators. And we go through: ‘What is customer service? How do I provide customer service? Why is customer service important?’ CVS and Lowe’s helped us develop this curriculum for our Academy. The certificate that the individuals earn at the end can be attached to their application to show that they have knowledge of customer service. We actually provided customer service to Finley, a business out of Minnesota and they make dog treats. Finley joined the Academy with us. They hired 100% of the applicants at the end of the customer service Academy. So, it is a very good tool for you to partner with your Voc Rehab on to help prepare your future workforce, especially if you’re looking for customer service employees”
  • Prescreening candidates. (This is not done in all state workforce offices but is not uncommon in the midwest and south, especially for manufacturing jobs)
  • ADA consultations, including full onsite assessments, indoors and outdoors
  • High school interventions with students to prepare them to work

SPECIAL BONUS: This Iowa Voc Rehab Team was so exhilarating, integrated, and on-message that we had to find out what made them so engaging. So, we checked two sources and got the same answer: they are all cross-trained in each other’s work sub-specialties within the Voc Rehab field. Michelle explained that the four Voc Rehab team members could finish each other’s sentences because they all worked together as an integrated team. Michelle thought it might be the only cross-trained state Voc Rehab work team in the country. Five minutes later, we button-holed Lori Adams, the NLx Manager for NASWA, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, and a former senior manager of the Iowa state workforce agency. Lori has been around and knows the state workforce agencies like few others in the country. Her answer: “They cross-train with each other. It makes a difference and it really shows, doesn’t it”? Lori’s eyes were gleaming as she asked us back that question having just sat through the Iowa team’s presentation and watched the success her former state workforce agency had just had on the podium. Yes, Lori, it very much did show.

DE Members who are part of VocRehab+ can build relationships with vocational rehabilitation counselors across the nation using the Partner Relationship Manager (PRM) as your starting point!

The Newest Litigation Pitfalls in the Application Process

Jay Wang looks out to the audience from the DEAMcon23 stage while co-presenter Diego Gonzales looks on.Jay Wang, Partner at Fox, Wang & Morgan P.C., and Diego Gonzales, Sr. Director, HR Compliance at Raytheon Technologies (and a DE Board Member) presented a session covering the legal and HR perspectives regarding the latest laws that address the application process.

Current & Pending Salary Transparency Legislation

Referencing a detailed Excel spreadsheet he prepared for DE Member companies cataloguing and digesting salary transparency laws, Jay noted that “14 jurisdictions require salary ranges in job postings. Then there’s a whole litany of other jurisdictions that deal with providing salaries at some point during the application process.” Jay also noted that some of these “other” jurisdictions are seeking to update their salary transparency laws. “Connecticut and Maryland, two jurisdictions that require disclosures of salary during the application process, are now seeking to amend their laws and require disclosure in the job listing stage,” Jay observed. “And we see New York City […] looking to amend its law and now include requirements related to benefits. The New York City law right now only requires the salary range, nothing about benefits. They’re now seeking to amend that to add benefits and also apply to promotions since the New York City law currently only applies to external hires.”

Jay briefly went over the pay data reporting requirements in Illinois and California as well. He explained that one difference between the two laws is that Illinois seeks data by individual, while California seeks data by race and gender groups.

The New EU Salary Transparency Directive

“We see [salary transparency laws] as expansion going across borders,” Jay continued. “The European Union (“EU”) Parliament just adopted the proposal on March 30th about the new EU directive requiring salary listings in job advertisements for those who recruit in Europe. […] You’ll see greater protections under the EU directive, not just about salary listing, but also providing reports, if you’re a large enough employer, to member state agencies about pay gaps, similar to what California and Illinois do with their pay data reporting.”

All these transparency laws have kind of the same idea, Jay explained. “[The laws] want to expose the salary range to people who are applying for a job. [The laws] want to protect employee interest in terms of being able to disclose their salary or to discuss salary with their colleagues. And that you can’t retaliate against someone who does that.”

