Creating a thriving culture for diversity, equity, and inclusion requires intentional focus and allotment of time and resources. Photo via Getty Images

The recent and long overdue awakening to systematic racism in the United States has brought with it a focused attempt to create more equitable opportunities in the workforce. Organizations are investing time reviewing their historical selection and performance data, creating new strategies for attracting applicants from historically underrepresented groups, and investing resources to ensure ongoing support and inclusion for all members of their community.

Startups in the early stages of bringing in personnel and crafting organizational culture have the advantage of building from a blank slate, and can benefit from implementing recruitment and selection strategies shown to help increase diversity.

Internal review

Prior to developing any strategic recruitment plan, companies must first perform an in-depth internal review of company culture, values, and future plans for growth and evolution. Defining these organizational attributes will help the company better understand the types of individuals who will thrive in the environment so that it can 1) accurately market the company and 2) maximize person-organization fit (P-O fit). P-O fit describes the extent to which an individual’s competencies, values, and preferences are compatible with the organization’s core values and offerings and has been linked to higher job satisfaction, job performance, and organizational commitment along with decreased turnover. Carving out the company’s current and desired culture, values, and goals for growth can serve as a starting point for accurately marketing the company to prospective applicants, understanding what applicant attributes and values will be the best fit for the company, and creating outreach and screening methods accordingly.

Information sharing

After an organization has performed a thorough internal exploration, it can then begin to share relevant information with prospective applicants. By and large, much of this information is gleaned by applicants through organizational websites. Indeed, organizational websites are often the main source of information for applicants and can provide a positive first impression and communicate its culture to leverage P-O fit. Research also suggests that companies cannot go wrong by sharing too much information about the organization on their website and through social media.

Companies can also ensure that the information provided on their websites and on social media pages demonstrate pictorial diversity, as including pictures of minorities has been shown to increase organizational attraction among Latinos and Blacks. Including video testimonials from any incumbent employees who reflect the diversity the organization is trying to attract can also enhance employer attractiveness. Finally, organizations seeking to increase diversity – but with little baseline diversity – should be honest about their current diversity climate with prospective applicants. Being transparent about current diversity figures, along with goals for future growth and specific strategies taken to enhance the diversity climate, can be a successful strategy as well. It is much better for an organization to provide an accurate snapshot of the current milieu so that informed decisions can be made, as inflated and inaccurate expectations among new entrants can result in job dissatisfaction and turnover.

Targeted recruitment

Companies seeking to increase the demographic diversity of applicants can also engage in targeted recruitment by focused advertisement and promotion at schools who graduate large number of underrepresented minorities. For example, partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), such as Prairie View A&M University, Texas Southern University, and St. Phillip’s College, can ensure broad reach. Creating virtual visit days, providing lectures to students, and other educational outreach programs with these institutions can broaden awareness and interest.

Selection

Organizations must continue to ensure equitable opportunities for all even after receiving applications from a diverse group. Shortlisting applicants based on certain pieces of information in the application can be at odds with efforts to create a diverse workforce. For example, reliance on standardized examination scores, such as SAT and ACT, can negatively impact underrepresented minority applicants. Letters of recommendation are also often frequently relied upon in selection, despite their discriminatory origin and evidence showing differences across genders and socioeconomic groups. Finally, use of unstructured interviews can also increase susceptibility to biases against minority groups. Thus, companies should only incorporate screening tools and processes that will not disadvantage applicants from different backgrounds.

Other selection methods can help programs achieve their diversity goals. For example, inclusion of structured interviews can ensure interviewers avoid common interviewing mistakes and providing unbiased ratings.Often, small details can have a large impact on hiring decisions. For example, applicants with accents and ethnic names are often disadvantaged during interviews, receiving less favorable interview ratings. Similarly, overweight candidates receive significantly lower performance ratings in interviews, compared to average weight candidates. Finally, studies have shown an overall bias against pregnant women in interview settings. Fortunately, these studies have also shown that structured interviews reduce these biases. Thus, standardizing which questions are asked and training interviewers to avoid inappropriate and potentially illegal questions is critical.

