Break Down Your Employment Barriers (2023)

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That the methods of the past are not enough is clear; increasing unrest in the urban ghettos is merely the most dramatic indication of this. That more aggressive action is needed is also clear. “The trouble,” says this author, “is that business often does not know how to tackle such unfamiliar and complex problems.” He proceeds to tell how the more forward-looking and responsible companies are tackling what is perhaps the most basic problem, unequal employment opportunity. He indicates that the gamut of activity, from setting policy at the top to hiring and training and even to separation, is amenable to a systems approach.

The riot report says: “The relation of whites and Negroes is our most grave and perplexing problem… We recommend that employers…permit Negroes an equal chance with whites to enter all positions for which they are qualified by efficiency and merit… Especial attention is called to the fact that opportunity is generally denied to Negroes for gaining experience in business methods through service in responsible positions in business houses.”

No, this is not the 1968 report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. It is the well-documented and readable report of the Chicago Riot Commission of 1919.

What has been done to improve the situation in the intervening 50 years? “A lot,” one manager says. “Damn little,” comments another. Whatever one’s perception or criteria for progress, our inner cities still smoke and decay. The employment gap between black and white young men widens. Consider “underemployment” in just one major U.S. city-Chicago. An astounding 33.9% of its Negroes either had no jobs last year, worked only part-time, or were so poorly paid in their jobs that they remained poverty cases.

The 1968 report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders says that jobs—that is, openings, qualifications, and steady work—are “the number one problem.” With the no-table exceptions of the United Packinghouse Workers, the Auto Workers, the American Federation of Teachers, the Transport Workers, and a few others, the unions have done very little. The government has provided leadership with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the fair employment practices commissions of various states. But the practical results of many government commissions have been negligible. The country needs the new force that only business can contribute. It will be healthier for the country if business rather than government becomes “the employer of last resort.”

Business Response

In the past, U.S. business has stood apart from many of the responsibilities and opportunities of dealing systematically and massively with the problems of the inner city, the hard-core unemployed, and the disadvantaged worker. In the last few years, however, the posture of business has changed suddenly and perhaps radically. Witness the rapid formation of the Plans for Progress, the Urban Coalition, and the National Alliance of Businessmen.

It is true that some black militants mistrust and detest the business community; yet black psychologist Kenneth B. Clark can say, “Business and industry are our last hope. They are the most realistic elements of our society.”1

Furthermore, claims Max Ways in Fortune, “Business is the one important segment of society Negroes today do not regard with bitter disillusionment. And thousands of businessmen across the nation, getting involved in the struggle to restore social cohesion, are beginning to lift their sights, to sense that business has indeed a great part to play.”2

The methods of the past are not enough. More imaginative and aggressive action is needed today. The trouble is that business often does not know how to tackle such unfamiliar and complex problems. Personnel, labor, and community relations managers who have been dealing with these problems for many years are now being asked to organize new and untried plans. They are confronted by an exploding alphabet of government and private agencies and programs. They are approached by management consultants selling new urban and racial employment packages. The literature on the personnel man’s desk piles higher.

Questions are easy to formulate:

  • How do you get disadvantaged people to come to your plant?
  • How do you work out businesslike relations with community or govemment agencies, sometimes so inefficient or ridden with politics?
  • When an employee shows up for the job wearing a beard and green shoes and saying “man, man,” how should your foreman react?
  • How do you change the motivations of discouraged or angry people?
  • How do you handle “Mondayitis”?
  • Why do so many quit within a week?
  • How will semiqualified employees maintain your zero-defect standards?
  • How can a white man ever learn to understand?
  • How are you, your customers, and your stockholders ever going to pay what you know it will have to cost?

Though the answers, of course, are much harder to find, business is beginning to find some. In this article I report many of the best answers U.S. management has come up with. It is still too early to say how successful these imaginative and bold ideas for breaking down the employment barriers will be in the long run. I have found little hard research data or cost-benefit analyses treating these programs. But the risks are not wild. These programs are practical and now in actual operation; most seem to be working with success.

Not all these ideas will fit every company or even every plant within a company. What succeeds in Newark might fail in Atlanta or Omaha. What is feasible for a small, family-owned suburban company might be inadvisable for a large, decentralized, and international company. There is no standardized package plan suitable for everyone.

I present these ideas not as a “how-to-do-it kit” or as a booklet describing “seven ways to get to Coney Island,” but rather as a summary, with examples, of superior and imaginative ideas for racial management.

Systems approach

I have organized these ideas into seven unit areas: policy setting, policy implementation, recruiting, selecting, placing, training and promotion, and separating. Such a taxonomy may help prepare the way for companywide or even industrywide systematic approaches to the total problem of advancing disadvantaged people.

A systems approach to minority manpower problems opens up possibilities for quicker and more effective results. I grant that sophisticated systems engineering cannot be perfectly applied to the management of people. But, with appropriate modifications, the systems approach has merit. It involves setting and auditing policy and then using computer technology to collect, process, store, retrieve, and analyze information regarding both people and jobs in order to throw light on alternative costs, risks, and manpower needs. Analysis of the interaction between the disjointed units (such as recruiting) and the whole (the company in its environment) helps to integrate the units and leads to greater effectiveness.

North American Rockwell Corporation, with more than 100,000 employees, and mostly in government contract work, has devised what might be called a systems approach to affirmative action, with a built-in auditing system. As Dwight Zook, director of personnel services describes it:

“We were doing everything the specialists in equal employment opportunities told us. We issued policy statements, used the ‘Equal Opportunity Employer’ slug in help-wanted advertisements, notified the unions and employment agencies of our policy, sent recruiters to Negro colleges, conducted staff seminars, and set up reporting procedures. We found a few Negro engineers and management trainees, but not many. There was practically no change at all in the middle-level skills.

“Then we began to apply the kind of managerial techniques that have proved so effective in other operations:

“[The first step is] careful analysis of each operating unit. How many persons are employed in each classification? How many are Negro? How much upgrading occurs within the unit annually? How many new hires may be anticipated next year? What is the Negro labor market in that particular area?