Salary Transparency Laws in Canada

“Canada has some proposals now too,” Jay said. “Prince Edward Island Province has an actual law on the books. […] [T]here are five different provinces in Canada that have proposed bills for salary transparency, requiring wage data in job advertisements. Two of them already apply to public employers. They’re looking to expand that to private employers.”

What Does It All Mean?

“What we do know for sure is it’s not going away,” Jay concluded. “In the last three years, job posts that include wage information have increased by 137 percent. Forty-four percent of nationwide listings on Indeed have salary information as of February.”

“I think what Jay is speaking to here, this lattice-type approach, we’re seeing the dominos falling,” Diego concluded. “And we thought maybe there would be a gap early on, but with now the EU, I think it’s pretty clear this is not only a U.S.-centric change, this is global. […] We’re now having to take that global approach using lessons we’ve been learning in the U.S.”

“We now see states taking up the banner in regards to employee protections or new laws [over federal legislation],” Jay added. “Now we’re seeing different approaches by different states. […] It’s no longer a red-state, blue-state situation. So, we’re starting to see a need to uniform your process in regard to salary transparency.”

“If your business is large enough to support it, or if you have a compliance team where you have some flexibility, we developed a role within the compliance group strictly focused on pay equity in terms of EEO with a secondary focus on pay transparency because we found just having someone in our total rewards group or someone in talent, it’s not enough,” Diego reported. “There are just too many requirements coming too quickly. We’ve developed a dedicated role to tackle these challenges.”

Practical Lessons from Existing Laws

“HR and talent acquisition need to talk to each other,” Jay advised. “There was a story a couple of weeks ago about a New York City woman who applied for her own job because she saw a job advertisement that was, I think $20,000 or $30,000 a year more than what she was actually making.”

“Gather your rosebuds while you may,” Jay quipped. That means “[d]ocument why you have the range that you have.”

“A lot of these state laws [require you to provide] the minimum to maximum based on your good faith belief [of] what you’re going to pay,” Jay pointed out. “What is that? That depends on what job you’re posting for. Are you looking to fill an accountant position with six years of experience in San Francisco and that’s it? You can probably get away with a very minimal wage range or exact salary or compensation rate. Or are you sending a blast nationwide saying you need accountants with any level of experience? Now you need to take into account what are you are actually paying employees in Wisconsin or Wyoming or somewhere with a low cost of living compared to what you are paying employees in New York City or California, as well as the range between what you pay someone who’s starting entry-level to someone who’s a 10th year.”

To this point, Diego noted, “We found the bots aren’t effective [for this task] because of locality factors, sometimes you’re not able to provide the level of detail. […] [Accordingly,] that partnership between [talent acquisition and HR] needs to be an ongoing conversation [so that] they’re aware of the nuances between all the different requirements.”

Artificial Intelligence in the Application Process

Noting that his 45 slide PowerPoint deck detailed all the existing laws and proposed laws regarding Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) in the application process, Jay summed them up by concluding that they essentially fall into two categories: “forward facing” and “back office.” The forward-facing laws “want you to make sure you notify your applicants or notify the individuals who are going to be subject to AI, so they know they can provide consent to the use of artificial intelligence tools in the application process.” Back office is what are you doing to make sure AI isn’t engaging in discriminatory conduct. “As Torin talked about this morning, you want to get an idea about what they’re using to create the code to draft up this AI program,” Jay advised.

“I think the question is what is AI?” Diego observed. “[We] struggle with [that question] because trying to find a uniform definition across the varying regulations has proved to be a challenge.” He also noted that one of the biggest concerns is data input. “This is particularly important for identifying internal talent,” he said. “[I]f you have an internal job search tool, for instance, that is feeding over opportunities to people that have opted into that program, there’s a real risk there I think similar to what some of our friends in the social media space have run into, where now employees could be getting ‘targeted ads’ based on potentially discriminatory algorithms. […] If all you’re seeing is white males participating in your upward mobility programs or opting into the opportunities to be made aware of opportunities, you need to make sure the ERGs are aware of those programs and try to get them encouraged to build profiles as well.”