In conclusion, companies seeking to enhance the diversity of their workforce must consider their practices and policies in recruitment and selection. Unfortunately, there are no “quick fixes.” Creating a thriving culture for diversity, equity, and inclusion requires intentional focus and allotment of time and resources.

------

Aimee Gardner is the co-founder of SurgWise, a tech-enabled consulting firm for hiring surgeons, and associate dean at Baylor College of Medicine.

Think you’re a great judge of character during interviews? You’re not alone — but you’re probably wrong. Photo via Pexels

You shouldn't be just trusting your gut when hiring, says this Houston expert

guest column

If your startup has gotten to the point of being able to hire in new team members – congratulations! Your hard work and innovative ideas have been recognized, and you are now able to bring in others to help achieve your vision. While you may have specific ideas about the types of individuals you want on your team, interviewing candidates is not an easy feat, and deserves the same amount of strategy and organization you have dedicated to other critical company decisions. It can be tempting to rely on gut instinct when interviewing, but the science suggests there is a better way.

Organizations, regardless of company size or tenure, most commonly conduct unstructured interviews — those in which applicants meet with a bundle of organizational stakeholders and are asked a variety of questions deemed valuable for that interviewer. Questions typically cover topics such as interest in the role, experience in the field, specifics about their application, or anything else intended to develop rapport with the candidate. Interviewers may even utilize brainteaser questions intended to put applicants on the spot or try to gauge their ability to think on their feet.

Despite the fact that interviewers often feel they are a great judge of candidates during these interviews, interviewers actually obtain little usable information from them. Unstructured interviews limit the ability to gather specific, competency-based data on each applicant, create difficulty in comparing candidates along the same dimensions, and do not ensure that rating forms, if they exist at all, are being used in the same way among interviewers. The literature supports these limitations, showing that unstructured interviews can lead interviewers to focus on irrelevant information and increase susceptibility to biases, are highly unreliable are poor predictors of job performance, and can actually hurt predictive accuracy compared to not even interviewing at all. And those brainteaser questions? After years of studying their effectiveness, even Google has admitted they are worthless at predicting future job performance.

The alternative then is to adopt a structured interview. Structured interviews have four key characteristics:The first is that all questions are created prior to the interview, and are based upon a thorough job analysis — a rigorous, multi-method competency modeling process to help organizations identify key competencies required for success in the role. These data are used to develop role-specific interview questions and rating forms. Structured interviews also require that all candidates are asked the exact same questions, and in the same order to provide an equitable opportunity for applicants and reduce any primacy, recency, or contrast effects. Finally, structured interviews require that interviewers are trained not only on how to conduct interviews to maximize utility and minimize bias, but that they are also trained to use the competency rating forms in the same way.

As a result of this structure, these types of interviews have a strong evidence-base behind them. They demonstrate higher levels of reliability between raters, are better able to predict later job performance, and minimize opportunities for racial and gender bias to emerge. Importantly, structured interviews are also more efficient. Studies have shown that it would take three to four unstructured interviews to reach the same levels of accuracy as just one structured interview conducted by one interview. In summary, the structure and standardization embedded within structured interviews is important from the validity, reliability, fairness, and practicality perspectives. For all of these reasons, structured interviews meet best practice and legal standards for a high-stakes assessment method.

When building the team for your startup, it is imperative that you can accurately assess all job candidates and their alignment with your company’s goals, vision, and needs. Informal conversations are unlikely to help achieve this aim. Despite how great a judge of character you think you are, the data are clear — structured interviews are the most efficient and effective way to evaluate candidates for your positions.

------

Aimee Gardner is the co-founder of SurgWise, a tech-enabled consulting firm for hiring surgeons, and associate dean at Baylor College of Medicine.