“Our next step is to sit down with the manager of that unit. We review our analysis of the manpower situation. We arrive at some estimates—there will be approximately X number of openings for upgrading and Y number of new hires. We set some targets. Perhaps we will agree that under the conditions and with some very special effort at least 20% of the new hires and 10% of the upgrading can be Negro. The rest is left up to the manager, except that he can call for help any time he needs it. He is required to report results, and he knows that we’ll be around to check every few months.

“Our targets are realistic, and the system is working. We’ve made measurable progress in the units where we’ve tried it. No one in our organization has objected to the procedure. In fact, our managers like it; it relieves them of a lot of uncertainty as to how far or how fast they should move. They know that they will be supported if they make some fairly aggressive moves. We’ve had no complaints from the unions.

“We know that management people in other companies would say this was quota hiring, discrimination in reverse, and so on. We disagree. We work on the weak spots. It will be a long time yet before we’ll be in danger of having anything like an imbalance in favor of Negroes. We are completely persuaded that, unless you do something like this, the pattern simply will remain the same.”

One of the most promising aspects of the imaginative ideas I shall discuss is that they should help not only disadvantaged black or Spanish-speaking workers, but also advantaged white workers! Management is coming to see manpower as a valuable capital resource which is capable of greater development than we have dreamed of. Underemployment—partial utilization and weak motivation—of workers of any color or ethnic background or of any level (blue collar or upper management) is a waste for business as well as a frustration to the persons themselves. Factories can be made fitter not only for the black man but for the white man. The problems of the black man are leading us to rethink our general approach to the management of human career development.

Setting Corporate Policy

Many U.S. companies have long had a corporate policy on equal employment opportunity. Now many of them are applying it in new ways and in new areas.

Fifteen years ago, after writing a study of race relations in the meat-packing industry,3 I suggested that the major meat packers join, on a five-year basis, to develop some industrywide programs. While all the major companies had nondiscrimination policies, this more extensive, more aggressive, and systematic policy was not attractive to them at the time. But some meat packers are now doing such planning.

Frequently a company prefers to keep its position on employment a matter of informal understanding to avoid rationalizing it into policy. Such silent agreements do not always mask discrimination against minorities, either. Louis Ferman’s study of 20 companies shows that many actually give some preferential treatment to Spanish-speaking persons and Negroes, but the policy is so controversial that they do not put it on paper.4

Some policy statements include not only business but also moral reasons for affirmative action. In 1964 the president of American Airlines based corporate equal employment opportunity policy on two fundamentals: “First, equal employment opportunity is morally right and we are pledged to do what is right. Second, equal employment opportunity is essential to the success of the company and to the economic welfare of the nation.”

Corporations are also examining the advisability of locating some plants in inner-city areas. This may never become a very profitable or even a widespread practice.5 It would seem wiser to work toward “integrating” the ghetto into the suburbs, but such diffusion will not be finished in our lifetimes, if ever. Nevertheless, some companies are establishing facilities in the ghettos. For instance:

  • Control Data Corporation is locating a computer parts factory in Minneapolis’ north side, the scene of racial outbreaks last summer. The facility will eventually employ some 275 people. The company sees no insurmountable difficulties in training workers to manufacture precision computer parts, though its standards are very high. Employees at this plant will receive the same benefits and compensation as the company’s other Twin Cities employees, although the project is not federally financed.
  • In the predominantly Negro Roxbury section of Boston, Avco Corporation—with a federal training grant of $1.1 million and a direct investment of $2.3 million—is building a plant that will provide central printing services for the company. Workers will learn a trade with long-range growth opportunity, and those who show special aptitude will get supervisory training. About 230 workers will be employed at the outset. Avco estimates it will cost $5,000 per man (two thirds paid by the government) to train 230 “hard-core” unemployed, including exconvicts and reformed drug addicts and alcoholics. At the start, Roxbury people were suspicious, calling Avco a new type of plantation owner. One leader of the black community now calls Avco-Roxbury “a smashing success.” But another says, “Let’s wait and see.”
  • Close to the center of the 1967 Newark riots, the Western Electric Company has set up a manufacturing facility to employ 250 of the hard-core unemployed. Regular Western Electric work is being used to teach job skills including drafting, cable forming, apparatus assembly and adjusting, and light machine operations, as well as clerical and key punching office skills. Applicants are hired as regular Western Electric employees. When their skills and work habits are considered satisfactory, the workers are transferred to nearby Western Electric facilities and their places taken by others from similar backgrounds.

More important, policy dictates whether in city plants move out into the suburbs, thus leaving the central area to economic decay and creating an almost insurmountable transportation problem for the inner-city work force. For example, the Chicago and East St. Louis, Illinois stockyards are now deserted, and very little new industry has come in. There are, however, many companies located in or near the central city, and they are operating successfully. Thus:

  • General Electric Company has a large lamp factory in the heart of Newark. The severe 1967 riot erupted at the very gates of the plant. It was the most traumatic experience the plant had suffered since it was erected in 1905. But there is sentiment to maintain the plant and to try to make it an even better operation.

Here are four ideas for use when reconsidering corporate policy:

  • Make company policy explicit as to precisely where management stands on the employment spectrum from mere nondiscrimination to preferential treatment for minority group applicants and employees.
  • Take advantage, where it seems advisable and where the paper work is not overwhelming, of federal subsidy opportunities to support the cost of special efforts for minority hiring and training.
  • Encourage suppliers, particularly the small businesses, to employ and train members of minority groups.
  • Remain or locate in the central city where it is economically feasible, considering not only the short-run but also the long-run welfare of the metropolitan area.

Implementing Policy

The method by which policy is put into practice can have as many shapes as there are sizes and types of corporations, and it will be colored by the management style of the top executive and his associates. But I find three actions common to all companies successful in implementing affirmative racial policy: placement of responsibility, communication, and auditing.

