Stand in Solidarity and Hold Ourselves Accountable
With the recent events and the spotlight on Covid-19 and persistent systemic social injustices, we’ve been thinking a lot about the impact these are having on employees. Both of these are complex phenomena and experiences that employees carry outside of work and into the workplace. We see these as interconnected as both are affecting employee mental, emotional and physical health, threatening employee sense of safety, and raising internal questions around equity and inclusion. We also see these as critical opportunities for companies to improve the workplace and overall employee experience.
The workplace is changing rapidly and companies that miss this opportunity will be at a significant disadvantage in defining their brand, recruiting talent and crafting innovative strategies to lead them out of the Covid-19 crisis. A few themes have quickly emerged on what companies need to do to improve the employee experience both now and into the future.
Employers must be flexible to support the diverse needs of team members be it parents, caregivers and those that are directly and indirectly impacted by Covid-19 as well as employees that are experiencing the trauma of racial injustices. Companies need to recognize that the needs are diverse and they need to be flexible in how they support individual team members including resources, safe spaces for open discussion, work schedules, and expected periods of productivity.
Employers must explicitly and consistently show purpose in the work and the actions they are taking to have a positive social impact - to employees, customers and other stakeholders. Employees want to see meaning in their work and understand how they are fighting Covid-19 directly or indirectly. Employees want to see how the company and the work product is improving society and what the company is doing to fight racial injustice and inequity.
Employers must take action to address internal systemic inequity while also standing in solidarity against societal injustices. It isn’t enough for a company to say that it supports Black Lives Matter. Companies must also commit to specific steps they will take to fight these injustices externally and improve their policies and procedures internally. Companies should review the diversity of their leadership team and corporate board, assess the organizations they fund, and audit internal programs for implicit inequity or unconscious bias that may negatively impact people of color including hiring, performance, compensation and promotions. Along those lines, companies should proactively assess their work culture and connect the dots between feedback they are hearing, promotion statistics, attrition data etc. to critically analyze if they are overlooking any blind spots in their cultural norms and programs. Companies must be transparent with these analyses, commit to specific areas for improvement, assign appropriate resources, and take immediate action. Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are not stand-alone programs, but must be woven into the fabric of everything a company does and stands for, starting from their values to how they design goals, assess performance, recognize achievements, and develop leaders.
Employers must apply the lens of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion while also demonstrating leadership through the Covid-19 crisis. In an effort to save cash and focus priorities, companies may be making decisions and inadvertently creating new norms that negatively impact minorities and employees of color. Defunding DEI initiatives or shifting time and resources away from these efforts now may take years to recover. With more companies transitioning to long term remote working practices, company and team norms around remote work may negatively impact women or people of color.
Now is the time for companies to stand in solidarity against injustice and inequity but they must also hold themselves accountable for these same standards.