KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The workplace was a focus throughout the fourth day of the NAPT Summit on Monday, speakers addressing methods to improve the workplace environment while boosting the hiring process and expanding worker retention.
Peter Lawrence, director of transportation for Fairport CSD in upstate New York, explored the setbacks associated with unconscious bias, which can harm the office setting by hindering a person’s ability to see beyond their own innate prejudices.
“We all have our own inherent thoughts,” Lawrence said. “Behind the scenes, though, there are negative aspects to those thoughts if you’re not conscious of them.”
Also called cognitive bias, unconscious bias is a departure from reasoned judgment where individuals create their own social reality that draws illogical conclusions of other people and situations.
Lawrence said that these preconceptions could obstruct how men and women are treated in the workplace or influence how school bus drivers interact with students of different races, religions or social circumstances.
He emphasized the importance of digging deeper than the surface level of a person, getting beyond the bubble or blinders societies can build around themselves.
Borrowing from Mark Twain, Lawrence said that when you’re in the majority and everyone agrees on the same viewpoint, that’s the most crucial time to “pause and reflect.”
“See past the differences and learn from them,” he added. “Celebrate and recognize everything that’s great in each other.”
Recruiting fresh blood and retaining the old guard, on the other hand, had Society for Human Management Central Region Field Services Director Shelly Trent guiding attendees of her breakout session to think of creative ways to grow and maintain their individual workplaces.
Growing the company brand and creating a fan base through social media are just a few ways employers can make their business attractive to applicants and current employees. Particularly the latter suggestion, which can make a company stand out and be unique.
“You can get a lot of millage out of something like that,” Trent said, adding that her employer has utilized workers in their advertisements to talk about how much they love their jobs. “It’s just awesome,” Trent said.
For Mike Bullman, training coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Education, and Bobby Williams, shop foreman for the Dallas County Schools, a bad attitude in the workplace is like a “flat tire,” the presenters posted on a slide. “You can’t go anywhere until you change it.”
The relationship between school bus drivers and technicians has the tendency to be contentious, both Bullman and Williams said, but there are positive outcomes with attempts at bridging the divide between the two roles.
“It goes a long way,” Bullman said. “Growing a mutual understanding of the different roles is a two-way street. The expectations of both sides should be high, raise the bar.”
The first step is establishing an open dialogue, Williams added, by breaking down the barriers between the shop and drivers, which grows into a strong professional partnership.
“The shop communicating with the drivers made a huge difference,” Williams said, pointing to the efforts he made at his shop at forming a relationship between the two parties.
The turn around, Williams noticed, was that when technicians opened up, the drivers started opening up, too. “Back-end communication and follow up go a long way to building a trust,” he said.