Responsibility is pinpointed

Concern about racial advancement in the corporation must certainly be everybody’s business. But unless it is also the major responsibility of one man, it will be nobody’s business or the concern of only a few dedicated persons. More and more companies are sharply defining equal employment responsibility and are locating it at a high level of corporate management. For example:

  • Sherwin Williams Company’s industrial relations director, Walter Maynor says: “You will find some resistance among plant employees. However, we let them know in no uncertain terms that this policy was set by our top people and that they intend to enforce it.”
  • The reason Cook Electric Company has made a notable record for affirmative action is pinpointed by the personnel vice president, Harold W. Wittenborn: “Unless top management—and I mean the top—is behind the program 100%, it is difficult, if not almost impossible, for the operating personnel to achieve any degree of success in offering employment and post-employment advancement without discrimination. Top management must set the tempo for the whole company. It must mean what it says about equal opportunity without equivocation. Its attitude must say, ‘This is the kind of company in which everyone can be proud to work.’”

Whether or not a company centralizes responsibility at corporate headquarters will be determined by its structure and management style. The large, decentralized corporation will, of course, locate responsibility in division vice presidents and general managers and their equal employment officers. North American Rockwell, for example, recently shifted administrative responsibility for equal employment policy, from the personnel department to operating line management, composed of a top management committee of rice presidents, with similar committees in each branch operation.

Some corporations are placing responsibility for implementing their equal employment policies as follows:

  • The chief executive officer takes a strong personal stand on equal employment opportunity, so his position is known to all.
  • Special departments or divisions within a department are formed, directly backed by a vice president, to recommend new practices in any of the corporate components.
  • Interdivisional coordinating committees are established, with the power to make recommendations for affirmative action.

Policy is communicated

Policy set on the executive floors of the corporate home office goes out, free of distortions, to the various plants and down the chain of command to the first-line supervisors. It also becomes known in the communities and neighborhoods of the plants.

The industrial relations manager of a large corporation gives this example of effective policy communication:

“The president of our corporation gave the orders. He signed a letter addressed to every [subsidiary] company president, and he had a motion picture made of himself speaking to the employees in which he spelled out policy in the most precise terms. Every [subsidiary company] president is expected to preside at employee meetings when the film is exhibited and then to speak personally in support of the message.

“The industrial relations department has the responsibility for reviewing performance under the policy. If there had been resistance from any company managers, we would have gone directly to the corporate president. There was no question concerning the position he would take. However, that hasn’t been necessary because everyone knows the policy.” [Italics mine.]

Here are six ways by which innovative managements are now getting policy “out” and “down”:

  • The corporate president himself, with the help of his communications staff, formulates company policy in precise and persuasive terms.
  • The communications staff sees to it that company house organs regularly carry articles on integration so as to build peer-group support of minority employees in departments and work gangs.
  • Booklets are prepared describing the careers of present minority employees, giving a “success image” not only to employees but also to recruits.
  • Corporate equal employment policy statements are inserted into employee handbooks and union contracts.
  • Regular intracompany meetings or seminars are held with operating and staff supervisors (and occasionally with members of the Negro community, including militants) to discuss equal employment issues so that instead of rediscovering the wheel, managers of one unit can find out what works in another unit, what problems arise, and how to cope with the inevitable difficulties.
  • Company policy statements on racial employment are communicated to all employment sources, agencies, schools, and churches, as well as to stockholders, consumers, and unions.

Results are audited

Everybody knows that the larger the business the more carefully top management must check up on the bottom, or what the top wants will never be done. Checking up can never be taken for granted, but implementing a management policy that may be unpopular to many demands precise, personal, fair, and regular monitoring.

Companies are using one or more of these methods for monitoring the racial policies of the corporation:

  • A systems approach is used to implement policy by careful analysis of each component and unit, setting targets in relation to the local labor market, and periodically reviewing accomplishments. This is sometimes done by an on-site audit of all job vacancies and reasons for nonacceptance of any minority applicants—by a team of staff and line supervisors or by a corporate officer.
  • Regular reports and memoranda are written on all formal contacts by plant management and employees with community minority organizations and persons.
  • Advisory groups of black employees are set up to give feedback to management on implementation of equal employment opportunity.


Puerto Ricans, Negroes, Indians, and Chinese-Americans are not going to line up at a plant’s employment office just because there is an “equal employment” sign on the employees’ bulletin board or an ad in the newspaper. The eyes and the ears of minority persons are coated with too many years of suspicion and discouragement.6 Furthermore, the chances are that they have never heard of the company or the jobs it offers. Management will have to make the fist step, and that first step also means active promotion from within.

In my studies of the meat-packing industry, I found that two thirds of the Spanish-speaking Americans at Swift & Company’s Kansas City plant thought they had good opportunities in the plant. But one third was critical of the company. For example, unionist Juan Gomez (fictitious name) thought that Mexicans did not get the breaks due them:

“Interviewer: ‘Do you figure on getting your son in here to work some day?’

“Gomez: ‘Oh, I don’t know. If he gets in a good department, it would be all right. But if he gets where I am—I’m in the pickle cellar—I don’t think that’s a very good place for anybody. That’s what I was goin’ to say. See, now, the Mexican people, they never give ’em a chance to try for somewhere else, you see…

“‘Well, it’s like I say, the company is very good, one of the best plants I ever worked in—or places. But as far as opportunity, the Mexicans just don’t get it. Of course, I’m here to say what I know. Facts, and no lie about it…

“‘There’s Mexicans on the dock here. By now they should have a chance to be a checker. But instead, they take a man there, workin’ there for a month. American fellow, with the same schooling, same intelligence, and all that—there are a lot of Mexican boys there in town that have education, and still they don’t…’”7

Business also faces a critical problem in trying to recruit middle-management personnel because there are very few Negroes and other minority persons in U.S. schools of business and engineering. Business and business schools have a long-range communications and selling job before them to attract Negro young men into the business schools. The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, in cooperation with a group of companies, has been working on this problem with some success in recruiting and supporting Negro graduate students. A few other business schools have adopted similar programs.