Expanding on this point, Jay pointed out that the applicable law on employers’ use of A.I. is the Title VII and Executive Order 11246 law regarding disparate treatment and disparate impact. Diego described an A.I. working group at Raytheon consisting of legal, talent acquisition, HR, and IT, that serves as a “clearance center” before risking a large monetary investment. “[Y]ou don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’ve plunked down a bunch of cash and you can’t recover it because the software ends up having to flop,” Diego advised.

Privacy Laws on Employee Data

Jay also touched briefly on laws, specifically those in California and Illinois, where employee data now comes under the protection of data privacy statutes. He also cited New York’s proposed “Digital Fairness Act.”

Disposition Codes

“The practical reality is if you’re using disposition codes, make sure they have a meaning,” Jay emphasized. “’Not best qualified’ is not a disposition code. That tells me nothing.” OFCCP is basing their findings of discrimination on statistics “and the way you argue statistics is [by telling OFCCP] your statistics are wrong,” he instructed. “And why are they wrong? [OFCCP] need[s] to pull out these individuals because I have articulated and documented why a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for non-selection was used [i.e., meaningful disposition codes].”

Diego suggested drawing up a report where the employer “can look at disposition usage across recruiters as a practical tool to see [how often specific recruiters are using certain disposition codes].” Then, where uniformity is lacking ask, “Is this a training issue? Is this an awareness issue?”

Relatedly, Diego also mentioned the effective use of referral programs “because what we’re finding in our OFCCP audits, is that [asking about a referral process] has now become part of their standard script when they’re doing questions with talent managers.

Jay added that it is not just about having a referral program, but, importantly, who is using it. “Is it just the white males that are using the referral program? If so, you’re not doing it right,” he cautioned. You want to make sure that it’s being applied across all races, and all genders, and that it’s a true program meant to promote not only diversity, but also that it’s being used for the appropriate means that you want a referral program for.”

“As I mentioned, training matters,” Jay concluded. “Not just the HR staff or talent acquisition staff in regard to how to use disposition codes, but also educating them about how to use the referral programs. Make sure everyone is communicating with each other.”

Symplicity Taught Us How to Recruit on College Campuses in Today’s Environment

Latest Trends in Student Interests Surprising

Matthew Small looks out to the audience from the DEAMcon23 podium during his session.Armed with his corporate database from thousands of university customers and a recent customized survey of 2500 college juniors and seniors looking for jobs, Symplicity CEO Matthew Small gave the audience a primer on how to most effectively recruit college students today.

(1) College Students Value Salary and Work-Life Balance the Most. Company brand name is the least important. “Gen-Z trends point to authenticity,” Matt reported. “They want to work for companies that stand for more than what they’re selling or how they advertise themselves.” Matt emphasized that “[t]his is a big area of opportunity for small to mid-sized companies that are looking to compete for early talent.”

Matt was one of several speakers throughout DEAMcon23 who recommended recruitment messaging segmented to the recruitment audience, whether targeting veterans, individuals with disabilities, or now, college students. Matt added this important tip for recruiters: “Gen-Z is known as a mission-driven generation. They want to see positive change and to make an impact. Companies need to help connect the dots for them and make it clear what the day-to-day responsibilities are and how they will contribute to the company’s mission.”

Wait! What is Symplicity and how does it help Employers? It describes itself this way:

Symplicity Recruit is the favored job recruitment platform among enterprise and SMB employers seeking to hire qualified candidates before and after they graduate from college. Recruit introduces our trusted clients to a curated network of leading universities around the world.”

(2) Employer Websites Remain the Most Valuable Recruitment Tool for Companies Seeking to Attract College Students. “The number one most valuable channel to students is the employer’s website at 72%,” Matt reported from his student Survey. “The second most valuable was a personal network at 67%, followed very closely by the university career center at 65%.”

