By J’ai Brown and Leslie Sheffield
We are living in turbulent times, between the still-spreading coronavirus pandemic to sustained and widespread anti-racism demonstrations. Employers are finding themselves in the midst of all of this. But what’s the best way for those that really want to show employees they are more than neutral to their struggles?
Allyship when used in the diversity conversation, expresses support for an underrepresented group, such as people of color, by a non-member of that group, such as a white person, by lending their voice or influence to advocate on their behalf. More and more organizations are looking to find ways to show their allyship of racial equity for their employees, but may not know how to start and continue the connection. Here are a few steps to help get you started.
Create the space
When your organization decides to take part in these types of conversations, a space must be created to allow for listening. This opens the door to allow your employees to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. By listening, you are now validating that these employees matter, and their stories matter to your organization. Within this space, employees can tell you what they are in need of, and how you may be able to provide it to your employees, as long as you are listening. This can be done one-on-one, or in a group setting, but it should be done in a way that is natural for your organization, and not forced or out of alignment with core values.
Executive leadership can use this opportunity to educate themselves with a multitude of resources to help facilitate conversations of racial inclusion and equity. Training leadership on how to discuss sensitive conversations in the workplace is a start. A multitude of resources are available today on diversity, equity and inclusion with a focus on biases, fragility, and history, which can facilitate a starting place for education.
Establish a communication plan
Your organization should develop a communication strategy that clearly states how it will support the racial equity of all employees. This can come as an email, a bulletin or even a video from the leadership team, but it should lay out a plan for moving forward to support employees, detail expected outcomes, and articulate how the program or strategy aligns with the organization’s goals and values.
A great way to hold the organization accountable to its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) pledge is to support and encourage employee advocacy groups, such as groups focused on African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Women or LGBTQ employees. These employee-led and executive sponsored groups help organizations to regularly provide feedback on experiences, challenges, or successes of various employee groups within the company. They also underscore the importance of intersectionality or overlap between various categorizations such as race, gender and sexual orientation. It is likely that these groups will have new ideas and suggestions for how the organization can better support the employees within the group, and create open dialogue for both parties to support the goals of the organization, including business objectives such as recruitment and retention efforts as well as be ambassadors in the community. Additionally, it is critical to ensure that these groups are discussed within forums such as New Hire Orientation.
Employers have the perfect opportunity to stand in support of the employees that make up their workforce that are standing in the need of support from an ally.
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