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Coming to your workplace soon: Legal protections against hair discrimination

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Employers routinely try to control employees’ professional appearance at work through personal appearance policies in their employee handbooks. Now, unwitting employers risk claims of discrimination based on hairstyle under a new type of law or legal theory that is taking hold across the country.

Last year, California passed the CROWN Act, short for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, which prohibits discrimination based on natural hair style and texture. That law has become a model for similar legislation in other states, counties and cities.

Social Context

The CROWN Act joined the ranks of viral social movements along with #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. As evidence of its reach, the 2020 Academy Awards saw the movie “Hair Love,” an animated short film about natural black hair win an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. The director lauded the CROWN Act during his acceptance speech.

Moreover, Glamour Magazine’s September 2020 edition is dedicated to Black hair and to publicizing the CROWN Act. Celebrities such as Keke Palmer and Gabrielle Union have become spokespersons for the movement as it gains high-profile publicity.

Legal Background

Studies show that appearance is linked to success and, naturally, employers want to regulate the appearance of their workers. One’s looks can affect perceived traits such as intelligence, motivation, and overall capability.

Appearance has not been typically viewed as a legally protected characteristic. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act only prohibits employment discrimination on the bases of race, color, religion, national origin, and sex. Other federal laws also create protected classes based on age, disability, pregnancy, familial status, veteran status, and genetic information. Characteristics such as height, eye color, blood type, and weight, however, are not protected in most situations. Federal law typically only addresses a person’s immutable — or unchangeable — characteristics.

Proponents of this new legal theory argue that hair discrimination is not appearance bias but rather a conduit for racial discrimination. The CROWN Act sprung up partially as a result of a 2013 Alabama case where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a racial discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a Black job applicant who was offered a job as a customer service representative but was informed that her dreadlocks violated the company’s grooming policy. When she refused to cut and restyle her hair, the company rescinded its offer of employment.

The Southern District of Alabama dismissed the claim, stating that hairstyle is not an immutable characteristic protected by Title VII because it can be changed. In upholding the opinion, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 stated that “Title VII protects persons in covered categories with respect to their immutable characteristics, but not their cultural practices.” The court considered hairstyle a matter of individual expression rather than a biological imperative. Despite pleas from special interest groups, the Supreme Court refused to review the case.

Other courts have also refused to expand protection to an individual’s hairstyle. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a case against an airline where a black employee was fired for refusing to take out his cornrows. The court noted, however, that hair texture was different than style. If the company had banned natural Afros rather than corn rows, it may have violated Title VII because hair texture constitutes an immutable characteristic.

Recent Legal Developments

Many state legislatures have now acknowledged the public’s interest in hair equality by introducing a version of the CROWN Act in their states. States such as California; Colorado; Maryland; New Jersey; New York; and Washington, and cities and counties such as New York City; Cincinnati; and Montgomery County, Maryland, have passed similar laws. In fact, at last count, over half of the states have considered adopting laws following this legal theory.

On a federal level, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) introduced legislation modeled after the CROWN Act in December 2019 in both chambers of Congress. According to H.R. 5309, it would specifically prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle or texture “if that hair texture or that hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or natural origin.”

That bill specifically recognizes Afros, Bantu knots, braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, and twists as hairstyles predominately worn by Black individuals. Proponents of the bill believe it will help avoid facially neutral policies that disproportionately affect African Americans, unconscious bias, and overt racial discrimination.

Recommendations for Employers

Based on these recent developments, you should be sensitive to and aware of this new movement to create protections for hairstyles. In addition, you should take the following concrete steps to avoid potential litigation:

  • Closely monitor legal developments in the jurisdictions where you have operations;
  • Review your employee appearance policies and remove references to specifically prohibited hairstyles;
  • Apply policies equally to all employees regardless of race;
  • Educate employees on all policies, including appearance and grooming policies;
  • Train managers on any changes in policies and on how to handle appearance policy infractions with sensitivity;
  • Train any individuals responsible for hiring not to comment on an applicant’s appearance and on appropriate interview questions and comments;
  • Consider instituting unconscious bias training; and
  • Consider instituting progressive discipline for appearance policy infractions (and eliminating immediate termination for such infractions).