Some companies are now trying new and aggressive ways of attracting minority recruits:

  • More than 2,000 students from predominantly Negro high schools have spent one-day orientation sessions at the Baltimore plant of Westinghouse Electric Corporation since the inception of a program called “youth in industry” in May of 1966. Approximately 10,000 additional children and parents have also learned of this program as a result of visits to assemblies and P.T.A. meetings by Westinghouse personnel.
  • General Dynamics Company sponsored a “job opportunity week” at its Quincy, Massachusetts shipyard to recruit members of minority groups. As a result, the company found jobs or eventual training programs for 200 persons. Kenneth I. Guscott, president of the Boston chapter of the NAACP, reports that “the number of minority group applicants who have been coming to the shipyard on their own has increased by 300% since the recruitment program was held.”
  • In Philadelphia, where Negro public school enrollment is about 50%, Negro and white teams from General Electric’s Missile and Space Division—assemblers, engineers, secretaries, and draftsmen—have spoken over a two-year period to more than 10,000 students in school assemblies and 15,000 more in individual career conferences. School officials, incidentally, have credited the work of these employees with a sharp decline in dropouts and a correspondingly dramatic rise in student graduates at the Benjamin Franklin High School, where there is a substantial Negro enrollment.
  • The McDonnell Douglas Corporation of St. Louis has developed a slide presentation for predominantly Negro high schools; it shows Negroes working alongside whites at every job level. McDonnell employs Negroes in 127 job classifications.
  • The Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company uses “walking employment offices.” Spanish and Negro recruiters go where the people are—homes, barbershops, poolrooms, and bars.
  • “Recruiting trailers” is the imaginative idea of Michigan Bell Telephone Company. It sends the trailers to ghetto areas of Michigan cities.

In some cities organizations exist to help corporations in recruiting. One of the most successful is Philadelphia’s Opportunities Industrialization Center, started by Reverend Leon Sullivan, a Negro minister. As a black community employment center, it determines what skills are needed, what training is suitable, and how to place its recruits. The center stresses good attitudes and work habits. From Philadelphia the OIC idea has spread to at least 30 cities, where, as yet, its record is spotty.

Plans for Progress sponsors an annual industry program, with a budget of $400,000 coming equally from business and government, to demonstrate to high school guidance counselors the opportunities in business for minority boys and girls. This summer the program has spread to 35 cities.

Recruiting for higher level positions sometimes is handicapped if the recruit is a minority-group member who must move to take his new job but finds he is barred from predominantly white neighborhoods. In such cases, pressure can be effective. General Electric took the case of a Negro engineer who was unable to buy a home in the Philadelphia area near the company plant to the State Human Relations Commission. Later, George Lehman, a GE official, said: “We were told that this was the first time an employer in the State of Pennsylvania had made any statement in the interest of fair housing.”

In brief, here are 10 creative ideas that are being tried for recruiting:

  • Spanish-speaking and Negro recruiters are knocking on the doors of inner-city homes and gathering places.
  • Employment offices are cooperating with the local skills bank and with public and private community employment agencies, such as Jobs Now in Chicago and Jobs Clearing House in Boston, as well as with Urban League and NAACP centers.
  • Most plant referrals come from the employee grapevine, and plant foremen and supervisors are going out of their way to encourage minority employees to use that grapevine.
  • Companies are conducting meetings, luncheons, and plant visits for leaders of the Negro communities and for minority primary and high school students and their parents in order to increase their knowledge of the company and the motivation for working there.
  • Companies are sending white and black, blue-collar and supervisory teams out to high schools with Negro students to talk, with the aid of slides and exhibits, about opportunities with the company or to conduct career days and job clinics.
  • Negro youths are attending summer internship programs, and faculty members of Negro universities are offered summer employment to acquaint them with the demands of technical jobs.
  • Corporate advertising in white and black newspapers and magazines features Negro and Spanish-speaking employees in such nontraditional positions as engineers, salesmen, technicians, purchasing agents, and accountants.
  • Personnel directors are acting as part-time counselors in community employment agencies and in high schools.
  • Companies are making serious efforts to provide suburban or small-city housing for minority employees, bringing them near the plant, as the meat packers and the railroads did in the past.
  • A few companies are setting aside some nonunion jobs for Negroes and holding them open until qualified candidates are found.


Some companies are still using selection tests with minority groups. Those who do should consult the Guidelines worked out by the American Psychological Association and by the US. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in order to offer “culture-free” or at least “culture-fair” tests. It has been clearly shown that many employment tests are based on the white man’s language and culture, and do not validly test the black man’s ability to perform on the job. The following example illustrates the dangers of one test:

“Consider [a] series of four pictures in an aptitude test often used in job screening procedures. The applicant is instructed to select the one picture which illustrates a defect of some kind. The fourth picture depicts a busy living-room scene in which one of the background windows is cracked. The crack might be obvious to some one who is not used to seeing cracked windows. However, to a Negro a cracked window is a much more common sight. It is unlikely that he will identify [this as] the correct picture as readily as will the white applicant.”8

Nevertheless, there is much to be said for using tests-provided the user makes an effort to validate them for the principal minority groups.

Discarding reliance on standard selection procedures, some companies and other organizations have developed unusual approaches:

  • The Port of New York Authority uses a “critical-incident” interview technique that admits Negroes and Puerto Ricans to the position of bus dispatcher—men previously rejected by the traditional paper and pencil tests. These men have succeeded in their jobs.
  • Warner & Swasey Company eliminated the usual hiring yardsticks, including testing.
  • The Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company and the Polaroid Corporation have hired persons with police records. Many have become superior workers.
  • The Ohio Bell Telephone Company went back over its list of rejectees and hired some labeled as unqualified.
  • A Lockheed Aircraft Corporation division sought high school dropouts for its vocational improvement program. Of the first 100 applicants referred by social agencies, it rejected only 11.
  • In Philadelphia, the Jewish Employment Services has developed a series of culture-free, task-oriented procedures for measuring manual dexterity. The agency matches the results with the requirements of employers’ training programs.

Many companies report that even when tests are not used, good employment interviewers, working closely with line supervisors, can do a satisfactory screening job and actually “screen in” potentially valuable employees who might have been rejected by tests.9

A surprising number of companies have radically reversed the traditional employment selection procedure by advocating “fitting the job to the man” instead of “fitting the man to the job.” They have redesigned some positions to give disadvantaged persons the chance to learn and grow. For example:

  • The Buxton & Skinner Printing Company in St. Louis established a category of “electrician’s helper,” one step below “electrical maintenance assistant,” to provide a niche for low-skilled workers.
  • To implement its nurse training project, the Kaiser Foundation in San Francisco created the job of “clinic assistant” to relieve nurses of such routine but important chores as weighing patients and taking temperatures.

