Stela Lupushor is on a mission to humanize the workplace. She consults with the Conference Board’s Fortune 500 corporations members on rethinking workplace strategies. She leads Reframed.Work Incorporated, and consults on how to create inclusive workplaces, the use of technology, human centered design, people analytics and future thinking. In 2018 Stella founded Amazing Community, a nonprofit that expands the work horizon for women 45-plus. She has transformed the workplace at the intersection of technology analytics and human resources at Fidelity Investments, TIAA, IBM Price Waterhouse and PwC Consulting and their clients. Here’s an edited version of the audio interview you can hear in its entirety and subscribe at embarkthepodcast.com
LS: Stella tell us about your work with reframe.
SL: I [had worked] in management consulting with organizations to help them transform their IT infrastructure, think of a different way to improve processes or service delivery models or come up with new strategies.
Many times, we go to work, get stuck in traffic… [get there] and the elevator might not be working…We get to the computer, we forgot the password, we have to reset it, etc. By the time we’re ready to get the work done, it’s already noon. Obviously, we will not be as productive maybe or as effective as we might need to be in our work environment. But if we were to bring …human centricity to the employee experience, our productivity may increase. Our satisfaction was the work we do may increase our ability to collaborate, innovate, all of that gets impacted in a positive way.
LS: Let’s talk about human-centered design. What is it? And why should we care?
SL: It is about putting the human you’re designing for at the center of your design. Many times, we’ll design this tool and… when it actually gets consumed or used by the end user, they may have a different way of looking at the system or clicking on different things that will potentially break that original design path. Or they say, ‘Look, I am disabled, I have a hearing impediment and cannot hear anything that you’re talking about.’
There is also Universal Design, which is about creating inclusive experiences for everybody. Think about ramps on the streets for people with wheelchairs. Those ramps can be used by moms with baby strollers, or they may be used by bikers or people who are on skateboards. That’s an example of a universal design that is designed for an extreme population that has physical limitations, but it also provides a benefit to many other users.
LS: Stella, you’re an advocate of inclusion in the workplace. Some would look at the hiring practices of many corporations and feel like there’s just not enough inclusion. What are you seeing in terms of including people of color trans people, and differently abled people, to name a few groups?
SL: It’s a big area of opportunity for many organizations… to put on transform their processes and policies, give people more opportunities. One of the best practices is to train your manager on conducting interviews in a way that does not bring their own personal view and bias. To think differently on whether the person is qualified and shut down some of those unconscious conversations that are happening and informing the decisions or change the hiring practices. So intentionally designing the experience and the processes to create the better pipeline [of diverse applicants].
There are tools that scan through job applications and suggest [key] words to make [job descriptions] more gender neutral or less skewed towards certain type of population. There is definitely a bigger scrutiny of the of the data and the demographic composition, more expectations for companies to disclose their racial and gender composition. That in itself creates a baseline and awareness for the companies. Now [companies] will know [they] need to do something about it.
LS: You talk about how technology will shape the world and prepare us for the future. At the same time, you talk about the humanization of the workplace, how did technology and humanization mix when so many jobs are being automated,
SL: It’s beautiful if we design in a way that augments human capacity and amplifies the good of what we do. I was listening to a podcast about the fact that in Japan schools don’t have a job of a janitor. The responsibility of a janitor to clean up everything is spread amongst the pupils and the teachers. And when you think about it, it makes sense, right? If you have a job that is only about entering the data into a system, and now [that job is automated] and now you don’t need a human that job. Maybe [that job] shouldn’t have been designed in the first place, and the person can use their talents and their ability to do something much more meaningful.[Often] we fear technology and say, ‘I’m not able to learn it, I’m not able to adapt,’ when in fact is really it was poorly designed. It was designed by engineers, and they assume certain people know certain ways of doing as opposed to saying, Let’s design it for the human who does not necessarily have the technical skills. It just Think about Apple iPhone, right? You didn’t go through a deep training on how to use your iPhone. It was quite intuitively designed. …There is a new generation of tools and technologies that will not only be able to augment the strengths of us as humans, but also design that experience in a way that does not require significant upskilling.
LS: Tells us about your work with Amazing Community. This is your nonprofit that you started a couple of years ago that serves women of a certain age, quote skills or support business community offer. I want community offer. I want to hear about your work with amazing communities. It feels like it’s a passion project, among other things, but it’s your nonprofit that serves, I guess you would say women of a certain age. So, what skills and or support does this community offer?
SL: I was doing some research and I ran across an article that was stating that half of the long term unemployment in the US are women between 55 and 65. And that felt so viscerally personal at that time, I was still 45 I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have 10 years to do something about it.’ The more you start digging into this issue, you realize how big of a systemic issue it is. And a lot of it stems from some of those policies the way it’s designed by HR. [Because of life choices} a woman over 50 has a bunch of career gaps [and] will never make it into the Top Five for the applications.
There are systemic issues on the societal level that assumes what’s appropriate for women…especially as they get older. There is at the corporate level changes that need to be made for women to be appreciated and included and given a chance or every change. And then there is personal level, right? Women sometimes may not necessarily see for them a pathway to move forward. And they are [asking] ‘How can I transfer my strengths to new spaces, so that I can be more marketable? How can I be more compelling to hiring managers?’
And what we’re trying to do is create that awareness, but more importantly, become that community of supportive women who help each other, understand where the world is going, what new innovations are happening.
We have cohort driven courses we want to take together to learn about new things and actions take actions together and keep each other accountable. We also are forming partnerships with different organizations. [One} that provides technical education to women and give deep discounts to the members of our community.
LS: How do you see the workplace behaving and looking in five years or 10 years?
SL: There is so much ahead for us as humans, that will create a life that it’s much easier and much, much better — built around us as individuals, as opposed to be the cog in a wheel. I think the challenge and the opportunity we have right now is to make sure that design is done in a way that does not dehumanize us…make sure that our data is used for the good not just to sell us or use our data against us. [There are] a lot of unknowns that we need to wrestle and work through to make it in a way that helps us all become better. And a lot of opportunities to shape [our future] in a good way.