Most importantly, appearance policies should be tailored to align with professional dress codes and employee cleanliness.

The hair revolution has begun, and it will continue to sweep through the media and legislatures alike. Do not let your company become another unfortunate headline or a test case

Lastly, if you need to work out the contours of your appearance policies or train your employees on the nuances of the CROWN Act, you should consult your employment attorney.

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No federal deal yet: What are the consequences of no stimulus?

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Discussions for a new relief/stimulus bill fell apart this week, apparently. It began with tumult, as President Trump, infected with COVID-19 and taking a cocktail of drugs including hormone-altering steroids, tweeted on Oct. 6 that federal aid for the economic harm from the pandemic will resume after the Nov. 3 election. He then reversed that position, muddying the waters.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed a stand-alone bailout of air carriers facing financial distress and making thousands of job cuts. Further, the president has mentioned a separate round of $1,200 stimulus checks for individual Americans.

Additional Paycheck Protection Program loans for small-business owners are possible, according to the president. It is unclear, though, what the prospects of such aid is amid the rhetoric on and off Twitter for a new economic recovery package before the Nov. 3 election.

Much is uncertain, which is not what businesses and investors cheer. One consequence of Washington failing to deliver more federal aid to businesses and the households that patronize them will be a deeper weakening of consumer purchasing power across the U.S. Unfortunately, that process which characterizes economic recessions is underway.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the ending of weekly $600 jobless benefits in late July cut personal income by $667 billion, expressed on an annual basis, in August.

“One way to scale this impact is to express it as the equivalent of an across-the-board pay cut for all U.S. workers — in these terms it can be thought of as an economy-wide 7.1% pay cut,” writes the EPI’s Josh Bivens. “In September’s data, when the full $600 is completely gone from personal income data, this will rise to closer to 10%.”

At the beginning of October, Small Business for America’s Future, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., conducted an online survey of 1,511 small-business owners from its national network. The findings are alarming, as mom-and-pop shops’ hiring steered the U.S. economy out of the Great Recession in mid-2009.

“The pandemic continues to hit small business owners hard, with 15% saying their businesses can only survive through October without further federal relief and 34% saying they can only make it to the end of 2020. More than half, 52%, “say that Congress should pass a new economic relief package.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has hammered down the tax revenue of state and local governments. Their need for relief/stimulus from Washington looms large. Without that cash infusion, there will be service cuts and price hikes. Such an outcome will also slow growth in the private-sector economy.

Jerome Powell heads the Federal Reserve Bank. “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” he said on Oct. 6. “Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy, and holding back wage growth.”

The clock is ticking in the nation’s capital.

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A signed commitment to serve

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It is not unusual to hear a volunteer leader say, “I was told you won’t have to do anything when you get on the board.”

It’s a hoax. Board service is an honor and opportunity. With it comes fiduciary duties to represent member interests, protect and build resources, and advance the mission.

Should board orientation be mandatory? Do board members sign a commitment form?

Familiarization Tour

New directors must understand their roles and governing responsibilities. It starts with organizational familiarization, followed by board orientation and then a commitment to serve.

It is common to brief new directors in a one to one setting about the history, culture, staffing, structure, finances, milestones, and priorities of the organization.

Beyond familiarization with the organization, the entire board should be oriented as a team. It only takes 2 to 3 hours but is critical for all to attend a “refresh and blend” session covering:

  • Job Descriptions of Directors and Officers
  • Bylaws and Policies
  • Performance
  • Financial Acumen
  • Strategic Direction
  • Risk Awareness and Avoidance

Governing documents should be distributed in a leadership notebook, memory stick, or accessible online.

Travis Toliver, IOM, executive director at the Waverly Chamber of Commerce/Main Street said, “Board orientation for new members of our chamber’s leadership team provides an opportunity for them to learn more about their role as a director and to better understand how our organization works and leads the way for businesses in our community.”