Consider these evidence-backed hiring tips before scaling your startup's team. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert: How to scale your startup team quickly and efficiently

guest column

Startups often use the first rounds of funding to bring in key individuals who will help make the company vision a reality. But hiring the right talent is not an easy task, and ensuring the right team is in place is important now more than ever during the early stages of your company’s growth.

Fortunately, there is a science to employee selection. In fact, there is entire field — Industrial & Organizational Psychology — dedicated to providing professional guidelines, best practices, and over 100 years of evidence to support recommendations into identifying talent an effective, efficient, and equitable manner.

From this field, we know that the first step to hiring in the right talent for your startup is to perform a thorough job analysis. Whether you are bringing in a new CEO, a vice president of sales, or extra hands for your technology platform, gaining consensus among your team about the competencies and attributes required to effectively perform in a new role is critical.

It sounds simple, but it is actually a rarity for organizational stakeholders to get together and comprehensively map out what the role entails and what candidate qualities are necessary to meet those requirements and expectations. Factoring things in such as early-stage demands, future landscape, and organizational culture will help create a list of competencies and attributes needed to be optimally effective in the role, beyond just professional experience and certifications.

After prioritizing the list of competencies and qualities deemed vital for candidates, you will then want to prioritize the list based on importance, how frequently they are required in the role, and the extent to which each is required upon hire —versus being easily trained or acquired on the job. Those at the top of the list should be directly assessed during the candidate screening and selection process. Whether it is through work samples, written assessments, situational judgment tests, or interviews, creating a diverse lineup of candidate screening processes will help ensure you are able to measure the whole person.

Because selection decisions can be high stakes — both for the candidate and your company — ensuring these assessments are directly related to the position, data-driven, and equitable will be key for maximizing the utility and legal defensibility of your selection system. For example, implementing unstructured interviews is common practice in many organizations large and small.

However, what the data shows is clear: structured interviews — those that consist of a pre-defined list of questions related to the role that are used for every candidate, use standard interview rating tools, and involve interviewers who have been trained to conduct structured interviews and use the rating tools — are more efficient and effective in accurately assessing job candidates.

Furthermore, the structure involved in this interview format reduces the opportunity for common biases and inappropriate questions to emerge during the interview process, thereby enhancing the likelihood for making equitable selection decisions and avoiding potential for legal litigation. Thus, it is important to ensure every screening tool or process has been thoughtfully considered and implemented from an efficiency, effectiveness, and equity lens. Making a shortlist of candidates and final offers based on the data accumulated through these processes will maximize the likelihood of identifying best fit candidates based on comprehensive data points.

If your startup has gotten to the point of being able to grow the team, it is clear that ample vision, strategy, and innovation has been dedicated to the mission up until this point. Hiring in the next round of team members is not a process that should undergo any less dedication. Ensuring that those around you share your vision, goals, and have a complementary set of skills and attributes will be critical to ensure success in your company’s growth and achievements.

------

Aimee Gardner is the co-founder of SurgWise, a tech-enabled consulting firm for hiring surgeons, and associate dean at Baylor College of Medicine.

SurgWise is giving surgical teams the right support for hiring. Photo via Getty Images

Houston startup equips medical teams with data-driven hiring tool

staffing up

A surgeon spends over a decade in school and residency perfecting their medical skills, but that education doesn't usually include human resources training. Yet, when it comes to placing candidates into surgical programs, the hiring responsibilities fell on the shoulders of surgeons.

Aimee Gardner, who has her PhD in organized psychology, saw this inefficiency first hand.

"I worked in a large surgery department in Dallas right out of graduate school and quickly learned how folks are selected into residency and fellowship programs and all the time that goes into it — time spent by physicians reviewing piles and piles of like paper applications and spending lots and lots and of hours interviewing like hundreds of candidates," Gardner tells InnovationMap. "I was just really shocked by the inefficiencies from just a business and workforce perspective."

And things have only gotten worse. There are more applicants hitting the scene every year and they are applying to more hospitals and programs. Future surgeons used to apply for 20 or so programs — now it’s more like 65 on average. According to her research, Gardner says reviewing these applications cost lots of time and money, specifically $100,000 to fill five spots annually just up to the interviewing phase of the process.