“You need to make the [campus] career center a core part of your recruiting,” Matt repeatedly suggested throughout his presentation.

The surprise to us: “Social media is the least valuable to students today,” Matt reported. He explained that “nearly half of Gen-Z adults say they don’t trust social media platforms much or at all for news. And they lost trust in brands over social media and discontinued use of a product. I think it is a safe assumption that there simply is more apprehension from Gen-Z when consuming content on social.”

Matt also reported that underrepresented students found [campus] career centers more important in their search compared to white students. He emphasized on several occasions that companies recruiting at colleges and universities need to beat a path to the doors of the campus career centers, introduce themselves, and explain their mission and needs.”

He explained the position of trust the campus career centers enjoy with its students this way:

“The career center has vetted the jobs coming into the career center, so students are not left on job boards with zero guidance. Generally speaking, students are expecting more relevant high-quality jobs there at their university career center.” Matt noted that the career center is often using Symplicity AI to match student and job and typically presents a curated list of available jobs likely to be of interest to the student. Matt observed, too, that students were going to the career center ‘to find a job.’”


  1. “Make sure that your website is up to date.”
  2. “Tap into career centers.”
  3. “I would not prioritize social media over other channels.”

(3) PTO, Remote Work, and Mental Health Benefits Lead the List of Preferred Benefits.

“We found [from Symplicity’s college student Survey] that PTO, remote work and health care ranked as the top three important benefits,” Mat reported.

“If you have a generous PTO policy, promote it to students,” Matt advised.  He also suggested that if you offer “unlimited PTO or give the last week of the year off, make sure you bring that to the attention of your college students. Mental health support services as a benefit are less standard but are also very important and can help you differentiate,” Matt noted.

“You would be shocked at the level of mental health support services that have become available in higher education. The number of students that have sought reasonable accommodations for things like a disability or depression is skyrocketing. And students do not know anything else. When they’re leaving university to go into the workforce, they are highly competent, smart, hardworking people. They are just moving from a world in which they had these services into an unknown corporate world where they may not. To the extent you offer mental health benefits, they want to hear about it. Make sure to tout the benefits that you may have,” Matt emphatically suggested.

Matt also noted that students are “really prioritizing stability and security instead of stock options and company equity following the bursting of the tech bubble.”

(4) DE&I Is Important to Successful Recruiting “Our student survey shows that 77% of internship candidates and 78% of full-time candidates consider DEI in the workplace to be an important or very important factor,” Matt reported. “That number is even higher when broken down by ethnicity and gender, with it ranking just after salary in work-life balance for some groups,” he added.

“There’s been a lot of talk this week [at DEAMcon23] about DEI and why it is important and about compliance,” Matt observed. “It is also really important for recruiting and not just for minority students. It is the vast majority: 78% of candidates called it very important to them. It is important for all of the right reasons, but it is also important to attract top talent,” Matt mused.

“For women, diversity and inclusion is the third most important aspect of a job when searching for opportunities, beating out job duties, benefits, and location,” Matt reported, “with 87% saying it was important versus 60% for men.”

“Similarly, when looking at the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace across ethnicities there was a disparity among groups, Matt’s survey found. “90% of Black, 85% of Hispanic, and 82% of Asian students felt diversity and inclusion was important versus 55% of white students.”

Matt emphasized, however, that “It is not enough simply to ask about DEI. Students, particularly underrepresented students, are actually evaluating companies based on their DEI efforts and real [corporate] action has to be taken just as much as salary and benefits in terms of touting why this is important to your company and actually proving it,” Matt observed.

(5) Student Tips to Recruiters About How to Reach and Engage Them. Symplicity’s Survey also asked students what they recommended recruiters do to reach them.

Tip 1: The students said: “Remain personable and relatable.” Matt then explained that “A lot of students without experience may be intimidated by people in the workforce because you’re such an intimidating bunch.”

