COVID-19 Reopening Tips to Help Businesses Prepare

Small businesses have found creative ways to keep moving forward despite closures during the coronavirus pandemic, from yoga studios, shifting classes online to local brewers pivoting to hand sanitizer production. But now as cities and states prepare to re-open, many small business owners are asking, “What’s next?”

There’s no question that the coronavirus pandemic will change the way we do business. If you’re wondering how your business can safely reopen and stay competitive after COVID-19, use these resources to learn what matters to employees and consumers and how you meet, but exceed their expectations.

Socially Distant Workplaces: The New Norm

Fewer people in your business means fewer opportunities for illness to spread. Use these resources to learn how you can maintain social distancing without sacrificing output.

  • Consider keeping some staff remote even after re-opening. With the right collaboration tips and tools, you won’t sacrifice team cohesion.
  • Need employees on-site? These social distancing tips explain how to keep staff safe.
  • Employers can also implement shift patterns to reduce on-site employees.
  • Whether employees are on-site or off, always make sure you’re taking steps to promote an inclusive working environment.
  • Staff members aren’t the only ones entering your business. To limit customers without turning people away, consider switching to an appointment-based system.
  • Businesses can also offer curbside pickup for customers who prefer to shop from the safety of home. Of course, this requires building an online store.

Keeping a Clean and Healthy Business

When customers patronize your brick-and-mortar business, they expect an environment that puts health and safety first. Here’s how you can ensure they walk away satisfied.

  • Learn the basics of cleaning and disinfecting your workplace.
  • Motion-activated doors, wipeable covers for electronic devices, and high-efficiency air filters are three upgrades that can keep your business clean with less effort.
  • Don’t forget clean hands! Require regular hand washing for all employees and supply touchless hand sanitizer dispensers.
  • It’s hard to convey a pristine image if your interior is worn and dated. Install new carpet to freshen up your business and save money doing it!

Get Financial Help to Keep Your Business Running

What if your small business needs more than a smart strategy to survive coronavirus? If you’re in need of a cash infusion to keep your doors open, here’s where to look.

  • Several federal, state, and city relief programs help small businesses, including tax credits, grants, and loans.
  • COVID-19 relief isn’t limited to the public sector. ZenBusiness is just one company offering grants to support small businesses.
  • Women and minority business owners can also find financial assistance.
  • Even with assistance, changes may be necessary to stay afloat. These steps will help businesses financially rebuild after COVID-19.

It’s never too soon to start thinking about what’s next. Whether your state is starting to lift lockdown measures, or your doors remain closed, make sure you’re planning for the future of your business. By developing a smart strategy for your business’s re-opening, you can get back to business while putting health and safety first.

This article contributed to Filsan blog by Elena Stewart

Inspire an Inclusive Climate


Demographic shifts in the U.S. population clearly underline how our future relies on fostering a genuine inclusive climate in the workforce.  Many organizations’ top management teams strive to diversify their workforce and talk a lot about ways to promote an inclusive environment in the workplace. But the questions we need to examine first are, what’s inclusion? Why is it important to have an inclusive working environment? What are the benefits of an inclusive workplace? How do we create such environment?

Before we answer those questions, let’s examine the intersectionality between diversity and inclusion. We have diversity in our community which is not reflected in our public and private sectors. This means we have employees from different backgrounds, whether they be along lines of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, geography, accent, disability, mental health, economic status, education, etc. However, hiring diverse talent does not mean inclusion.  The yardstick with which we measure company’s inclusive working environment are manifold. We look at whether we are allowing employees with minority backgrounds, women, and people with disability moving up the corporate ladder.  Are they being promoted or demoted?  Are their voices being valued or despised, their differences respected or disparaged? Are their ideas solicited or stolen without being properly credited?  Sadly, some organizations and companies that hire a diverse workforce have yet to embrace inclusion.