Five years ago, Gardner came up with a solution to this “application fever,” as she describes, and all the inefficiencies, and founded SurgWise Consulting, where she serves as president and CEO.

"We help provide assessments to help screen competencies and attributes that people care about," Gardner says. "(Those) are really hard to assess, but really differentiate people who really thrive in training in their careers and people who don't."

Aimee Gardner is the CEO and president of Houston-based SurgWise. Photo via surgwise.com

These are the non-technical skills, like the professionalism, interpersonal skills, and communication. While SurgWise began as a service-oriented consulting company, the company is now ready to tap technology to expand upon its solution. The work started out of Houston Methodist, and SurgWise is still working with surgery teams there. She says they've accumulated tons of data that can be leveraged and streamlined.

"We're now pivoting from a very intimate client approach to a more scalable offering. Every year we assess essentially around 80 percent of all the people applying to be future surgeons — those in pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, and more,” Gardner says. “We’ve used kind of the last five years of data and experiences to create a more scalable, easy-to-integrate, and off-the-shelf solution.”

Gardner says her solution is critical for providing more equity in the hiring process.

“One of our goals was to create more equitable opportunities and platforms to assess folks because many of the traditional tools and processes that most people use in this space have lots of opportunity for bias and a high potential for disadvantaging individuals from underrepresented groups," she says. "For example, letters of recommendation are often a very insider status. If you went to some Ivy League or your parents were in health care and they know someone, you have that step up from a networking and socioeconomic status standpoint."

Personal statements and test scores are also inequitable, because they tend to be better submissions if people have money for coaching.

SurgWise hopes to lower the number of programs future surgeons apply to too to further streamline the process. She hopes to do this through an app and web tool that can matchmake people to the right program.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a platform for applicants to obtain a lot more information about the various places to which they apply to empower them to make more informed decisions, so that they don't have to apply to a hundred places," Gardner says. "We want to essentially create a match-style app that allows them to input some data and tell us 'here's what I'm looking for here are my career goals and any preferences I have.'”

While that tool is down the road, Gardner says SurgWise is full speed ahead toward launching the data-driven hiring platform. The bootstrapped company hopes to raise early venture funding this summer in order to hire and grow its team.

“As we continue to consider this app that I talked about and some of the other opportunities to scale to other specialties we're gonna start looking for a series A funding later this summer.”

More square footage and cost of internet are two big reasons Texas stands out. Photo by Maskot/Getty Images

Texas punches in as one of best states for working from home, says study

remote possibilites

The meaning of “going to work” is swiftly changing. The Ladders career platform forecasts that one-fourth of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022.

“This change in working arrangements is impossible to overhype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” Marc Cenedella, CEO of The Ladders, said in December. “Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic turned up the heat so we’re seeing a rapid flood of change in this space. It’s really rather amazing.”

Given the dramatic shift in what it means to go to work, some folks with remote jobs may be wondering where they should live. It turns out that Texas sits at No. 7 on a new list from personal finance website WalletHub of the best states for working from home. So, if you hold a remote job and already call Texas home, you might just want to stay put.

To identify which places are best for working from home, WalletHub compared 12 key metrics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Those metrics include the cost of internet service and the size of a typical home. “Together, these metrics show how feasible working from home is in terms of cost, comfort, and safety,” WalletHub says.

Here’s how Texas fares in six categories, with a No. 1 position being best and a No. 25 position being average:

  • No. 1 for average square footage of homes.
  • No. 2 for cost of internet service.
  • No. 19 for share of potential telecommuters.
  • No. 25 for average price of electricity.
  • No. 25 for share of population working from home.
  • No. 29 for household internet access.

New Jersey grabs the No. 1 spot on the list, and Alaska ranks last.