Tip 2: “Keep their schedules in mind,” Matt advised. “I know it may sound crazy, but college students are busy and can miss your open opportunities if it clashes with their class or part-time work schedule, especially in the middle of the day,” he added.

Tip 3: “Find other ways to advertise outside of e-mail. Our data shows that students don’t live in e-mail. They actually don’t like it. There’s a lot of noise out there. And by the way, getting a message to the student via the career center is much better than actually getting a message, let’s say from an employer directly sometimes. So it is: ‘Hey, there is something here for you in Symplicity. Our career center determined this is a good match, or this might be of interest to you, or students with similar backgrounds were successful with these,” Matt explained. “That’s what we do with the university, what our AI does. Match with the students. Much more appealing to students than a generic e-mail,” Matt suggested.

Tip 4: “Ask professors to make announcements in their classes or department communications.”

Tip 5: “Be helpful. Give them tips for interviews. Feedback, post-interview, is greatly appreciated by students,” Matt said from experience. EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is again the same advice DEAMcon23 attendees heard from recruiters discussing both veteran recruiting and the recruitment of individuals with a disability: provide targeted resources for each segmented community.

Tip 6: “Cohosting events with student organizations such as industry panels is a great way to get students’ attention and reach out to the right group of possible candidates,” Matt advised.

Tip 7: “Students prefer more in person events, over virtual events.” The data are not consistent depending on where you are in the country, Matt reported, but in general, here is what it looks like:

“Students are as much ready to get back to in-person events as are employers. When it comes to the interview and discovery process, they actually like in-person. For career fairs, informational interviews, and formal interviews being in person the preference was 69% of respondents prefer to attend in-person career fairs, 62% favored in-person informational interviews, and 61% preferred in-person formal interviews versus virtual formats.”

“However,” Matt continued, “there is a slightly higher percentage of traditionally underrepresented students who prefer virtual. So you do need both. But you can’t really have an all-virtual strategy,” Matt concluded. “The best part about virtual is that it is efficient and less expensive. But if you can afford to get on campus and participate in these events, that is what students prefer,” Matt said summing it up.

TIP 8: (And it is a BIGGEE!) “Recruiters need to move quickly,” Matt announced emphatically. “62% of students in our survey say that a slow-moving interview process that is longer than a month from the first interview would deter them from accepting a job offer. Breaking down internal silos,” Matt argued, “to make the recruitment process go faster to get the top candidates can differentiate you. If you have the students that you want to hire, and you attract them, and beat out the competition, and you have great benefits and salary and brand, and you have the process down, moving faster can make all the difference from a student’s perspective. Cut unnecessary steps,” Matt strongly urged. “The hiring manager needs to be in lockstep with HR so HR is moving alongside the [selection] process in the background. All they have to do is give the simple green light.”


Go Get-Em Campus Recruiters! Happy Hunting!

An Insider’s Guide to the Public Workforce System

Amber Gaither raises hand and looks out to audience from the on-stage DEAMcon23 podium.The public workforce system is a network of federal, state, and local organizations and programs that provide service to workers, job seekers, and employers. This system is delivered through the nationwide network of American Job Centers (“AJCs”). [Note: More background on AJCs is available here.] A common misconception is that an AJC is merely “the unemployment office.” However, “the reality is that the [AJCs are] really the employment office or the re-employment office. And unemployment insurance is just one of many services that there are staff there to help an individual with,” clarified Lori Adams, Director, Veterans Policy and Senior Advisor for the National Labor Exchange (“NLx”) at the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (“NASWA”). Lori also noted that the unemployment insurance process is now generally all done online, rather than in-person.

Along with Amber Gaither, Director, NLx at NASWA, Lori provided insight into the various roles workforce system organizations play, the activities they deliver to support communities across the country, and how the NLx helps the system deliver on a core aspect of its mission, connecting jobs and talent.