Several companies have instituted sensitivity and human relations training for employment office personnel, as well as for supervisors, to stir empathy for recruits and employees from cultures worlds apart. In the Mexican-American culture, for example, humility is a virtue; the Mexican-American will not sound his own trumpet, and the employment interviewer must be tactful as well as skillful in ascertaining his abilities. For the white middle class, wearing a hat is crude; but, for some Negroes, wearing a hat is a sign of being a man.

Here are a number of plans that are being used by some companies for more aggressive minority employee selection:

  • Employment interviewers, counselors, and testers receive sensitivity training.
  • Spanish-speaking and Negro employment interviewers are used, not as tokenism but to alleviate the fears of minority applicants and to better assay their abilities.
  • Minority-group applicants are being hired regardless of test scores, provided other criteria are satisfactory and the usual trial period of the union contract can be extended.
  • Interviewers try to discover specialized or unusual work experiences which Negroes might have had but might not mention in the interview situation.
  • An effort is made to ascertain the reasons why recruits drop out during the hiring and training period.
  • Companies are becoming more flexible regarding applicants’ criminal records, recognizing the distinction between arrests and convictions as well as the ghetto resident’s greater chance, compared with the white urban dweller, of having a record.
  • Employment offices are using the services of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Concentrated Employment Program, which has contacts with the hard-core unemployed that most companies lack.

Placing on the Job

The initial placement of minority workers was more of a problem a decade ago than it is today, but placement still calls for insight and courage. Window-dressing is repugnant both to enlightened management and to members of the black community, who resent being used as “Tommy Tokens.” On the other hand, business is justified in placing some Negroes in visible jobs, such as airline ticket agents and stewardesses and department store salesmen, because visibility can speed improvement in whites’ attitudes.

The white community has stereotyped Negro skills and abilities. For that reason many companies are trying to place Negroes in nontraditional jobs, such as engineering, advertising, accounting, finance, and sales.

In some blue-collar jobs, incidentally, the placement shoe is on the other foot. In meat packing and in steel there are departments that over the years have become entirely Negro, and management finds it hard to place a white worker in them. I know no simple answer to the problem of such little ghettos within the plant community.

Initial placement may call for special counseling for the new minority employee and for his first supervisor. But often it is better not to “prepare” the employee’s white fellow workers to receive him, but rather to treat the initial placement as a natural management decision. Too much welcome and strained good will hinder rather than help the adjustment. As Management Review reports:

“When a New York City magazine hired its first Negro editorial worker, most of the staff took special pains to see that she was included in lunch groups and everything else. After a few months of this treatment a fellow worker got into a hot argument with her on editorial policy and profanely disagreed. ‘You know,’ this girl answered with a smile, ‘you are the only person here who treats me as an equal!’”10

Many corporate employment offices follow one or both of these guidelines for minority placements:

  • Initial placements are neither token nor made for dead-end jobs; as far as possible they are made for nontraditional jobs.
  • In first placements the employment office realizes that while the supervisor prefers the “best” employee, he is now being asked to accept and orient a minority employee who may not be the “best.”

Training & Promotion

While training is necessary for promotion, one must not overlook the fact that advancement provides an incentive that is necessary to make training effective.

New teaching techniques are being tried, but I should emphasize that the motivation and perception of both the employee and his supervisor are crucial to the success of any training and promotion program. Examples from my studies of race relations in the meat-packing industry illustrate the point. At Swift’s Kansas City plant there was a foreman, not necessarily typical, whom I shall call Ray Riley. Riley was a successful foreman in many ways and rather well liked by his overwhelmingly Negro gang. But Kiley’s opinion of his men was this:

“Bein’s I have to work with colored people, I studies ’em. Because every one is like a child. There is no grown-up colored people… I’ve got a couple of pretty good boys there, are just a little bit higher class than the white folks. And these two boys are constantly sittin’ on the fence, ready to pick up anything that the white folks miss on… Now these two boys I can handle just as easy as pie, but let me be gone, these two guys are in trouble; but to me, don’t give me a bit of trouble…

“You’ll find a few that will have responsibility—their over-all period [of work] they don’t have them… I would divide ’em up at about 20 per cent very high skilled, and those 20 per cent will learn skills fast… An’ then I would class the next 40 per cent as the average skilled. Below that, they’re just here. Bales of straw with mighty minor brains.”11

Kiley had some factual support for his views, but he failed to see that not all blacks fitted his stereotype, and, more important, he had no idea that Negroes sometimes play the role of “jester” precisely because stereotyped attitudes like Kiley’s keep them from positions of responsibility and dignity.

A very different view of the Negro was held by Larry Wiggins, 13 years with Swift and a Korean War veteran:

“I’ll tell you something else, too. Take a Negro. He’s a funny fellow, being one myself I can say that. If he’s given no consideration, given no representation, well in a lot of cases he’ll act the jester. He has no sense of responsibility, he’s just as carefree as he wants to be—I’ve seen too many times. I saw it in the Service—I’m not trying to use the Service as compared to Swift & Company, but I can use it to put a few pertinent points over. A man’ll come to the army just as trifling as he can be. He don’t care whether he goes to the guardhouse or whether just anything. And just as soon as you give him a little responsibility you’ll see him change just like day and night…

“It’s the same way here at Swift Company… Shoot the bull all day long. They don’t care. If you tell them what to do he’ll do it. Why accept the responsibility and get gray hairs like you’re doing if I’m not going to get the money? I’ll use my strength and you use your head. You know that’s as far as I’m going. You know they develop that attitude quickly…

“But, if you’re looking for promotion, you know, where you can feel as though you are part of the big movement of Swift & Company and that you feel that the responsibility of certain portions of the company, you know, that you’d like for it to be yours, that you’ll accept it and what you might say efficiently execute it.”12

Another key to training and promotion lies in the influence of the minority employee’s peer group, that is, his work gang and department. To return to the meat-packing industry, the employees learned Swift’s complex wage-incentive system, called the “B-System,” not from supervisors or the standards time-study men, but from their fellow workers. It is a commonplace that an employee best learns his job from the men or women working beside him. Furthermore, he learns the next job above him from the man in his department who has that job. Peer-group influence can hardly be exaggerated.