Signed Commitment

Following orientation, directors are asked to sign a commitment form.

The form reinforces the duties and is archived in case there was a legal case with a judge asking, “is there any proof you received the documents” or “were you advised to avoid antitrust violations?”

“Our board has an annual retreat to discuss roles and responsibilities. At the end of the meeting directors sign for receipt of the governing documents and their understanding of items like disclosing conflicts and avoiding antitrust violations,” said Steven Beazley, CEO, Wyoming REALTORS®.

Keep the form simple for ease of understanding, avoiding legalese. This example covers six areas.

Governing Documents: Acknowledges documents were received and will be read.

Mission Statement: Understanding the role of directors is to advance the mission.

Confidentiality: Directors recognize they don’t speak for the board or organization. There are lines of communication to respect.

Conflicts of Interest: Conflicts will be disclosed at least annually and at any meeting in which a potential conflict appears on the agenda.

Antitrust: The FTC urges that associations have a measure in place to avoid antitrust violations.

Unanimity: Decisions made at the board meeting will be supported by all directors, no matter the dissent or positions expressed during the meeting.

In summary, volunteer leaders benefit from familiarization, orientation, receiving the governing documents and signing a commitment form.

At the close of orientation, the final thought might be, “Don’t plan to just sit on the board, plan to serve on the board.”

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Infographic: How legendary companies make money

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Many companies are excited for and know their top-line revenue numbers very well. Legendary companies take themselves to the next level by paying attention to what so many have come to ignore: their existing customers. See how you can improve customer retention with this infographic.

Infographic courtesy Gravy

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How to pursue a degree as an adult

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Education isn’t easy, no matter how old you are — and going to school as an adult comes with its own set of challenges. Whether you’re considering a bachelor’s degree, or you want to expand your knowledge even more with a go at graduate education, you might be wondering where to begin. Luckily, there are plenty of people just like you and many programs built to accommodate situations like yours.

Here’s some advice that will serve you particularly well if you’re seeking tips for going back to school as an adult.

1. Follow Your Goals

One of the beautiful things about going to school as an adult is that you probably have a clearer picture of your goals, skills and aspirations. Maybe you’ve discovered you want a career change or want more expertise in the industry you’re already in. Whatever your direction may be, this is your opportunity to do what you truly wish to with your education. Make sure you’re going for your dreams.

2. See if Your Employer Will Pay for Your Degree

Plenty of workplaces offer education benefits in some form or another. If your degree is related in any way to your field of work, it can’t hurt to inquire about what kind of funding might be available to you. Some companies allow you to apply for grants, while others will pay for the whole thing. If your company says no, it shouldn’t stop you from getting your education, but it’s always a good idea to check.

3. Set Boundaries

As an adult with a job, a social life, or maybe even a partner and family to worry about, you might be wondering how you’ll ever find the time to study, or even add a class or two onto your already hectic schedule. While it may be difficult, you need to set boundaries and claim time and energy as your own.

It’s all about giving yourself permission to focus on your goals. Those around you will understand that you deserve this time for you, but you need to get the ball rolling.

4. Pace Yourself

Going back to school can be a total culture shock, especially when you have other responsibilities in life. While it’s important to reach for your goals and work hard, you also need to practice self-care and make sure you don’t burn out. Take it slow. Start with just a few classes — or even one class, if that’s what you can handle. Education is often a long game, not a race.

5. Have a Study Plan

Nobody can expect to show up to class, never study and ace every test. Everyone needs to carve out time for homework and studying, but if you’re not careful, it can eat up your whole night. As an adult learner, you need to make the most of your time. Have a study plan and set aside specific hours to work on your schoolwork. Make lists and itineraries so you can keep everything in check and get all your work done.

How to Go Back to School as an Adult

Going back to school can be challenging, and even taking one class each semester makes you a total superstar. Hopefully, these adult learning tips will make it easier. Whether you’re taking your first shot at a degree or you’re running back to campus for more, education is for everyone — and that includes you.