Let us start with what inclusion means in the workplace. Unlike diversity, inclusion is a state where companies

  • Ensure equitable access to resources, promotions, and opportunities for all.
  • Create a fair, inclusive, equitable, healthy, and respectable climate where employees from different backgrounds could feel safe, respected, engaged, determined, and valued for who they are and for their perspectives and contributions toward their company, organization and community.

For our empirical knowledge and experiences, Filsan team realizes that inclusion entails two components:

  • Employers are experiencing some sort of belonging where they feel that they’re valued, their perspectives respected and solicited and that
  • They feel that their uniqueness is valued.

When employees feel like an outsider because of their uniqueness or difference, then the company fails to foster an inclusive working climate.

Importance of an Inclusive Working Environment

When companies are committed to promoting inclusive working behaviors, they witness their employees regardless of their differences report higher levels of trust, interactions, teamwork, excellent engagement and performance. Also, companies can reduce turnover and increase retention when their employees feel that their uniqueness and a sense of belonging treasured.

Countering Unconscious Bias

Much of what we do on a daily basis is unconscious. This means we are not always conscious of why we do the things we do and what we say about others who don’t look like us. We all know biases come in many forms and can impact all of our interactions, including those occurring in the workplace. So, let us first explain what unconscious bias means. Unconscious bias refers to specific attributes and traits that we quickly assign to other people based on their social categories. Because of our prior prejudice and assumptions, we tend to make negative and snap judgments or decisions about others. And then, prejudice and discrimination arise suddenly.

Why Does It Happen?

As humans, we make irrational decisions based on what we hear from the media or people we meet on a regular basis. Then, our brain involuntarily generates either positive or negative thoughts, assumptions, choices, and decisions about who can feel safe or threat around us, who is likeable, competent, and fit for certain tasks. This is when you start showing preconceived views which are biased and prejudiced towards one gender, race, ethnicity, faith, etc. Undoubtedly, we all have an unconscious bias regardless of our gender, age, and country of origin.

Does Unconscious Bias Affect the Way We Think and See Others?

Naturally, bias is a normal human prejudice that we all have, regardless of how open-minded we consider ourselves to be. In this section, we will examine how our bias affects the way we think and see others, and how such assumptions reward or penalize, promote or demote certain groups of people.

For example, people have a propensity to possess both a positive bias towards their in-group, and a negative bias towards an out-group. Many studies divulge that we favor or prefer the sort of people by whom we are surrounded. When such stereotypes towards certain groups of people are formed, our bias will impact the way we see and interact with others.

Many studies have been written about ways our brain works and processes information in a certain way. Naturally, we gather millions of bits of information and instinctively categorize people according to their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age, body size, and profession, accent, social status, and job title at the unconscious level.  When we list random social categories, we are creating social labels and stereotypes. So, the information we receive from those around us may have both positive and negative views and interpretations based on our relationships with others. For example, if people around us look and sound like us, then we categorize them approachable, amicable, positive, knowledgeable, polite, and enlightened. If people around us don’t share a similar background, then we see others different, incompetent, and unsocial, and associate them with a host of other negative attributes. One example is that when hiring managers believe women do not have the same ability, then they favor male candidates over female candidates with similar education and experience. Such status differences to which people often cling may not be grounded on actual differences in person’s competence but are based on our implicit assumptions about their ability because we tend to believe certain groups of people don’t possess such competence. 

There is no doubt that the presence of unconscious bias affects recruitment, retention, and promotion of those employees deemed minority.

How Can We Counter Unconscious Bias?

When considering approaches to mitigate or counter the negative consequences of unconscious bias, one must study two components that impact the continuation of our individual and institutional biases.

