Over the past two months, we’ve been on a US-wide roadshow conducting focus groups for one of our larger clients (let’s call them XY Company). Not only do we applaud them for funding this work, but for initiating it and believing in its necessity.
The goal of these focus groups — to uncover unique employment-specific insights for a variety of minority or underrepresented groups in the workforce. Specifically, women, black, Latinx, and Asian. While these are very broad groups, we were able to dig up the unifiers, but also understand their in-group differences. One of the most obvious examples of this is the stark difference between people from East Asia compared to those from West Asia — Indians compared to Japanese, a bit different.
The project’s end goal is to write messaging for internal employees of XY Company, but also messaging for prospective XY Company candidates. The other part of this project was to write four one-page personas. They are dense, insightful, timeless, and compelling (in ours and our client’s opinion). Bet you’d like to get your hands on these, huh? While we can’t disclose parts of the proprietary, juicy, insightful nuggets, here are a few findings to whet your palette. The beauty of doing this kind of work is that we can move forward as a continuous learning machine, making pivots for all clients, where necessary. Because knowledge.
- Ready for an obvious one? Women believe there are behaviors, in the workplace, that force them into motherly/nurturing roles —ultimately putting more work on their plate that they are expected to do.
- Here’s another obvious, but a necessary one: Women feel they are held to a double standard —if they are asked to speak up in meetings, they will, but then are told they are too aggressive. This leaves them feeling confused and not genuinely understood.
- They are extremely cognizant of the number of women in leadership. They believe that the less female representation, the less equality they will feel in their workplace.
- Women note that they are passively expected to say yes to every request, despite it being taken for granted. However, if they say no, then everyone seems to take notice.
If you are wondering what the X means. It’s just a way to succinctly say Latino/Latina.
- This group is all about connection and relationships. This means, if they are siloed, they will not succeed as much as more tight-knit groups. They thrive on embracing others and their unique perspectives.
- More than any other group, this cohort brought up the term ‘mutual adaptation.’ Essentially requesting that their co-workers meet them halfway, in a conversation. Right now, they feel they are doing all of the adapting and ‘keeping up’, rather than majority-groups doing any of that.
- While our actual focus group conversation was quite lively and bold, the participants recognized that this was unusual for their group. They noted, that typical Asian employees show deference inside and outside of work. Therefore, at certain companies, this lack of speaking up can harm their incoming perceptions of competence.
- This group knows the value and skill that they bring to a workplace, so they want to continue to be reassured that they were hired based on merit, and not based on filling an Asian “quota”. This reassurance is also necessary because they feel that they can’t overcome the buddy-buddy culture, at certain companies, so the only way for them to advance is through skill.
- Similar to the women group, they noted this fine line they need to teeter over. How do they speak up and sound competent without coming across as rude or socially inept? They called this the sweet spot but said it was quite narrow for them compared to other groups.
First off, at the start of this group, I naively asked what to call this group. They said ‘black.’ They noted that African-American (while surface-level politically correct), isn’t accurate because not all black people are descendants of Africa. So there’s that before we dive in.
- This group felt THE most ostracized in the workplace. Hands down. And I know this may be unique to XY Company, but I’m not convinced it is. The anecdotes and stories they had from how much they feel like they are still overcoming bias at this company. But don’t think I’m going to end this point on a negative note —this means there is much room for change, and this group (and myself) was hopeful of that.
- Black employees feel dehumanized and unacknowledged. They reminisced on countless actions that indicated they were avoided unless a co-worker desperately needed something (and still, in that case, those requests would be filtered through their boss first).
- They feel paranoid and concerned that they need to ‘tone down’ their personality constantly in the workplace —how exhausting, right?
And I’ll end on that. This is just the first bite of a five-course meal of tasty insights. We are ready to help XY Company with their progressive (and much needed) D&I efforts. This journey starts with research because being informed about people groups means you can emotionally connect with them. We aren’t selling a product, we are selling the idea that we understand and can empathize with you and your experience. So consider us empathy masters … errr maybe this is where we have one of our copywriters find us a better title. And, in 2019, we hope to round out these groups by conducting LGBTQ and white male discussions.