By: JOCELYN GIANGRANDE, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CCDP Diversity and Inclusion Expert & Consultant
Companies have heard the cry and now they feel the need to do something about it. However, those who jump in too fast, may find themselves treating symptoms instead of potential root causes. – Jocelyn Giangrande
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. This incident launched an international movement for racial justice and equality and has caused institutions to reevaluate systemic inequality. As a consequence, many organizations are giving their diversity & inclusion (D&I) efforts another look. My phone is ringing off the hook with organizations wondering what to do next to get the ball rolling. However, I caution organizations of moving too fast and reacting without a plan.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do something quickly especially when there’s national attention and a call for change. So, before you risk biting off more than you can chew, sometimes going back to basics is a good way to begin. Below are few steps to explore to get started on revisiting your D & I efforts:
GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE. You’d be surprised how many organizational leaders don’t really know their people. Many think they do because they hold town halls and administer feedback surveys. The best way to get to know them is not in massive halls or anonymous surveys but in casual social settings. The more you can establish ways for your leadership to engage and interact with your people socially, the better. Informal gatherings without formal agendas work best. Some examples are listed below:
- Take different routes into your workplace forcing you to walk through different areas or departments and strike up casual conversations.
- Make a point to chat with someone each day that you don’t know or those you know the least.
- Engage in one-on-one listening sessions where you just ask questions not statements with a goal of learning more.
- Eat lunch with employees at all levels. This can be done virtually as well.
FOCUS ON YOUR SIMILARITIES. When it comes to D & I, most of us focus on our differences. However to build alliances, finding commonalities is a great way to build a foundation for sustainable relationships. Usually your shared values are a good place to start. You will find that we have more in common than not. This helps breakdown barriers and open doors to dialog.
FIND OUT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WORK AT YOUR ORGANIZATION FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR. The show Undercover Boss is a great model because it puts the boss in the shoes of an employee. This vantage point provides a different perspective and often opens eyes to the everyday experiences, challenges and personal lives of the people who work for them. Nothing is more enlightening than walking in someone else’s shoes. Consider the following tactics:
- Try working in different roles for a day or week in your organization or try shadowing an employee for the day. This may help you see things that you may have been blind to seeing working in the C-suite. Once as a Director of Human Resources for a hospitality company, I decided to put on a uniform and work as a housekeeper for a week, a department that had a high concentration of people of color. Long story short, I lasted three days. That experience taught me so much about the challenges of physical work, barriers to advancement opportunities and the personal struggles that impact your performance, attendance and health. After three days of being in someone’s shoes, I was equipped to make policy and recognition changes including educating supervisors on how to create a more engaging, empathic and accommodating environment. It paid dividends in retention, productivity, quality of work and even decreased injuries.
- Dig deep into the data. If you administer employee feedback, engagement or satisfaction surveys, cut the data by demographics and see what story it tells. Also, look at workforce data around hires, fires and promotions. Are there notable trends or success stories? Also, review talent management/ performance management data to see how leaders document performance, manage development and identify who gets exposure and learning opportunities. Determine where your feeder groups for promotions and for hiring stem. All of this data and metrics can provide you with a wealth of information to supplement your quest to get to know your culture and opportunities for equity.
COMMUNICATE YOUR EFFORTS BROADLY. Lastly, let your people know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Be careful to be inclusive and not exclusive. Therefore, diversity isn’t just about people of color. It’s about all people and if you swing your pendulum too far in the other direction, you may lose those whom you need to make it happen. The international protest included people from all walks of life. That helped draw the attention to make a change. If you focus on all your people, you will capture people of color, women and other diverse groups. This is an opportunity for everyone to be part of the solution.
At the end of the day, the country has spoken that these injustices can no longer be ignored. When you feel pressure to do something, it’s tempting to jump in and get busy. However, be careful. You could end up making commitments that you may not be set up to keep or implementing training before you know what you need to learn. Therefore, pause, start slow and plan for the future. You’ll be off to a great start to a strategic, sustainable effort for long term positive change.
JOCELYN GIANGRANDE, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CCDP
Giangrande is an award-winning diversity and inclusion (D&I) expert known for her strategic approach to cultural transformations, shaping diversity visions and leading the strategic direction of D & I initiatives. Focused on a holistic and integrated approach, her consultations, seminars and trainings are implemented across the country where her thought-provoking D & I Executive Strategy Retreats are “culturally transformational”. With a track record of over 25 years building award-winning inclusive cultures that attract, engage, develop and retain talent, this nationally known Cornell University certified diversity expert knows the right questions to ask and has the courage to challenge leaders.