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How geofencing can help get your profits back on track

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The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, been devastating for many brick-and-mortar stores that have seen drastically reduced foot traffic. Online sales have most likely been a lifeline for your brand — but you no doubt want to boost sales at local outlets, too.

To accomplish this key goal, you need innovative marketing might for your brand — but you also need to be careful about spending. A recent report found that more than one-third of businesses (35%) have reduced marketing budgets while only 8% have increased them. One option for your marketing spend is to try geofencing.

Geofencing technology allows you to reach and direct a smartphone using customers at or near your store locations easily and inexpensively. In a nutshell, geofencing creates a virtual “boundary” around your business location using GPS- or RFID-enabled software.

One example is a circle outlining a certain number of feet around a Google Maps spot. When your customers enter the boundary area, they receive information or advertising from your business they can use immediately, according to Tamoco.

A cool thing about geofencing is that you have flexibility in terms of how you target your audience within the technology. For example, you could open up the radius that your retail store might draw a geofence around to attract new customers who happen to be in a shopping center or in a parking area near it. You could narrow your approach to trigger mobile alerts for customers who have downloaded your app and happen to nearby to conveniently send them to your location in real time.

Geofencing can also be used to deliver key sales information to potential customers if your business is located in a competitive area. You can send your customers enticing price comparisons, so even if they check out that rival appliance store or car dealership nearby, they know that your business is offering them a better deal.

How can you use the technology to your greatest advantage? Focus on the following key points:

Software specs.

Do a deep research dive so you know what your best options are for integration into your apps. Data from G2 indicates that quality geofencing software must integrate via an API or SDK, and should produce analytics dashboards and reports based on location data. G2 finds WebEngage, MoEngage, Radar and PlotProjects to be among the best choices on the market.

Marketing plan coordination.

Make sure your geofencing capabilities are fully known to your customers so they can expect notifications that will make their purchasing easier. Ad content across your social platforms that lets your audience know they can be directed on the spot to a location that carries their favorite products is a powerful convenience tool.

Using geofencing to link up your brick and mortar stock with your online inventory.

Make sure your product is readily available anywhere your consumer happens to be seeking it out. Backordered or sold-out stock is the fastest way to derail your efforts, so plan in advance and don’t let it happen.

Privacy and security.

Make sure consumers know that the geofencing strategy you use does not put their data or location at any form of risk. Then, safeguard scrupulously to keep this promise.

Positive messaging.

Geofencing-based ads should be upbeat, brief and to the point. You want your customers to be happily surprised that you are meeting their needs in the spot with this technology. That message of convenience will earn their loyalty and help your brand do better.

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Engaging visitors at your virtual trade show booth

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The attendees at your next trade show probably won’t show up. Instead, they’ll sign in.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced most businesses to bring in person meetings and conferences online, trade shows soon followed suit. “Attendee” avatars now roam virtual trade show booths in search of content that is both informative and engaging.

But while most businesses know how to make trade show booth materials informative, making them engaging is a different task entirely.

It’s easy to spot a successful booth in person: It’s cleverly crafted, crowded, and buzzing with energy. Meanwhile, other booths never seem to draw a crowd. What’s the difference?

Engagement. The promise of free swag or a fun game gives attendees a reason to walk over, while an empty booth suggests that nothing exciting is going on.

Though planning a virtual trade show might feel foreign to some, the same basic rules of engagement apply. Companies that offer activities in their virtual booths see far more traffic than those that do not, so make sure to prioritize fun.

Here are a few ways to make your virtual trade booth stand out on-screen using a simple engagement tactic: Games.

Use games to draw a virtual crowd at your company’s booth.

Whether virtual or in person, trade show booth games attract a steady stream of prospective customers and keep them around just long enough for you to present your product or service offerings.

