Today is Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated within the Black community to commemorate the ending of slavery in the U.S. Celebrations vary by community and culture but often times mimic a 4th of July type gathering minus fireworks. My family typically celebrates with a potluck and sharing stories from family members about their experience moving to the northwest during the “Great Migration”.

As you return to work next week, we urge you to keep focus on current events and the killings of several Black men and women. One action we all can take is to normalize having these conversations at work. Cascade is committed to equity and centers it in our work, which means that we have to start by acknowledging that white supremacy and racism exist, and that they are deeply intertwined with work in all sectors.

If you have never had these discussions at work before, you may be nervous about how to approach them. Here are three steps we are taking, that you can consider as well:

  1. Acknowledge what happened. Moments like this impact people on an emotional level, and often we are trained to hide those emotions at work. Acknowledge the horror and trauma people may be experiencing. This may include sending an email to your staff, discussing it during a team meeting, and making time for one-on-one conversations. Acknowledge and create space, but don’t place a burden on people to deeply engage.
  2. Recognize that people’s reactions may be informed by their race. Often times, white people are less aware of the different types of racism and may be more shocked by violent acts of racism. People of color may be horrified, but not surprised, by overt acts of racism. Recognize that your worldview is largely shaped by your experiences, and don’t expect other people to explain their worldview.
  3. Commit to doing internal work to understand race and racism in our country. The overt acts of white supremacy from the past weeks can be an opening to better understand overt and covert white supremacy. This diagram highlights actions that people may easily identify as unacceptable (like Nazi rallies), and others that people may not even recognize (like white privilege). Racial Equity Tools provides resources to help you understand how race is constructed, how racism works, how privilege is embedded in our systems, and how internalized racism and superiority are created and maintained.

At Cascade we are compiling additional resources that will be available on our website soon. We also offer public and onsite training for your staff. If you have questions or need support contact our training team at training@cascadeemployers.com.



Not Drowning; Just Waving. Nikon D3100. DSC_0440.

Let’s do a quick exercise:

You have just been informed that starting January 1, 2021 there is going to be a pandemic that will require a full restructuring of your workplace, including setting up your employees with remote work capabilities and establishing new social distancing and sanitizing procedures throughout the organization.

(To do this imagining exercise you must suspend the knowledge you have gained over the last few months.)

In anticipation of January 1, you will need to motivate your team, develop and communicate the plan, encourage collaboration, build on creative solutions and process all these changes in short order. With six months to plan and implement, what could go wrong? Would your team be ready? Would there be delays in implementation? Would some employees get with the program and others lag behind? Would employee engagement suffer?

Now compare this imaginary scenario to what we just went through. As we enter a Post-Pandemic World, the stories we are hearing from Cascade members are remarkable for the effectiveness, efficiency and the maintenance of employee engagement achieved. Somehow the urgency of a Governor’s order had moved a “project” forward in some rather amazing ways. Some of our plans may have been a little quick and dirty, but the job got done.

My side bet here is that, if you would have had six months to plan, your outcomes would have been no better. In fact, the urgency of our recent adjustments got our teams to focus and solve problems in exactly the ways we wish they would focus and solve problems all the time.

So, are there lessons here for us as leaders? Perhaps quick and dirty might be good enough? Create urgency to focus your team? Don’t sweat the insignificant details? Trust your team?

We shouldn’t create “false urgency,” employees see through that quickly. However, strong teams have a bias for action, for diving in, for making progress and mistakes that move us ahead. And strong teams learn solid lessons from experience. What has your team learned in the last few months?

For more than a few decades now, Cascade has encouraged and taught workplace leadership skills: the importance of listening, how to motivate and encourage, coaching opportunities, giving direction, delegating, accountability, the importance of sincere recognition and appreciation. The construct that supports all of these skills is that we are at our best when we learn from experience.

So here’s to letting urgency bring out our best, even if it ain’t always pretty. And here’s to asking our teams for a little bit more of that urgency even when the Governor is not putting us on notice. Here’s to learning a little bit from this chapter that will inform our success in the chapters to come.

What are your stories of resiliency, agility and learning? Please let us know how things are going in your workplace as we continue to ride the wave.



Maryland Day 2016

I’ve been taught to ask extra questions to get to the core of workplace issues. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes pandemics come along and remind us that clarity around policies, new procedures or just what to expect in general is critical to our team’s functioning.

This communication challenge thing is not a new issue, of course, but super-super-important in a Post-Pandemic world.