“I believe that working from home will need to become a more viable option for many industries, regardless of the pandemic status, as we continue to see increasing fuel prices,” Sean Walker, professor of behavioral management in the College of Business and Global Affairs at the University of Tennessee at Martin, tells WalletHub.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Remote workers became a necessity in the pandemic — now it's becoming the norm. Here's how to navigate the remote hiring process. Photo by Edmond Dantès via Pexels

Houston expert: 4 questions to ask when hiring employees in other states

Guest column

A larger share of employees has found themselves working from home, or at least working remote, than ever before and many continue to do so permanently. As employers actively take steps to ensure a strong showing throughout the economic recovery, the nature of remote work has allowed employers to cast their nets far and wide in search of top-notch talent. Remote work also opened up the option for some existing employees to seize the opportunity to move to their dream locale.

Due to the nature of employment law in the U.S., remote workers spread out in varying states pose a challenge to employers – and most business owners are simply not prepared. However, by asking the right questions, employers can ensure that they are in line with cross-border rules when it comes to the challenges of having employees based in other states.

What are the payroll requirements?

When it comes to hiring remote employees in other states, it is most important to confirm that they will be properly paid. A record of compliance with state-specific payroll laws is critical in the event of a Department of Labor audit. Examples include local and state minimum wage and pay frequency requirements. Other relevant details range from overtime calculations to payroll deductions. If working with a payroll provider, employers should verify that they are set up to pay out-of-state employees.

What are the state-specific labor laws and regulations?

Another caveat of out-of-state remote employees is the requirement of local- and state-specific labor laws and regulations. Regardless of where a company is headquartered, employers are required to abide by regulations in a number of categories. A few employment regulations that may vary by location include leave – both paid and unpaid – as well as employment benefits, workers' compensation and breaks provided.

How to keep up with regulatory changes?

State-by-state employment regulations are frequently changing, and employers can be especially challenged to maintain compliance with each state's evolving labor laws. Before making a remote workforce a more permanent solution, business owners should decide between assuming the responsibility of regulatory compliance through their own research and system or delegating the role to an external partner such as an employment attorney or professional employer organization.

How to ensure the success of remote employees?

Of course, the undertaking of properly hiring remote employees in other states is only worth it if employers take steps to ensure their success. Company culture is critical to onboarding and retaining remote employees. Business owners should look beyond bookkeeping to support new hires who may be miles away from the company headquarters. Gestures such as branded swag bags and personalized video messages from teammates can make remote employees feel welcomed from afar. Virtual mentorship programs also are valuable in the development of virtual team members.

As employers further consider leveraging the remote workforce or the emerging hybrid workplace model, minimizing regulatory headaches at the onset can potentially save time and money should issues arise. By asking about payroll requirements, maintaining compliance with local and state employment regulations and preparing to preserve compliance in the future, business owners can confidently tap into the growing remote workforce with ease.

------

Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston startups raise funding, secure partnerships across space, health, and sports tech

short stories

It's been a new month and a few Houston startup wrapped up November with news you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, three Houston startups across health care, space, and sports tech have some news they announced recently.

Houston digital health company launches new collaboration

Koda Health has a new partner. Image via kodahealthcare.com

Houston-based Koda Health announced a new partnership with data analytics company, CareJourney.

"This collaboration will aim to develop benchmarking data for advance care planning and end-of-life metrics," the company wrote on LinkedIn. "Koda will provide clinical and practice-based expertise to guide the construction of toolkits, dashboards, and benchmarks that improve ACP programs and end-of-life outcomes."

Koda Health announced the partnership in November..

“Beyond the checkbox of a billing code or completed advance directive, it’s important to build and measure a process that promotes thoughtful planning among patients, their care team, and their loved ones,” says Desh Mohan, MD, Koda's chief medical officer, in the post.

CareJourney was founded in 2014 in Arlington, Virginia.

"I'm hopeful next-generation quality measures will honor the patient’s voice in defining what it means to deliver high quality care, and our commitment is to measure progress on that important endeavor," noted Aneesh Chopra, CareJourney's co-founder and president.