Now, if a prejudiced peer group wants to “cut out” a minority employee, it undermines both his productive efficiency and his promotability. But a supervisor with empathy and leadership can stimulate his work gangs to aid rather than hinder the minority workers in their midst.

Use of the “buddy” or coaching system, with coaches either from the recruiting agency or from the company itself, is growing. Jobs Now in Chicago reports that 83% of its youths referred to companies with such support programs are still on the job; where no internal support program is in operation, only 24% are still working.

Pre-employment training is also of importance, especially for hard-core applicants. Without it, businesses are often disappointed in their trainees’ qualifications. Most companies rely on the pre-employment training of employment agencies or of Department of Labor centers. A few companies are starting their own such training. One of them, Polaroid, has established “Inner City, Incorporated” to carry on training and manufacturing projects in the Roxbury ghetto of Boston. Inner City will work with Boston’s Opportunities Industrialization Center and other community organizations to offer a paid working experience to unemployed people of the neighborhood. They will then qualify to move on to career jobs in existing Polaroid plants or with other companies in the Boston metropolitan area. Inner City is financed entirely by Polaroid.

Outstanding examples of the efforts some companies are now making toward new approaches in training and promotion include:

  • On the edge of Chicago’s ghetto, General Electric’s Hotpoint plant reacted creatively to high turnover and absenteeism on the part of unqualified applicants. It put into practice several imaginative ideas, including an on-site high school equivalency program, a one-day induction period to reduce first-day fright, an absentee-tardiness counselor approach, and a three-year maintenance training program with on-the-job training and outside classwork.
  • In Rochester, New York, the Xerox Corporation has developed “Project Step Up,” a 19-week experimental training program for unemployed men, many of whom have police records, bad credit ratings, and spotty employment histories. The participants receive classroom instruction, informal counseling, orientation to basic industrial procedures, and guided work experiences.
  • McDonnell Douglas Corporation operates a successful training program without government assistance. McDonnell has demonstrated that in a period of four months men and women who possess no high school diplomas or special skills can be integrated into a production system that demands high accuracy and precise workmanship. The trainee begins with classroom exercises, moves quickly to practice benches, where he learns how to drill metal and rivet models of increasing complexity, and then spends time as a helper on the production line. During this period he gets paid, but the net cost to McDonnell is less than the out-of-pocket figure, $450, because the trainee is performing useful work part of the time. Applicants must be basically literate, possess an eighth-grade grasp of arithmetic, and feel motivated to learn and work.13

Here is a checklist of seven training and promotion ideas now used by U.S. companies:

  • In-plant courses are taught in a wide variety of areas from secretarial to tool-and-die making, with either company or public school teachers. Smaller companies are forming consortiums with others for this purpose.
  • Managements are cooperating with factory schools set up in ghettos with equipment supplied and sometimes personnel loaned.
  • Supervisors and counselors are encouraged to discuss advancement possibilities frankly with minority employees in order to overcome suspicion and lack of confidence.
  • When there are serious doubts about making a Negro a supervisor in a given situation, a company tries him out first as a fill-in leader in order to test worker reaction.
  • Companies are eliminating dual lines of seniority when they exist.
  • Records are gathered on the educational and special backgrounds of minority workers to see if any are underemployed.
  • Counseling or “buddy systems” help minority persons adjust to factory life.

Separating Employees

Many minority employees simply fail to report to work and are “lost” to the employment office. But discharging minority-group employees can not be avoided any more than the separation of majority-group workers. Some companies make an effort to be sure the discharge is really necessary and is not due to a supervisor’s impatience or even prejudice. Here are two ideas that are being used:

  • Higher management requires written reasons for the separation of Negro and any other employees—and audits them.
  • When possible, exit interviews are conducted to get a better understanding of why a minority employee failed to maintain standards.


U.S. business appears to be seriously aroused by the stark immensity of our urban crisis. Obviously, business alone cannot meet the crisis, but the art of management provides an invaluable dimension to the solution by helping our minority citizens to help themselves to achieve the dignity of becoming working citizens. A man without a job, or with only a half-job, is a half-man. Management can help to make men whole.

The labor force in this country is changing. More employees and more skilled employees are needed for the expansion of the 1970’s. Vast potential consumer markets lie waiting for business if welfare slums can be transformed into homes of dignity. Avoiding the job of breaking down the employment barriers is poor management. Business is developing bold new ideas, some of them costly. There is need for crash programs to meet the hot summer of 1968. But the problem will not be solved in 1968 or 1970; long-range planning is equally necessary.

If the systems approach can plan a space program, it can plan a race program. A combination of management and technology is doing the impossible by getting two men to the moon by 1970. Cannot this same combination get two million men into stable and productive employment not too many years later? The systems approach demands dedicated effort that rejects discouragement—effort that integrates these seven units: setting policy, implementing policy, recruiting, selecting, placing, training and promoting, and separating.

Some youths, it is said, are disaffected from business; they want the challenge of seeking human welfare. Challenge, excitement, and satisfaction are waiting for them in the new directions business is taking in addressing itself to the sociocommercial problems of its racial and urban environment. This new thrust must not be too little or too late, for the future of an undivided country is dependent on it. The business of business is not business alone, but the developing of people. Imaginative racial management opens doors to imaginative human management.

1. “What Business Can Do for the Negro.” Nation’s Business, October 1967, p. 67.

2. “The Deeper Shame of the Cites,” January 1968, p. 132

3. The Worker Speaks His Mind on Company and Union (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1953).

4. The Negro and Equal Employment Opportunities (unpublished manuscript for the Office of Manpower Research, U.S. Department of Labor, December 1966).

