Thaly Germain is general manager of Transformation & Culture at BerlinRosen.
Let’s talk about diversity, equity and inclusion.
In 2020, businesses and organizations of all kinds have made public commitments to address inequality inside and outside their walls. Facing the undeniable harsh realities of America’s racist policies and practices – from the murder of George Floyd to the disproportionate consequences of the pandemic on Black and Brown communities – the workplace became an important place to push for change. Whether under pressure from employees or through the initiative of leaders, many companies and organizations admitted they had internal problems and committed to ‘doing the job’.
As part of these commitments, many companies have set DEI goals, seeking to diversify teams, educate employees on implicit biases, and create more flexible work policies in response to work-life demands imposed by the pandemic. Some organizations invested in DEI consultants and embarked on ambitious strategies to change institutional culture through policies and practices that would have a meaningful and tangible impact on their staff, other stakeholders and their brands for the better. At that point, the culture as a whole felt charged and alive with new personal and collective commitments to anti-racist action.
Then the moment passed.
It’s been more than two years. While some organizations stay on track in their DEI journeys, many efforts have jammed. From my perspective, a number of organizations seem to be satisfied with the progress they have made or have returned to the status quo.
This is a mistake.
While the public clamor for change may be over in 2020, the underlying dynamics that drove them are not. Structural racism still underpins every aspect of our society, and most Americans believe that big companies still have work to do. As employees and consumers As companies and brands increasingly expect to embrace their values, organizations that fail to recognize and proactively respond to this societal shift are putting themselves at risk.
What does this mean for brands and corporate culture?
Loss of trust
As DEI practitioners and leaders, my team works with companies and organizations across industries who come to us because they have lost the trust of their team members and core audiences. When you intend to do a good job and this work will positively impact your culture and vision, a sudden deprioritization of those values will cost you confidence – the trust of your team, your clients and your customers.
Companies that ignore DEI targets risk being viewed by their staff and supporters as weak-willed and only interested in the point of doing the right thing. According to a recent Edelman Trust Barometer, U.S. workers are steadily losing confidence in how employers handle racial issues, especially among Black and Asian workers. report.
Mass exodus of people of color
Losing trust is costly. Either it leaves organizations with a dissatisfied workforce – a workforce that doesn’t perform at its best but stays on for financial or other benefits – or the organization sees an increase in turnover among employees of color. For example a Savanta from 2021 report found that “nearly a third of BIPOC employees have quit their jobs due to a lack of D&I at their company.” A Survey 2022 by the Society for Human Resource Management on the Great Resignation likewise underscored that “black workers pay attention” to organizations’ DEI practices and are more likely than white workers to seek better opportunities.
With high turnover comes the additional resources required to recruit and train new team members, as well as new challenges to retain employees who only superficially deliver on commitments. Even before 2020, inclusive companies were shown to be significantly more profitable.
Cultural irrelevance and inability to compete in the marketplace
In this day and age it is not a selling point for any recruiter to fill your ranks with homogeneous staff. Tone-deaf marketing ploys will invariably get called out. From my perspective, today’s competitive candidates and values-based consumers not only expect diverse teams and inclusive practices, but they also want employers and brands to demonstrate the depth of their commitment to DEI through examples of real change they see inside and outside. have created the workshop. Americans believe that corporations play a key role in advancing justice, and so do companies with diverse leadership proven to have more success and profit.
Support the DEI work for long term success.
After the 2020 reckoning, many companies and organizations recognized their shortcomings and launched new commitments to change. But culture change does not happen overnight and is never a one-off. If your organization is stuck or sidetracked in building more inclusiveness, now is the time to take concrete action.
To begin with, remember an essential tenet of anti-racist work: the cultural norm of urgency has a way of taking over workplaces and institutions. Don’t let your anti-racism work fall prey to a sense of urgency. Here’s a starter list of what you should do:
• Conduct a DEI audit of your organization to uncover your specific strengths and growth areas.
• Develop key performance indicators to capture baseline data on employee engagement as a way to measure progress over time.
• Rely on basic data to develop practices that support day-to-day business success.
• Review and update policies through an equity lens.
• Engage employees through frequent communication and training that builds shared language, skills and capacity or DEI growth.
• Take authentically proactive action in the communities you serve in a way that aligns business goals with your values.
It’s not too late to find ways to reintegrate your core values into your internal practices. The results for your business and your culture will be powerful.