How ResMed enforces strong anti-racism policies

CPO Vered Keisar explains how it ensures every employee feels comfortable calling out racist behaviour, however minor

How ResMed enforces strong anti-racism policies

When a senior leader made a racist remark, Vered Keisar says they were fired on the spot. The chief people officer at ResMed, a San Diego-based medical equipment company, recalled the incident to HRD, explaining how this is reflective of their strong anti-racism policies.  

“A few years ago we had an unfortunate scenario when a very senior person made a racist comment and was dismissed immediately,” says Keisar. “The important part for us is having the training to bring even minor behaviour into people’s top of mind. So that people not only don’t say anything racist, but bystanders feel comfortable to call it out too.” 

Racism in the workplace is an issue that’s constantly plagued HR. What constitutes racism? How do you separate an offhanded comment with a poignant slur? When can an employee be fired over alleged racism and what action should be taken afterwards? For employers, as Keisar points out, it’s important to have the proper training in place to ensure instances like that one do not reoccur.  

She says it’s really built into ResMed’s DNA, leveraging training to educate people on different ethnicities and cultures.  

“This means there’s much more understanding in the organization,” he says. “Especially around why people might have different opinions. We also celebrate different holidays for different races. This month we’re celebrating the Asian American culture. And, in Australia, we have what we call Harmony Day on which celebrate all nationalities and all cultures – we plan on making that a company-wide event.” 

How diversity makes your company stronger

Difference in likelihood of financial outperformance of 1st vs 4th quartile.

Year

Ethnicity

Gender

2014

35%

15%

2017

33%

21%

2019

36%

25%

Data courtesy of McKinsey & Company May 19, 2020 report titled Diversity wins: How inclusion matters

This sort of cultural understanding isn’t just the ethical thing to do, it’s good for business too. According to data from Sage, racially diverse teams report a 35% increase in performance compared to their competitors, with cognitive diversity driving 20% more innovation. But it’s not just anti-racism that’s on the agenda for Keisar – anti-bias in general is a core component of their strategy, especially when it comes to recruitment.  

“We have a kind of training called ‘License to Hire’,” says Keisar. “When you’re hiring new people, you go through quite a detailed training that really bring these topics top of mind. People often try and hire people that look like them, that think like them. We’re trying to encourage people to think differently about that – whilst also conducting training with our employees on topics such as unconscious bias.” 

That notion of hiring someone exactly like you has been colloquially dubbed the ‘Just like Me’ syndrome. Studies show that hiring managers are more likely to offer roles to candidates that remind them of themselves – perhaps they went to the same school, they have the same personality or values. By taking any small semblance of communality and pushing it to the extreme, HR can end up hiring a carbon copy of themselves – which isn’t always a good thing.  

And it’s not as uncommon as you might think. Speaking to Peter Demangos, CEO and co-founder of SuccessionHR, he labels the “Just like Me” syndrome as the biggest mistake employers make in hiring.  Instead, Demangos advocates hiring for the skills you need – not on personality type. After all, cognitive differences foster greater innovation. This is something echoed again by Keisar who says diversity in hiring is something all companies should practice – especially when it comes to seeing more women in the boardroom.  

Vered Keisar, chief people officer at ResMed

According to data from McKinsey, companies that score in the top quartile for gender diversity on their boards are 25% more likely to deliver above average profitability than their competitors. Despite this, California’s recent legislative push to seat more women on boards was rejected as unlawful – with Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis saying not being persuaded by the argument that it would “boost the economy”. And while many advocates pushed for this legislature to be turned into law, for employers it could have sparked more questions than answers.  

As Keisar tells HRD, having a law that made it a requirement to appoint women into the boardroom could create an “undesirable outcome”, leading to questions around merit.  

“If you see the picture in many companies, diversity is already being done - some of it organically, but certainly with intentionality. It’s something that’s already in the culture in many organization – especially top tier organizations in healthcare.”  

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