What’s more, games make the whole pitching process a fun endeavor for you and your customers — further increasing the possibility of converting them. Additionally, more visitors equal more social “proof.” People feel more comfortable “visiting” a booth that is crowded than a booth that looks deserted.

Come up with an exciting virtual trade show game.

Consider providing a digital prize wheel with the names of a company’s products placed around the wheel. A digital slot machine is another idea worthy of consideration. This can be especially impactful if it includes a company logo.

A digital scratch off game could feature the products a company wishes to highlight, while a virtual vault game allows attendees to try their hand at cracking a five-digit code. Memory games and interactive match card games are another way to entice attendees with fun at a virtual booth.

A magician could interact with booth participants, creating magic tricks around a brand or theme. In a hybrid virtual and physical event, a magician could appear in person during specific hours and virtual during others. The magician’s discourse could combine company information along with an entertaining element. A virtual escape game is similar to the real-life escape room concept. Participants answer clues to “escape” their circumstance.

Make your brand part of the game.

Regardless of how you publicize your game — on your website or in social media — your brand needs to shine. Whether you use your logo, tagline or other theme closely associated with your brand, a virtual or in person trade show game is a marketing promotion so it’s important for your brand to stand out. When possible, include your company phone number, URL or QR code, so virtual booth visitors know how to reach you later.

Offer activities that also serve as a lead generation tool.

Besides just being fun, games and activities can also support lead generation. In order to play a game, a potential customer could be required to complete a form providing his or her contact information.

Drawings are another way to build data for lead generation; just keep required information to a minimum so that you don’t turn people off. Contact information and a couple of product or service-related questions should suffice. If you choose other games to get people to your exhibit that don’t require such a form, you could gather this information via an additional prize drawing.

Excite attendees with prizes.

Product and service prizes are always appreciated by attendees and they help build buzz around a booth. Encourage people to come by your virtual booth by advertising that visitors will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize. Giveaways like this can be tied into an overall booth theme and provide an opportunity for the booth host’s company to follow up when they call the winner. It is generally a good idea to avoid cash prizes, in case there are any online gambling restrictions that may exist in the city or state of the virtual game participants.

Virtual trade show games provide cost effective ways companies can stand out in a virtual trade show. They also create a return of investment through brand engagement using digital game technology. Try these tactics at your next virtual trade show.

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Clear as muck: When the only thing that’s certain is more uncertainty

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As we get to the end of what’s been a long and challenging year for most of the world, we can all look forward to … who knows?

We are just under a month away from a presidential election that may or may not have a clear winner on election night. We’re making progress opening up the economy and still controlling the coronavirus — except where we’re not. We’re expecting an effective vaccine to protect us from the virus in the next month or two — or maybe the next year, or maybe not at all. The stock market will react to all of this by plunging down — or heading straight up, or staying about where it is now.

Virtually none of this is clear. Yet, we need to continue to move forward, run our businesses, support our customers, take care of our families. How do you maintain a sense of balance when nothing is certain? Here are a few suggestions.

Get used to living with grey.

Life has never been black and white, but things are more grey — more ambiguous — now than ever before. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon. It’s important that your organization learns how to manage through uncertainty, so you can help your clients and customers do the same.

Stop focusing on what used to be.

You may have been perfectly positioned to lead your organization or your industry forward at the beginning of 2020. But the world’s changed. What worked then is irrelevant now.

Look at the travel and hospitality industries as an example — the best run companies in these industries have had to retool and retrench to be viable entities in the new world.

Look for the new normal.

The chance of going back to “normal” anytime soon is about nil. It’s much more likely that what we used to consider normal may not ever come back.

Get used to the new way of doing things: It’s not just masks and social distancing. It’s also about plexiglass dividers in stores and retail establishments, closer monitoring of even minor symptoms of illness, and more permanent work from home situations. How will your business adapt to these conditions?

Know you are not alone.

Nearly every other business in your industry — and quite possibly on the planet — is going through what you’re facing. Your customers and suppliers are struggling to sort this out, just as you and your employees are. Expectations have been reset, and we need to all behave differently given the conditions.