There are over 2700 AJCs in the United States “and there’s also a number of satellite offices and other places where services are available at libraries and community colleges and other goodwill agencies and things like that,” Lori also pointed out.

Other Common Misconceptions

Lori and Amber went over other common misconceptions as follows:

Only unemployed, low-income, low-skilled people go to AJCs. “[AJCs] are for everybody, not just a small group of people,” Lori said. They are for people who have been laid off, recent graduates, veterans, people attending workshops or classes, and people getting out of the military or prison, she elaborated.

Only jobs paying minimum wage or requiring little to no skills are available at an AJC. “There was a time [in the] not too distant past where a lot of employers tended to not list their better-paying jobs at the AJC because they thought the AJC’s clientele was not qualified for anything more than low-skilled jobs and minimum wage positions,” Lori reported. But this is no longer the case.

AJCs do not generally charge fees for their services. “With very few exceptions [… AJCs] do not charge fees for their services,” Lori said.

Employer taxes pay for AJCs. Yes, employer taxes do pay for a portion of the AJCs system. “Employer taxes, typically unemployment taxes go into a trust fund which supports several of the programs but there’s also funds available that are provided through the US Department of Labor,” Lori stated. In addition, a combination of other funds goes to AJCs, such as state appropriations; federal appropriations (some through the WIOA); jobs for veterans state grants; and community colleges. “Some of it depends on what partner agencies are at that location,” she added.

Veterans get preference for all AJC services. “Preferences are frequently confused with priority of service, and priority of service is when veterans go to the head of the line or they get funding or they get a place in a classroom instead of non-veterans when such funding or space in the class is limited,” Lori clarified. “[For any services] that are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, veterans get priority of service,” she continued. “That’s not the same as a preference. Preference typically applies in the general sense to federal jobs, if you’re applying for federal employment. Veterans get preference. They get additional points. In your state government, you may be giving veterans additional points, if they’re a veteran or disabled veteran that can give them a ‘leg-up’ over non-veterans for those same jobs.”

Common Questions

Lori Adams sits in chair holding water bottle during her on-stage presentation.Next, Lori and Amber turned to some common questions, including the following:

If AJCs aren’t just about unemployment, what services do they provide? “For anyone who’s looking for a job, there are workshops on how to improve their job-seeking skills, there are opportunities to do practice interviews, [and] there are resource centers people can use to improve their résumé,” Lori answered. AJCs also provide opportunities to get targeted jobs tax credit vouchers; access to federal bonding; and access to training funds through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (“WIOA”).

What services do they provide employers? “Sometimes, an employer can direct people who are applying for their jobs to the local AJC. That eliminates traffic at their location, and it is especially helpful for small companies that maybe don’t have an HR department or don’t have anyone that can handle walk-in traffic,” Lori pointed out. “The AJC staff can also screen applications and résumés for that employer as long as they’re given appropriate tools and information on what to do,” she said. They also can teach workshops and plan career/hiring events. Moreover, most of these services are available to employers at no cost, she emphasized.

How the NLx Fits In

The NLx is a partnership between DE and the NASWA, Lori stated. “We work together to provide the nation’s largest nonprofit job board that is unique because it has unduplicated fresh content on a daily basis. The NLx takes its job content from only three sources: state job banks, corporate career sites, and the federal government,” she continued. Without the job content from the NLx, state job banks would not have as many jobs or be as robust as they are because the NLx brings in all those other jobs that may be in that state, she explained. To illustrate this point, she cited an example from a time when she was the Division Administrator for Iowa Workforce Development, responsible for programming and service oversight at all of the Iowa’s AJCs. “[When we used] the NLx and the services available from DirectEmployers, the job bank went from 4,000 jobs on a daily basis to over 65,000,” she reported.

Moreover, the NLx vets the content to ensure that the jobs listed “are legitimate, real jobs for job seekers, and that employers can rest assured that we are protecting their interests as well,” she added.