Individual strategies that address unconscious bias include:

For Women / Racial Minority

  • Recognize your own bias first
  • Challenge your assumptions
  • Speak out when you see or hear gender biases
  • Encourage people around you that men and women are equally effective leaders
  • Pay attention to language or use inclusive language
  • Avoid generalizations
  • Don’t let women be talked over by men
  • Respect women’s ideas
  • Publicly acknowledge the accomplishments of women
  • Encourage women to contribute in meaningful ways  
  • Teach your own family diversity is our strength
  • Get people used to hearing from women and minorities

To address unconscious biases institutionally, employers and companies should use:

  •  Structured interviews in which all candidates regardless of their skin color, sex, language, and religion are asked the same questions
  • Hire, retain, and promote women or people from different backgrounds
  • Make sure your company is not only accepting applications from those who have a white-sounding male name
  • Make sure your hiring department and HR are not excluding particular candidates based on their assumptions of competence
  • Make sure promotions are not accorded to employees based on preference / favoritism
  • Mentor employees from the community of color,
  • Conduct bias awareness training
  • Hire consultants who will train your HRs, managers, and supervisors about cultural competency
  • Include the importance of diversity and inclusion in your employee handbook
  • Increase transparency and accountability. Hold your staff accountable if they refuse to disrespect other underrepresented employees because of their race, creed, sexual orientations, disability, age, and language
  • Be vocal in and advocate for gender parity, and inclusion
  • Don’t hesitate to nullify doubts that other people might have about their competence
  • Encourage the staff around you to use a clear and non-biased language

Even though numerous studies confirm that unconscious biases emanate from the way that our brain is structured, and we are also cognizant that biases are deeply entrenched within us all, but that does not mean we can stop them.  None of us was born with a bias. Anything people learn from through socialization, they can unlearn them.

Because of persistent diversity and inclusion initiatives in place, some companies and employers are committed to investing in formal diversity training to change attitudes and behaviors and diversify their workforce. Filsan Talent Partners consultants and certified coaches are confident that our training sessions will drop bias in hiring and firing. Employers and management teams who took our customized training said that their implicit biases dissipated considerably. Let us not our unconscious bias plague our company’s good image. Together, we can make the world a better place for all of us to live and raise a family.

Unconscious Bias in the Workplace: Preventing Intercultural Misunderstandings

Recent news exposed the intercultural conflict at Amazon and Starbucks. Business owners must ask themselves, “What, if any, economic or social value is there in being a culturally competent organization?” Surely, with the emerging demographics in the American workforce, we may, find our monolithic policies under scrutiny from any number of protected groups. However, it is not the workplace rights of protected groups that should rouse our business senses to fear for our profits, rather it is through embracing the diverse needs of these groups that innovative, and highly competitive business strategies are cultivated.

Research has shown diversity is good for business. Token efforts taken to create a superficial image of inclusiveness will lead to negative consequences. This will hamstring any progress that most cutting-edge and globally successful companies strive to embody. A company must take the uncomfortable step of addressing the conditions within their companies which cause cultural misunderstandings to arise.

Amazon and Starbucks took a short-term approach aimed to solve their cultural misunderstandings. Unfortunately, such this step yields only a temporary solution. To prevent these problems from occurring again, a more integral approach is needed. Filsan’s Cultural Competency Trainings and Consultation services provides an approach to eliminate unconscious bias. However, most sensitivity trainers and coaches believe a one-day training will not change long-term behaviors, stereotypes, and perceptions. Investing in ongoing cultural competency, education and long-term diversity planning is how organizations can fully embrace the ever-changing task of leveraging diversity.

When culturally competent leaders opt to model for their employees, they effectively address issues around employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity regarding diversity.

Lastly, companies benefit from their employees’ highest performance when they nominate culturally competent diverse role models at all levels of the organization. Furthermore, company executives must realize diversity is not a gimmick but an asset that leads to innovation. To overcome cultural misunderstanding in the workplace, leaders have to acknowledge unconscious bias based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientations. When employees feel valued and respected, performance and productivity will rise. It is to every company’s advantage to practice welcoming behaviors, commit to changing old habits involving biases and adopt cross cultural awareness.

Top Highlights of 2019

2019 also has been one of the best years ever in business. Our motto was “moving Diversity from numbers to action.”