Last year we were providing a two-day supervisor-development session for a Cascade member, and the participants got focused on the biggest challenges for the supervisory team. Everybody’s list included “Problems with Communication.” With everything from a head nod to a fist pump, the team conveyed their frustration with communication in their workplace.

But, after all this agreement that a problem existed, a deeper dive revealed a more complex picture. When asked to specifically describe the communication issue that was bothersome, each supervisor had a different story to tell. For some it was connecting with certain employees on the priorities for their department, for others it was inconsistent messages from management. A few talked about how one department or shift failed to let the others know what problems or successes they were having. Another theme was how meeting content was lost from week to week. Then someone brought up emails (cue dramatic music- dom–dom-DOM) and the misunderstandings that they had experienced through email-only communication.

Turns out the “communication issue” was a bunch of things, each affecting the success of the team.

It’s tough sometimes to know exactly what irony is, but it seemed perhaps ironic that under the issue of communication, we were having trouble communicating what the communication issue was.

Does your workplace have a catch-all word for a problem that turns out to have several layers? It only takes two to miscommunicate. Add departments, shifts, language and culture. Add remote office work and different meeting schedules. Multiply by 10 or 20. Ah, “communication issues.”

It may be that these are universal and your challenges may just be a question of degree. In working with our member teams we have found some practical techniques to improve communication in all kinds of workplaces.

Here’s a few suggestions on how to identify, separate, and effectively address some of these important communication issues:

  • One-on-one communication. Teach listening and positive communication skills to all employees. These can be fun and invigorating sessions. Turns out these are skills we can use outside the workplace as well. Practice these skills in a ZOOM or GoToMeeting world.
  • Effective Meetings. Build in an accepted and positive meeting structure that includes a format for action items, ownership and time frames. Teach accountability best practices. There’s a few simple steps that can greatly improve the follow-up from team meetings.
  • Cross-department communication. Update your list of stakeholders at least quarterly and assign responsibility for each group to carry the message across shifts and between departments. Create a liaison role so someone can monitor improvement and challenges.
  • Strategy and vision. Over-communicate business initiatives and specific elements of strategy. Patrick Lencioni gives a useful overview of how to effectively communicate expected results. How’s and why’s seem to make a difference.
  • Business Communication. Teach email etiquette and other workplace best practices for improving connection and understanding.

Lastly, look for employees and supervisors who have a natural strength in getting the message across and encourage them to get involved. Great communicators love to be part of the reconnection strategy.

And when you hear “Communication is a problem around here,” dive a little deeper to find out what it is that your employees are experiencing that could improve. It is then that you can properly action plan each issue.

Your team may also want to take stock of words whose meanings have changed in the last couple of months. Here are some examples: Sanitization, Signage, Breakroom Cleaning, Shared Dishware, Meeting, Social Distancing, Screening, Audit, Isolation, Hand Washing, Contact Tracing, Workplace Travel.

We would love to hear your stories around communication challenges or successes. Please let us know what is working for you.



Time is Money

With 701 organizations participating, representing 56,224 employees across Oregon and Washington, the 2020 Regional Pay Survey is a vital tool for managers, HR professionals, and business owners. Reflecting pay data for 562 positions, the survey report provides exclusive wage and salary data for a variety of executive, exempt, and non-exempt positions.

2020 Changes

The 2020 Regional Pay Survey now has the addition of a nonprofit specific report. With 196 nonprofit organizations participating, this is a useful tool for nonprofits wanting to compare their salary and compensation data. This year will also see a nonprofit specific report of the 2020 Regional Benefits Survey, with discounts for participants in both surveys.

The 2020 version also saw an addition of 18 new positions added to the survey. If there is a position missing from our data collection that you would like to see added, feel free to send in your suggestions for consideration in our next edition. This survey also saw the restructuring of certain positions, creating a new job family, Social Services and Related Services.

Survey Highlights

With an effective date of March 1, 2020, the survey saw an average percentage increase in average pay of 3.22% from 2019 to 2020. This average is closely aligned with the projected increase percentage in pay forecasted by 117 executives in the 2019/2020 Salary Budget Survey.

Several positions saw large changes in average pay this year, including Sales/Marketing Assistant, which saw a 28.1% increase in average pay. Others with a large increase include Trade Show Coordinator (19.1%) and Chief Sales Executive/Domestic Markets (Excluding Marketing, 18.4%).

A subset of positions saw less than 1% growth in average pay, including Field Service Manager (0.6%), Warehouse Supervisor (0.4%), and Grinding Machine Operator (0.1%).

Visit SalaryTrends® to learn more about the 2020 Regional Pay Survey, or to purchase the full report.

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