Sports tech startup raises $500,000 pre-seed investment

BeONE Sports has created a technology to enhance athletic training. Photo via beonesports.com

Houston-founded BeONE Sports, an athlete training technology company, announced last month that it closed an oversubscribed round of pre-seed funding. The company announced the raise on its social media pages that the round included $500,000 invested.

Earlier in November, BeONE Sports completed its participation in CodeLaunch DFW 2022. The company was one of six finalists in the program, which concluded with a pitch event on November 16.

Space tech company snags government contracts

Graphic via cognitive space.com

The U.S. Air Force has extended Houston-based Cognitive Space’s contract under a new TACFI, Tactical Funding Increase, award. According to the release, the contract "builds on Cognitive Space’s work to develop a tailored version of CNTIENT for AFRL to achieve ultimate responsiveness and optimized dynamic satellite scheduling via a cloud-based API.

The $1.2 million award follows a $1.5 million U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research award that the company won in 2020 to integrate CNTIENT with commercial ground station providers in support of AFRL’s Hybrid Architecture Demonstration program.

“The TACFI award allows Cognitive Space to continue supporting AFRL’s vitally important HAD program to help deliver commercial space data to the warfighter,” says Guy de Carufel, the company’s founder and CEO, in the releasee. “CNTIENT’s tailored analytics platform will enable HAD and the GLUE platform to integrate modern statistical approaches to optimize mission planning, data collection, and latency estimation.”

Houston airport powers up new gaming lounge for bored and weary travelers

game on and wheels down

Local gamers now have a new option to while away those flight delays and passenger pickup waits at Hobby Airport.

Houston's William P. Hobby Airport is now one the first airports in the country to offer what's dubbed as the "ultimate gaming experience for travelers." The airport has launched a premium video game lounge inside the international terminal called Gameway.

That means weary, bored, or early travelers can chill in the lounge and plug into15 top-of-the-line, luxury gaming stations: six Xbox stations, five Playstation stations, four PC stations, all with the newest games on each platform. Aficionados will surely appreciate the Razer's Iskur Gaming Chairs and Kraken Headsets, along with dedicated high speed internet at each PC station.

The Gameway lounge pays homage to gaming characters, with wall accents that hark to motherboard circuits Crucial for any real gamer: plenty of sweet and savory snacks are available for purchase to fuel up on those fantasy, battle, or sporting endeavors. As for the gaming console stations, players can expect high definition screens, comfortable seating, and plenty of space for belongings.

Make video games a part of your pre-flight ritual. Photo courtesy of Gameway

This gaming addition comes just in time for the holiday rush, when travelers can expect long lines, delays, and are already planning for extended time for trips. As CultureMap previously reported, Hobby will see a big boost in travelers this season — the largest since 2019. Now, those on a long journey can plug in, decompress, and venture on virtual journeys of their own.

Texan travelers may be familiar with Gameway; the company opened its first two locations at Dallas Fort-Worth Airport. The buzzy lounge an industry wave of acclaim: Gameway was awarded Best Traveler Amenity in 2019 at the ACI-NA Awards and in 2020, voted “Most Innovative Customer Experience” at the Airport Experience Traveler Awards, per press materials.

Two new locations followed in 2021: LAX Terminal 6 and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The first of Gameway's Ultra lounge brand opened in September at Delta's Terminal 3 in LAX.

Gaming culture is a way of life in the Bayou City , which hosts Comicpalooza, the largest pop culture festival in Texas, and is home to several e-sports teams, including the pro esports squad, the Houston Outlaws.

A delayed flight never seemed so ideal for gamers flying out of Hobby. Photo courtesy of Gameway

“Gameway is the real reason to get to the airport early,” said Co-Founder Jordan Walbridge in a statement. “Our mission is to upgrade the typical wait-at-the-gate experience with a new stimulating, entertaining option for travelers of all ages.”

Here's guessing Hobby might just see an increase in missed or late flight arrivals — as travelers simply must beat those big bosses, solve puzzles, or win sports matches in the lounge.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.