  1. I am a recipient of a 2019 Bush Foundation Fellowship, a two year-program ($100, 000).
  2. We spoke to and trained over 2,000 leadership teams, and their employees
  3. We sponsored community gathering events
  4. We donated my new children’s book to some schools and libraries
  5. We partnered with our local companies
  6. We hired two more staff
  7. We had an intern
  8. We conducted three-month long research for the Greater St. Student Public Safety Foundation to assess the impact of the Community Outpost on the Southside neighborhood
  9. We received an award
  • 2019 100 People to Get to Know in Minnesota
  • 2019 6 People to Get to Know in Minnesota
  • 2019 Outstanding Service and Contribution to the Youth in the Saint Cloud Community
  • 2019 Business Entrepreneur of the Year

Filsan team is wishing you Happy New Year of 2019


2018 has been one of the best years ever in business. Our motto was “moving Diversity from numbers to action.”

1.         I graduated from the Initiative Foundation’s Initiators Fellowship

The two year-program provided me with the opportunity to use my entrepreneurial spirit to create Filsan Talent Partners, build my leadership capacity, expand my professional network, help employers train, attract, and retain employees with diverse background and bridge the cultural gap

2.         We spoke to and trained over 5,000 leadership teams, and their employees

Filsan team provided customized on-the-job diversity, inclusion and cultural training sessions for HRs, management teams, supervisors and CEOs of large and small companies

3.         We trained overseas company leadership teams

Filsan team also trained overseas companies’ top management teams

4.         We volunteered and held community gathering events

Those events aimed to build a better relationship and understanding between Muslim communities and the host community

5.         We donated books to schools and libraries

Our company motto is “knowledge is Power”- we donated “From Somalia to Snow” so that people would be able to better understand their new Americans’ experiences, challenges and opportunities

6.         We partnered with our local companies

With employee shortages in Minnesota, research shows that by 2035 one in four of the state’s residents will be a racial minority. This is why Filsan Talent Partners will help companies win the war on talent

7.         We hired new staff

To expand our impact in the region, we hired professional, ambitious and innovative staff to help us get the next level of excellence

8.         We had an intern

To get the hands-on experience, our company prioritize hiring interns because internships helps students gain relevant knowledge, skills, and experience while gaining connections and networks in the business community

9.         We conducted need assessment research

10.       Filsan featured in

a)         Minnesota Business Magazine

b)         Twin Cities Magazine

11.       We received an award

In recognition of her leadership, the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce awarded our CEO for her volunteering leadership

12.       We changed our name from Filsan Consultant to Filsan Talent Partners

Filsan team is wishing you Happy New Year of 2019

Ramadan: Tips for Managers and Directors

What is Ramadan?
 Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam, and the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on lunar cycles.

What Do Muslim Employees Do Between the Sunrise and Sunset?
During Ramadan, Muslim employees abstain from eating any food, drinking any liquids, smoking cigarettes, and engaging in any sexual activity from dawn to sunset. Even chewing gum is prohibited. Practicing Muslims also abstain from lying, gossiping, cursing and exhibiting immodest desires. These actions are believed to invalidate ones’ fasting.

Are There Any Exemptions from Fasting?
Ramadan is mandatory for any Muslim who reaches puberty (mostly at the age of fifteen and up). Patients who are physically and mentally ill do not have to fast. Pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating women and those who are traveling don’t have to fast, but they will have to make up the missed days at another time or feed the poor as an alternative course of action.

Why Do Muslims Do During Ramadan?
During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. Muslim employees seek guidance, forgiveness and devotion to and deep connection with God. For those fasting, hunger and thirst are a constant reminder of the suffering of the poor and those who are less fortunate. Like Lent, the goal of fasting is to practice self-discipline and to cleanse the body and mind.

What is the Significance of Ramadan to a Devout Muslim?
Employers should know why Ramadan is so special for their employees. Ramadan is believed to be the holiest month in the Muslim calendar. First, the Qur’an was revealed during this month and Muslims believe their prayers would be answered and their good actions will bring greater reward during Ramadan than at any other time of year.