What is the advantage for federal contractors? The NLx advantage for federal contractors is DE’s VetCentral. VetCentral is the proprietary technology designed and developed by DE to deliver federal contractor jobs for compliance with the Jobs for Veterans Act (JVA) and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), provide priority veteran referrals, and serve as a resource of current jobs for the over 1,800 local veterans’ employment representatives and disabled veteran outreach specialists, and Business Service Representatives throughout the country.

“Any time an employer lists its job with [an AJC] – I said list, not post – the notice of that job being listed with the [AJC] is conveyed to staff in that center through VetCentral,” Lori explained. “[This notice] gives [the AJC staff a] heads up [that] they need to start looking for people to match with that job and fill that employer’s needs,” she continued. “It also provides the needed documentation for when there’s an OFCCP audit.”

Smith’s Keynote: Be Vulnerable, Be Courageous, Be Heard

Samantha Smith addresses the audience during her keynote presentation.“I’m not here to motivate you guys. I’m here to be impactful,” Samantha Smith said at the beginning of her keynote address. “We’re going to talk about how do we be impactful every single day in our own communities, with our friends, with our colleagues, [and] in our work environments. We’re going to talk today about how to be impactful to make a positive change for others,” she added. Samantha is an internationally awarded public speaker, best-selling author, first responder, and activist.

“A few months ago, for the first time in our nation’s history, the U.S. Supreme Court took away a right that was previously protected. It’s the first time that’s ever happened,” she pointed out. [Note: the decision referenced is Dobbs v. Jackson – which overturned Roe v. Wade.] I’m not here to talk politics,” she said. “But what I am here to talk about is [how] we are moving in a direction that puts all of us at risk.”

Turning to the LGBTQ+ community and addressing those who might not believe they know anyone there, Samantha said: “Somebody you know is part of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s just that there hasn’t been a safe enough space created yet for them to be open to tell you that.”

“Ultimately, lives literally depend on us [creating that safe space],” she asserted.

Toastmasters Speech – “The Last Call”

Samantha then presented the speech – entitled “The Last Call” – that she made at Toastmasters International 2021 World Championship of Public Speaking, where she advanced to the top 28 out of 40,000 speakers.

She referred back to her Toastmasters speech throughout her remarks. “We’re going to talk a little bit about what it means to be vulnerable, how that equals being courageous, and ultimately how that makes sure that you’re being heard.”

Being Vulnerable. “Being vulnerable means that we’re willing to stand up, we’re willing to step forward and speak out. And so when I did that speech, I was super vulnerable. I was sharing a story that was extremely emotional to me. I was sharing a story that puts a target not only on myself but on my family’s back. But it is through those vulnerabilities that we connect. Humans connect through vulnerabilities.”

Being Courageous. “If we think about standing up, standing out, speaking out, being vulnerable with each other, the next step to that is courage. […],” she continued. “To stand out in vulnerability is courageous. […] Courage isn’t putting on the cape and being Superman and going to save the day. Courage isn’t me being a first responder. You all, every single one of you in this room, have the ability to share within your vulnerabilities and to stand up in courage.”

Being Heard. “In our courage, in standing out in our courage, we have the ability to make sure that our voices are heard. When I gave that speech, I had to be vulnerable. I had to stand in that courage.”

Speaking Out  & Creating Safe Spaces

“You don’t have to be a police officer, firefighter, EMT, in the military, or any of those, in order to be impactful, in order to stand in your vulnerabilities, in order to speak out courageously for yourself and for others to ensure that those voices are being heard”

She pointed out that everyone has been in situations where they recognized that something isn’t right and thought about speaking out, but perhaps, could not get to the place of courage to do so. “But how do we get past that line to actually act on it? For me, it’s about knowing who it impacts,” she offered. “We all have things that help us to get past that line,” Samantha said for her it is her children and knowing that they model themselves on her behavior. “If it’s not children, it’s your colleagues and your friends,” she told the audience. She also said she looks to her wife’s courage. “Simply because [her wife is] living an authentic life,” most of her own family won’t speak to her. “I wake up every single day with the motivation to stand in vulnerability, to stand up courageously because her story matters,” Samantha declared.

