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Organizations are wrestling with what to say or do right now given the current political climate. It’s tempting to say you don’t want to talk about politics at work. Many are defaulting to not saying anything dismissing employees’ questions as personal issues that don’t belong in the workplace, while many employees are looking to their organizations for answers. They want to know their stance on the human issues that affect their well-being and values.
If your organization has yet to send a message or make a statement about human issues affecting diversity, it’s not too late. It doesn’t have to be a political viewpoint or an invasion of personal freedoms. Instead, consider offering a human perspective.
Your employees, your customers and the communities you serve are likely looking to your organization for clarity. Saying nothing may feel safer. In fact, many industry leaders are using their voices now for positive change. And, there is an upside to recruiting and retaining top talent, energizing your customer base and enriching your relationships with your community.
Saying “we care” matters
It may feel easier to stay silent and hope the news cycle slows down, but a recent Edelman Trust Barometer finds that 58% of customers make buying decisions based on values and beliefs. And according to a Pew Research Center study of 6,637 adults in the U.S., 75% of them believe it’s “very or somewhat important” for companies and organizations to promote diversity.
There is no on and off switch for diversity. You can’t say that you support diversity and inclusion and then choose not to speak up when recent events counter diversity. Supporting humans is what diversity and inclusion are all about.
What do I do to support diversity?
You can look to some industry leaders for some examples of what good communication looks like. For example, Salesforce has a long-standing reputation for addressing polarizing issues that affect its workforce. They have proactively reached out to lawmakers to share concerns and have regularly audited their pay data for gaps by gender, rectifying the gaps each time.
Salesforce’s equality statement is clear and simple: They set a goal in 2019 to have 50% of their U.S. employees from underrepresented groups by 2023, as their “aspiration is to create a workplace that looks like society and to do this, we need to accelerate representation.”
Ben & Jerry’s ties social and economic justice to their core values. They regularly post on social media about human issues and take firm stances when situations occur outside of their core values. It’s how they do business, and the marketplace and consumers have rewarded them with growth in sales as a result.
Patagonia has committed to corporate social responsibility and has been an industry leader for some time in that space, yet realized that diversity needed to improve. They have leveraged their leadership position in the outdoor space to bring more diversity to their industry. They started with a leadership retreat to define diversity, equity and inclusion, then map out the plan to drive more diversity to their industry — and one that’s not been diversely represented historically.
You may be thinking “I’m a small business” or “this isn’t something we’ve done before.” That’s okay. People are not looking for perfection. They’re looking for progress. They want signals to know if is this a safe place for me to work. They are wondering, are my company’s values aligned with my values? Do I feel supported and included?
For many marginalized folks, the sad reality is they are not likely well represented at leadership levels, and they’re looking for signals from their organizations to show they are supported. This isn’t about imparting political beliefs to folks or bringing personal issues into the workplace. It’s about supporting people I’m meeting them where they’re at. Many folks with diverse backgrounds feel disheartened, mistrustful, and fear their human rights may be taken away.
If you are struggling with what to say or do, consider these simple questions:
- What do we stand for at our organization?
- What rights and values matter most to our employees, customers, and communities?
- How can we leverage our voice for good?
The rewards far outweigh the risks
It can be easy to go in a fear-based mindset. Instead of focusing on the critics and people that might be alienated by your message, answer the questions above and communicate authentically. Make a stance that feels comfortable and well-representative of the organization. Consider that people might have different viewpoints, and this is about empathy.
By speaking up and using your voice, employees are likely to reward you with loyalty, you’ll have access to a more diverse pool of top talent and your employees will feel psychologically safe speaking about hard things in the future.
Diversity is a human issue. Human issues are a part of our workplace now more than ever. If your organization says it cares about diversity, then speaking up is an expectation.