5. See John T. Garrity, “Red Ink for Ghetto Industries?” (Thinking Ahead), HBR May–June 1968, p. 4.

6. See Ulric Haynes, Jr., “Equal Job Opportunity: The Credibility Gap,” HBR May–June 1968, p. 113.

7. Blue Collar Man (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 135.

8. Dawn Wachtel, The Negro and Discrimination in Employment (Ann Arbor, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, University of Michigan, and Detroit, Wayne State University, 1965), p. 33.

9. For more information, on this subject, see Richard S. Barrett, “Gray Areas in Black and White Testing,” HBR January–February 1968, p. 92.

10. Caroline Bird, “More Room at the Top,” March 1963, p. 7.

11. Theodore V. Purcell, Blue Collar Man, op. cit., p. 131.

12. Ibid., p. 132.

13. For a more extensive discussion of this program, see Alfonso J. Cervantes, “To Prevent a Chain of Super-Watts,” HBR September–October 1967, p. 55.

A version of this article appeared in the July 1968 issue of Harvard Business Review.


What are the biggest barriers to employment? ›

Common barriers to employment include:
  • criminal history.
  • disability (both physical and intellectual)
  • drug and alcohol addiction.
  • homelessness.
  • long-term welfare dependence.
  • lack of marketable skills.
  • poor job search/interview skills.
  • lack of basic computer skills.

How do you get rid of employee barriers? ›

7 Ways Managers Can Remove the Barriers to Real Work
  1. By Brent D. ...
  2. Every team meeting should be armed with data. ...
  3. Help every team advocate and sell its value. ...
  4. Managers must be mentors. ...
  5. Managers must be coaches. ...
  6. Managers must follow through and follow up. ...
  7. Managers must ensure that others are accountable as well.
8 Nov 2010

What are barriers to job? ›

Barriers are any conditions that may make employment difficult. Things such as: lacking adequate housing, clothing, food, or limited English speaking ability, a criminal record, or a lack of education, work experience, credentials, transportation or child care arrangements.

What are some of your barriers to finding and keeping a job? ›

9 Barriers to employment
  • Discriminatory attitudes and behaviours during recruitment, and in the workplace, from employers and others.
  • Low levels of awareness of rights at work.
  • Lack of access to flexible work arrangements.
  • Outdated job search skills.
  • Retraining and up-skilling to keep up with industry demands.
  • Health issues.

What stops people from working? ›

Society loses out when skilled workers are sidelined altogether or forced to take minimum wage jobs that don't utilize their talents.
  • Lack of In-Demand Skills. ...
  • Lack of Jobs. ...
  • Lack of Access and Opportunity. ...
  • Lack of Employability. ...
  • Lack of Hope.
25 May 2021

What are employment strategies? ›

Employment strategies help a company plan for ongoing or incremental hiring. These strategies establish budgets, time frames and areas of focus which help to keep the company proactive in their hiring decisions rather than reactive.

What does it mean to break down barriers? ›

idiom. to improve understanding and communication between people who have different opinions: The talks were meant to break down barriers between the two groups. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases.

What were the top 3 barriers to productivity in your job? ›

The 3 main obstacles to productivity
  • Distractions. Distractions stop us from fully focussing on one task. ...
  • Procrastination. Procrastinating is time consuming and takes a lot of energy. ...
  • Lack of energy. Everything we feel, think or do either ads or takes energy from us, so it is important to deal with things effectively.
7 Apr 2018

How does poverty affect employment? ›

The relationship between poverty and employment lies in the extent to which income generated from employment permits workers and their dependants to obtain goods and services necessary to meet minimum needs. Poverty reduction thus calls for the creation of regular and good-quality jobs in the labour market.

How does lack of employment contribute to poverty? ›

With joblessness comes a loss of income, and many families are left without sufficient incomes to meet living expenses. This can lead to indebtedness from borrowing money to support one's needs, use of savings or even to homelessness and malnutrition if individuals are unable to find other sources of finance.

What are three challenges that job seekers face in the current job market? ›

5 Common Challenges Job Seekers Face
  • 1 | Confusing Application Process. Each job advertisement will have its own guidelines for filling out the application. ...
  • 2 | Staying Up to Date. ...
  • 3 | Having a Limited Professional Network. ...
  • 4 | Not Having the Right Degree. ...
  • 5 | No Feedback. ...
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28 May 2022

What are the 5 barriers for persons with disabilities? ›

Five Types of Barriers
  • Physical or Architectural Barriers.
  • Informational or Communicational Barriers.
  • Technological Barriers.
  • Organizational Barriers.
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11 Nov 2019

What are the 5 causes of unemployment? ›

There are a number of reasons for unemployment. These include recessions, depressions, technological improvements, job outsourcing, and voluntarily leaving one job to find another.

Why do employees quit? ›

Majorities of workers who quit a job in 2021 say low pay (63%), no opportunities for advancement (63%) and feeling disrespected at work (57%) were reasons why they quit, according to the Feb. 7-13 survey. At least a third say each of these were major reasons why they left.

What is effective employee engagement? ›

Employee engagement is about being included fully as a member of the team, focussed on clear goals, trusted and empowered, receiving regular and constructive feedback, supported in developing new skills, thanked and recognised for achievement.

What is employee development strategy? ›

An employee development plan, sometimes called an employee growth plan, is a process for helping individuals improve skills for their current job and acquire knowledge and skills for new roles and responsibilities in an organization. Sometimes that means training them to be leaders, but not always.

What is an employment plan? ›

An Employment Plan: • Identifies the desired services of the One-Stop system and develops an action plan. • Should include an array of options for the participant in order to make informed decisions and select the.

Who break down barriers between staff areas? ›

Deming's complete statement of Point 9 is as follows: “Break down barriers between departments.

What is a synonym for breaking barriers? ›

Synonyms:rise above, overtake, rival, outwit, outstrip, outdo, outperform, outshine, outflank.

What are barriers examples? ›

These include distance, background noise, poor or malfunctioning equipment, bad hearing, poor eyesight, speech impediments.

What are the barriers to quality of work life? ›

Seven barriers to their work-life arose: heavy workloads; lack of government accommodation and transportation; poor health status; lack of support from nursing supervisors; lack of promotion opportunities; incomplete hospital policies and procedures; and lack of night shift and risk allowances.