Help yourself by helping others.

Consider how you can support not just your customers and suppliers, but your local community as well.

Can you donate goods or services to help those in need? Can you create new offerings that will provide solutions to those who are struggling to balance the multiples challenges thrown at them in this environment? In the long term, the market will reward those organizations who have done well by doing good.

Remember: This too will pass. Some days it may seem as if we’ll never come out of this, but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. The 1918 Influenza epidemic lasted two full years, but the world eventually recovered and moved on. We’ll get past this challenge, too. The question is who well-positioned will you be for what’s next? That’s clearly a good place to focus now.

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Seniors and the neurodiverse: 2 pools of exceptional talent you need to cultivate now

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Even before the coronavirus pandemic brought the world economy to a virtual standstill, people productivity was in its longest period of decline since records began. Since 2010, there has been steady downward pressure on productivity, stumping economists on what exactly is causing this trend. With all the increasingly intelligent and abundant technology available to workers, why are people not more productive in the workplace?

There are a variety of reasons for why this is happening, including organizations overwhelming people with new technology that is more “IT-centric” than “human-centric.” Additionally, organizations are not particularly good at getting the right people in the right place with the right skills, creating inefficiencies and employee disengagement.

In research for my new book “Solving the Productivity Puzzle” (Kogan Page, August 2020), I go into detail on the factors impacting people productivity, but also propose proven solutions. It is an eminently solvable conundrum if we think and do differently.

For example, one relatively simple solution is to broaden the pool of talent that we recruit from. Get right people with right skills in the right place by leveraging unique talents and experience.

Two heavily underutilized pools of talent are over-70s and the “neurodiverse.” They both bring completely different skills and experience, however, together they bring powerful combination of expertise and innovation. All factors that can improve workforce performance considerably.

Let’s take a look at these in turn, starting with seniors. The elongation of healthy human lifespan in the 21st century has been a quiet revolution going in the background of the modern workforce. As a result, average U.S. life expectancy increased from 68 years in 1950 to 78.6 years in 2018, in large part due to the reduction in mortality at older ages.

From the AARP: In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that by 2024 — just four years from now — 13 million people age 65 and older will still be working. While the total number of workers is expected to increase by 5 percent over those 10 years, the number of workers ages 65 to 74 will swell by 55 percent. For people 75 and older, the total will grow a whopping 86 percent, according to BLS projections.

Today, most organizations focus their time and attention on recruiting millennials. Of course, this is important, but to do so at the expense of the other end of the age spectrum is to miss out on the full horsepower and know-how available in today’s workforce.

In my experience, the younger generations are exceptionally astute at seeking out the experience and expertise of older generations. They instinctively understand that the best way to learn, is to seek out those that know something and obtain that knowledge — quickly. They have no problem admitting they do not know something and use technology to find those that do.

Growing up with Wikipedia and YouTube at their fingertips, they do not waste any time on trying to learn things the hard way (trial and error). They reach out to those who are in the know and ask them for help. And of course, what senior worker does not want to show what they know! It feels good.

This 21st century bridge between generations is a unique opportunity to help solve the productivity puzzle. However, we must do two things better: 1. Learn how to recruit, retain, and deploy seniors; 2. Put in place human-centric technology tools that encourage and facilitate collaboration between generations. Both things do not require massive amounts of investment to implement. However, the payback can be enormous in people engagement, innovation, and performance.

The second major opportunity is hiring in the talent pool of “neurodiversity.” Neurodiverse is a term that has been around since the 1990s, when it was first coined by the Australian sociologist Judy Singer. What Singer was looking to describe was a group of conditions such as ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalcula and autism which aren’t “abnormal” or “diseases,” but simply variations of the human brain that are a natural part of the tapestry of human variety. The trick, and the opportunity, is to learn how to leverage neurodiverse individuals’ unique talents to everyone’s benefit.

