With the recent murder of a Black man by a White, Minneapolis policeman, followed by days and nights of protests, destruction of businesses owned by both Blacks and Whites and even more murders, racial tension could spill over into the workplace.
Businesses, small or large, can take steps to avoid or diffuse any race-based issues in their workplaces and create a more positive environment for all, beginning with setting some ground rules and continuing with better communication. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Chair & CEO of The Center for Talent Innovation, suggested that companies start by acknowledging the fact that talking about race at work remains difficult. Conversations about race tend to remain taboo.
Such silence doesn’t solve racial division. Open conversations help employees begin to process the discrimination and social bias they may experience or witness. Here are some tips for leaders and HR professionals to use to establish positive relationships between all employees:
Acknowledge there is an issue. Then follow-up with education to support better engagement & more respectful conversation, whether it be in small groups or by bringing in an HR facilitator. Employees and management may not be aware of their own negative or questionable comments that could be seen as racist.
Set ground rules for discussions. Create a space where colleagues can share whatever is on their minds & know that others will listen. Such rules as “be respectful;” “listen,” “don’t take sides, or try to convince people of your opinion” allow people to feel safe enough to share their questions and/or thoughts.
Conduct internal research to identify areas of bias. Joan Williams, founding director for the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, recommends that once identified, companies can determine what metrics will be used to make changes to curb the effects of unconscious bias.
Know the law! The Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace. If an employee reports racial harassment or discrimination, HR must investigate the claim in a timely and impartial manner. Take every claim seriously. According to New York’s Center for Talent Innovation, research showed that leaders who responded to racist incidents were viewed more positively by professionals of all races.
Know your team! Keep your ears open in the halls or around the coffee machine. Emphasize open communication between managers and staff. Set a good example for your team. Avoid discussing politics or other controversial subjects in the workplace.
Racism hurts business! It creates a divisive workplace and undermines morale. That makes recruiting and retaining top talent difficult & damages a company’s reputation.
Silence Is No Longer Acceptable!
Now is the time for all leaders and managers to commit to building more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. Every employee should feel psychologically safe to show who they are without fear of negative consequences.
High levels of psychological safety allow employees to express ideas and concerns and openly admit mistakes and learn from one another.
Benefits for the company included increased creativity, better organizational effectiveness, and boosted engagement.
- Design thinking, a business approach & trend that uses a people-centric method for dealing with and fixing problems, is less design processes & more point-of-view with humans at the center of all decisions. Instead of HR focusing on creating processes that boost productivity, design thinking puts the employee experience first.
- Our global health crisis is changing the way business operates. Joe McDonald (WGSN Insights) predicts that the companies that will best benefit are those that offer comfort, convenience, or necessity to consumers. Brands should think about digitization of their products, not just delivery. He believes the current digital lifestyle & working from home will continue.