Diversity Is Great But Will Organizations Be Ready For Inclusion In 2021?
By Carmen Morris
The world was presented with a plethora of lessons around diversity, equity and inclusion in 2020, with race equality being catapulted to the top of social, political and organizational conversations. Leaders and organizations were tasked to re-evaluate strategies to cement diversity and inclusion into corporate culture and value sets. Society demanded the meaningful design of authentic activity, to rid the workplace of structural inequalities, that affect the career chances of Black and Brown employees.
The reality for many an organization, is that cultivating an environment where all employees, regardless of background, are able to progress, means systemic change. However, activity to increase the rate of structural change has been, to date, lacklustre and ill-supported by a genuine authenticity to make it happen.
The shocking death of George Floyd, in May 2020, forced leadership to grapple with the issues coming out of the global Black Lives Matter protests, and seek to address structural barriers that fail Black and Brown employees.
As we embark upon a New Year, what lessons have been learned and how can organizational leaders develop much needed traction to support a sustainable commitment to diversity and inclusion, and ensure that Black lives truly do matter within the workplace? Here are 6 lessons that will help leadership develop a thriving diversity and inclusion program for 2021, and beyond.
1. Actions are a Priority
We’ve all heard all the rhetorical speeches, seen the Black squares and followed the social media accounts of large corporations in the immediate aftermath of the global protests against racism, in Spring 2020. Many of these reactions were knee-jerk and based upon a realisation that something had to be said to show solidarity with Black and Brown communities.
Public statements around diversity and inclusion are good, but not at the expense of having a realistic strategy in place to make necessary changes to secure it, in its fullness. Employees, and communities, need to feel that change is taking place and that change has to be authentic. In an era of dominant social media, where employees and customers value authenticity around social and people agendas, it is foolhardy to jump on the bandwagon of statement making and publicized empathy, without stating what you are actually doing, and keeping your audience informed about progress.
Organizational energy should be focused on getting strategy in place, rather than jumping the gun to align with a particular social concern, in order to show empathy with the issues affecting Black and Brown communities. Your audience will not forget your stated commitments, and remember that your words will be open to challenge, at any time in the future, whilst they reside in the press archives or on the internet.
2. Openness and Transparency
There is nowhere to hide. Remember that your employees already know the culture of your organization, and your clients and customers can probably hazard a good guess. That wonderful website, filled with images of smiling faces of Black and Brown people, beaming from ear to ear, actually pales into insignificance, when one looks at your leadership page, or does a quick search on Google, only to retrieve information that highlights the homogeneous nature of your business.
Be transparent. It is what you are working toward that counts. If you are embarking on an inclusive leadership recruitment campaign, let the world know about it. The idea that there are not enough suitably qualified Black professionals is being challenged on a daily basis. They are out there and can be part of your talent pipeline, if only your business would make it a priority to look for them.