We understand many conditions, such as autism, much better and increasingly recognize the unique capabilities and talents that people with “different brains” can bring. More and more companies are recognizing the power of “neurodiversity” in their workforce and are actively recruiting people on the autistic spectrum, as this pool of talent often successfully solve knotty challenges that most people cannot do. Different brains can also be successful in seeing things that other people do not see, creating innovative products and services.

The advent of the information economy and the data-intensive nature of work in the 21st century workplace has opened entirely new opportunities for meaningful engagement of individuals with innate talents uniquely suited to quantitative, data-immersive employment. Therefore, companies such as German-based software giant SAP have had, for more than three years now, a program specifically recruiting people who have autism or related differences. SAP is, as they put it, “tapping into a pool of talented people who can bring innovation and new ways of working” that drive new ideas for products and services that do not exist today.

Given the experience and innovation these two diverse workforces can bring, you should strongly consider joining companies like Microsoft, Google, Ford Motor Company, Ernst & Young and Walgreens in expanding and cultivating this talent. Not only is it good for your organization, it is good for society and our economy.

To get out of the current crisis, we are going to need all hands on deck. Let us turn this crisis into an opportunity to rethink work and the workplace; think and do differently. The investment and risks are minimal, and the rewards can be enormous.

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The gold standard in policies

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Policies are the wisdom of prior boards, adopted as motions and recorded in the minutes, to guide actions and decisions of the current and future boards.

They frequently interpret broad sections of the bylaws, which purposely lack detail. For example, the bylaws may require a periodic financial audit. A policy will specify frequency, type of audit, and the hiring of a CPA.

It is easier to adopt, amend or repeal a policy than the bylaws, which usually require as approval process by the membership. Associations rely on 25 to 50 policies.

Most commonly they address investments, confidentiality, antitrust avoidance, and authority to speak for the association. Other policies result from questions on IRS Form 990, including public records, record retention, conflicts of interest, financial audits, and whistleblowers.

Gold Standard

There are two policies I have seen that add significant value for associations and chambers. Both clarify roles and responsibilities.

Management and Governance Model: The purpose of this policy is to ensure the board governs without efforts to manage staff.

The association has adopted a model of management and governance to ensure the volunteer leadership and CEO/executive directors effectively advance association efforts. The board of directors will focus on governance in accordance with the governing documents. The elected officers and board will focus efforts on advancing the mission and goals, serving the membership, protecting, and building resources, while being visionary and strategic.

The CEO is responsible for management, including staffing, office, protection of assets and other responsibilities associated with a corporate CEO. While the board governs, the CEO manages, working together to serve members. With exception of the chief elected officer, volunteer leaders do not direct staff.

Distinctions in Policies and Procedures: The purpose of this policy is to ensure the board understands the difference between policies and procedures.

The association distinguishes between board policies and management procedures. Policies are established to guide board decision-making. Procedures guide the staff’s administration of the association.

While personnel policies may be referenced, they too are distinct. The board does not have direct involvement with personnel matters. Those policies are overseen by the executive director and association attorney.

Policy and Procedures Manuals

Confusion continues to exist between the terms and purpose of policies and procedures. Some associations distribute a manual mistakenly titled “Policies and Procedures.”

“Making a clear distinction between policy and procedures manuals indicates an effective organization with an understanding that boards govern, and staff team manage,” offers Bill Pawlucy, CAE and president of Association Options.

A strategic board has little interest in staff procedures, preferring to focus on policies, positions, and outcomes.

Policies often result in administrative procedures. When a policy is adopted at a board meeting, in turn staff will determine implementation steps.

For example, the board might state a savings reserve should be maintained equaling 50 percent of the annual budget. The staff will work to reach and maintain the threshold.

Policies are transcribed from the meeting minutes into a compendium of all policies. They are distributed in the board’s leadership notebook or accessible online.

If no policy manual exists, review the last few years of minutes to identify motions that translate into policies. Review IRS Form 990 to determine if the policy questions are answered affirmatively. And rely on a CPA and attorney to recommend policies. A free policy toolkit is available.

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