How Long Can They Fast?
Practicing Muslims observe fasting from sunset to sun down for twenty nine or thirty days. How long during the day Muslim employees will be fasting depends on the season. For example, if Ramadan falls during the summer, Muslims will have to fast between 15 and 16 hours long because the day can be so long. In other words, employees will start eating predawn meals at 3:30 am and break their fast at 9:30 pm.

When Will Ramadan Begin and End in 2018?
Depending on the sight of the moon, fastening is supposed to begin on the 15th or 16th of May in 2018 and lasts for one lunar month, the evening of Thursday, June 14th.

Why Do the Dates of Ramadan Change Every Year?
Muslims follow the Islamic calendar.

Do All Muslims Fast?
Fasting is obligatory for a mature and healthy Muslim. Employers and directors should be aware that not all Muslim employees fast. In case you see one of your Muslim employees drinking or eating without a medical reason, don’t share what you saw with his colleagues.

Can Employers Expect Employees to Act Differently During Ramadan?
Some Muslim employees act differently during Ramadan because

  • They wake up between 1am and 2am to eat and drink to prepare for the day ahead. Those who do not wake up at 2am to eat may feel light-headed during the day. Even though most employees who fasted too long say that they get used to starving and thirsty, many others agree that their energy flags or saps right after 2:00p.m. However, the first two weeks, employees who used to drink caffeine feel headache, lethargy and fatigue
  • Most fasting Muslims agree employees who work long hours during the summer may become agitated, fatigued, and dehydrated.
  • In the last ten days of Ramadan, Muslims pray longer at night. As the day progresses, some older Muslim employees may lose their ability to work effectively. Generally, fasting could cause blood sugar levels to run low, which may make it more challenging for employers to keep their concentration. The activity of those employees working with machines must be monitored regularly.

Will Prayer Times Be More Frequent or Longer During the Day?
No! Only prayer times at night are more frequent and longer.

What are Other Requirements?

  • An employee observing the fast will not eat during typical lunch times
  • Fasting does not mean that Muslims stop working.
  • Late-night prayer times at night are more frequent and longer. There is an extra-long prayer known as “Tarawih” performed at night. These long prayers during the night may disrupt the person’s working activity during the day. When your sleep pattern is disrupted and one may feel physically worn-out and drowsy during the day. For many devout Muslim employees, evenings are often spent at a mosque in congregational prayer.

Employers Should Know That
Ramadan requires healthy Muslims to perform their daily responsibilities normally while fasting.  Islamic faith commands fasters to break the fast as soon as possible after sundown. The traditional method to break the fast known as Afur is to eat a small snack, preferably dates, samosa and some other cookies, do a ritual cleansing and pray before eating dinner.

    • Their fasting Muslim employees’ dinner break may not closely coincide with break time, therefore people who have been fasting for long hours need to be granted a dinner break to eat and drink. Employers should coordinate with the timing for dinner.
    • Employers can offer a random break to reduce employees’ lower energy levels
    • Fasting employees don’t like seeing their non-Muslim co-workers eating or drinking water around them.

Can I Offer Drink If One of My Employees Get Dehydrated?
Many employees, particularly those old men and women, fasting is a good opportunity to feel the pang of hunger. Even if they are dehydrated, they don’t want to break their fast before the evening. Don’t offer any drink. Please ask them what they want you to do for them first. Your good deeds may be construed otherwise.

Eid and Annual Leave
To mark the end of the month of Ramadan, Muslim celebrate two to three days to observe a religious festival known as Eid al Fitr, the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. It’s a religious holiday where everyone wears new clothes, comes together for big meals with family, relative. It is likely most employers may receive annual leave requests on a short notice from those who wish to observe this festival. Employers who hire predominantly Muslim employees should deal with holiday requests through their normal holiday policy and any company rules.