What is personal barrier? ›

A personal barrier is an impediment to growth as it distorts messages and creates conflict among individuals. An individual has to overcome a personal barrier to achieve desired outcomes, improve interpersonal skills and execute personal development plans.

What are the common barriers to team progress? ›

11 barriers to teamwork and how to overcome them
  • Ineffective leadership. ...
  • Goal confusion. ...
  • Communication gaps. ...
  • Lack of trust. ...
  • Inequitable decision-making. ...
  • Team size. ...
  • Accountability issues. ...
  • Poor conflict resolution skills.

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Five Barriers to Success and Motivation
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  • Poor Communication Skills. Being able to write and speak clearly is important to success. ...
  • Availability of Resources and Opportunities. ...
  • Clarity and Uncertainty. ...
  • Finding Fault in Others.
16 Apr 2018

How can I overcome challenges? ›

10 Ways to Overcome Challenges in Life
  1. Make A Plan. While you don't know what is going to happen in the future, you can always plan ahead. ...
  2. Know You're Not Alone. Every person in this world has their low points. ...
  3. Ask For Help. ...
  4. Feel Your Feelings. ...
  5. Accept Support. ...
  6. Help Others. ...
  7. Think Big. ...
  8. Positive Mindset.

How can barriers to change be overcome? ›

Overcoming barriers to change management
  1. leading staff through change.
  2. communicating with staff and stakeholders about the change.
  3. understanding the need and the impact of change.
  4. involving all levels of staff in the change process.
  5. sustaining the change and embedding as part of the new norm.

What barriers do you believe need to be removed to make you more effective in your role? ›

Although a variety of barriers can exist in a workplace, the top three can affect many situations resulting in decreased productivity.
  • Challenges of Multitasking. Multitasking is the act of performing more than one duty at once. ...
  • Poor Communication. ...
  • Inconsistent Policy Enforcement. ...
  • Barrier Removal.

What is BFE in Alberta? ›

Barriers to Full Employment (BFE)

What are transferable skills? ›

Transferable, or “portable skills,” are all the skills that you take with you from one job to another. For instance, the ability to clearly communicate ideas to others, solve unexpected problems, or work well in a team are all examples of transferable skills.

What types of Behaviour attitudes and attributes a prospective employer would be looking for in a new employee? ›

  • Willingness to learn. This was the number one behaviour employers at HPC told us they wanted to see in future recruits – and it's easy to understand why. ...
  • Enthusiasm. Being enthusiastic at work is a good indication that you're committed to what you're doing and will stick with it. ...
  • Commitment. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Trustworthiness.

What are 3 barriers to success? ›

Five Barriers to Success and Motivation
  • Time. Often we say we do not have time, but in most cases, we are just not making the time. ...
  • Poor Communication Skills. Being able to write and speak clearly is important to success. ...
  • Availability of Resources and Opportunities. ...
  • Clarity and Uncertainty. ...
  • Finding Fault in Others.
16 Apr 2018

What are 5 barriers to effective teamwork? ›

Common Barriers to Collaboration
  • A lack of respect and trust.
  • Different mindsets.
  • Poor listening skills.
  • Knowledge deficits.
  • A lack of alignment around goals.
  • Internal competitiveness.
  • Information hoarding.
  • Organizational silos.
9 Oct 2017

What were the top 3 barriers to productivity in your job? ›

The 3 main obstacles to productivity
  • Distractions. Distractions stop us from fully focussing on one task. ...
  • Procrastination. Procrastinating is time consuming and takes a lot of energy. ...
  • Lack of energy. Everything we feel, think or do either ads or takes energy from us, so it is important to deal with things effectively.
7 Apr 2018

How hard is it to get AISH in Alberta? ›

To be medically eligible for AISH, an Albertan must have a “severe handicap”. According to 1(d) of the AISH General Regulation this means: An impairment of mental and or/or physical functioning. This impairment causes a substantial limitation in the person's ability to earn a livelihood.

How much does a single person get on disability in Alberta? ›

The welfare income for the unattached single with a disability receiving Alberta's Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) benefits was $21,554 in 2020, which is nearly double that of their counterparts who received BFE benefits. However, it is still $148 lower than the peak in 2013.

What is considered low income for a single person in Alberta? ›

2021 tax year
Canada (excluding Alberta, Quebec, and Nunavut)Alberta
Family with children$42,197$42,920
Family without children$42,197$42,920
Single with children$42,197$42,920
Single without children$32,244$32,317
7 Feb 2022

What skills would you bring to the job best answer? ›

Here are some of the most constantly in-demand transferable skills.
  1. Communication. Effective communication is essential in any role. ...
  2. Organisation and planning. ...
  3. Motivation and enthusiasm. ...
  4. Initiative. ...
  5. Teamwork. ...
  6. Leadership skills. ...
  7. Problem solving. ...
  8. Flexibility.

What are personal skills? ›

Personal Skills: The abilities possessed by a person which are deemed to be their strengths or weaknesses. Interpersonal Skills: The abilities required by an individual to help them to communicate efficiently and effectively with others.

What are the 3 most important qualities you are looking for in a new employer? ›

What to Look for in a New Employer
  • Stability. When looking a new position, stability is by far one of the most attractive qualities a role can offer. ...
  • Security. Along with stability, you need to be comfortable in your role to really achieve your best. ...
  • Reliability. ...
  • Opportunity. ...
  • Work-life balance.
18 Feb 2019

What are 5 characteristics of a good employee? ›

Here are some of the top skills and characteristics of a good employee:
  • Knowing the why, as well as the what. ...
  • Professionalism. ...
  • Honesty and integrity. ...
  • Innovative ideas. ...
  • Problem-solving abilities. ...
  • Ambitious. ...
  • Dependability, reliability, and responsibility. ...
  • Conflict resolution.
24 Jul 2020

What mindset qualities are attractive to employers? ›

According to studies, these 8 mindset qualities are very attractive for employers: Commitment, Honesty, Flexibility, Accountability, Reliability, Determination, Ambition, and The Desire to Learn.

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