In the past few decades, society has taken strides to eradicate racism; the same cannot always be said for the corporate world. And while racial issues continue to plague businesses big and small, CEOs and executive management continue to accept mantras — ”
We don’t see color” — instead of hard-hitting policy.
It begs the question; how can you find a solution to a problem you cannot see? You can’t.
But whether you run a corner store or a Fortune 500 conglomerate, there are a handful of strategies at your disposal to tackle the issue and to stop failing workers from marginalized backgrounds.
Open and frank discussions
Step one, always talk about racial and inequity issues openly. Albeit, a difficult topic to discuss, many people choose to side-step these issues without feeling the need to address the concerns of others.
An open dialog on racism without consequences to address the workplace and other inequities. Employees must acknowledge how implicit bias, micro-aggressions, and having a “colorblindness” viewpoint fosters a restrictive working environment.
Senior management must lead the way to talk about racism, what it looks like, and if it does occur, how to mitigate it.
Having an open discussion is only one part of the inclusion puzzle. To forge long-lasting change, employees need training and education on matters of racism, equality, and bias.
The best way to address these internally is with workshops, round tables, panel discussions, and targeted programs. These forums give employees a chance to engage actively and participate, rather than stand on the sidelines and watch from afar.
Such grassroots initiatives empower employees to contribute their own experiences and allow them to voice their concerns (and failings) without fear of retaliation. It is a safe environment for your staff to participate in tough conversations to bridge the gap from colorblindness to ‘now I see.’
Policy: Assess, evaluate, change
There is no straightforward way to show your brand’s stance on defeating racial equality than to assess organizational policies. Here, senior managers must weed outdated policies and practices to ensure fairness and justice for all employees.
And if you are unsure what to look for during a policy review, here are a few good places to start:
- Do we encourage all employees to contribute their ideas to projects/tasks?
- Are there explicit guidelines set out for employee promotions?
- Do we conduct pay audits to ensure staff earns an equal amount for the same job?
- Do we have proper criteria in place to evaluate employee performance and, importantly, attitude?
- Do we use ‘blind systems’ to ensure qualified candidates of all races and backgrounds have an equal chance of being selected for positions?
- Do we offer temporary workplace counseling for staff dealing with social issues that may impact their mental health?
- How do we address the personal bias that can overflow into brand practices, and what’s our plan of action to mitigate this moving forward?
Black employees from marginalized backgrounds can feel frustrated or worse, left behind, with a lack of opportunity. To counter this, brands can implement ‘big brother (and sister)’ type initiatives that offer support, guidance, mentoring, and coaching. This can be instrumental to career progression and drive long-term change from the onset of one’s career.
While society has carried the burden to enforce change, now it’s time for corporations to follow suit. As business owners, it’s all of our responsibility to make a stand and fight for a future that’s unbiased, equitable, and fair for all.