“This is how we create safe spaces,” she emphasized. “We ensure the safe space so [that members of marginalized groups] feel like they can share freely, so those folks feel like they can present as they know themselves to be.”

“When something is happening that we know is wrong, [it provides every one of us an] opportunity to step out,” she noted. “Because we don’t know whose life depends on it. The difference you can make by standing up, the difference you can make by ensuring you’re creating or aiding in creating that safe space can literally be the difference between somebody’s life or death.”

Moreover, “[creating safe spaces is] a collective effort,” Samantha pointed out. “It’s not one person’s job to do that. It sits and lies with all of you.”

“Being vulnerable equals being courageous equals being heard and leaving a positive impact,” she summarized.

Toastmasters Example

For a personal example, Samantha turned back to her Toastmaster’s speech. She noted that Toastmasters is “an international organization where the judges of that organization can literally be from countries where it’s okay to kill me for being married to a woman. […] So keeping all that in mind, it was a huge step for me to step forward and share that speech. But I’m grateful that I did.”

In 2021, the competition was virtual due to the pandemic. Samantha spoke about how, after she did not advance past the top 28 speakers in the competition, it was brought to her attention that she may not have advanced because of bias against the LGBTQ+ community. Then, she looked into the Toastmasters Judge’s Code of Ethics. At the time, it provided that judges must not “consider any contestant’s age, sex, race, creed, national origin, disability, profession, or political beliefs.” Notably, the code lacked any mention of LGBTQ+.

Therefore, she sent a letter to Toastmasters pointing out that their Judge’s Code of Ethics was “missing some serious language” needed to create a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Toastmasters were open to this conversation, and after some back-and-forth with Samantha, they changed the language. “As of January 2023 [the Judge’s Code of Ethics] now reads: ‘I will not consider any contestant’s age, race, color, creed, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability,’” Samantha reported.

“Does this solve it all? Does this mean people still don’t come with their feelings and judgments? Absolutely not,” she said. “But we’re stepping in the right direction. And we have to continue to do that if we really want to be impactful and make that change.”

Being Impactful

Samantha then outlined three steps for being impactful. “Step one, be aware. […] We are super busy, just running and gunning, doing what we need to do. We have to be aware to understand when those water cooler conversations are happening, when those situations are going off on the corner, we have to be aware of that so we can step out and stand there in that vulnerability with that person.”

“Step two, be willing to be vulnerable enough to share for yourself,” she continued. “This is not going up like, hey, guys, that’s not okay, you shouldn’t be talking about that. People, A, don’t like confrontation, and B, sometimes it’s not safe to do that. Let’s say they’re talking about somebody who you know. Why can’t you go be with that person and stand in their own vulnerabilities with them? Because you all have your own vulnerabilities. Think about in that moment when you’re feeling vulnerable, that somebody stood next to you in alliance with you, through that vulnerability. The difference that can make. And you all have that ability to do that on a daily basis.”

“Step three is the courage to make sure your voice is heard,” she said. “What I mean by that is the courage to keep pushing.” If she had not decided to enter the Toastmasters competition, “you guys wouldn’t know who Samantha Smith was. You would’ve never heard that story. I wouldn’t be standing here today. I would’ve never made it to the World Championship of Public Speaking. Thousands of people across the world would never have heard it. But you have to be willing to stand in that courage, you have to be willing to share [your] own stories, and I know you all have them. Each of us has stories to share. Those are the three steps […] to make sure each and every one of you has the ability to make that impact.”

DE Members may view the presentation slides for all the DEAMcon23 sessions at this link:

Day 2 Recap

John C. Fox
Cynthia L. Hackerott
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