The current social justice movement has led to an important push for organizations to look inside their four walls and honestly examine how their culture, policies and practices support diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).
One key component to a committed DE&I program is measurement and accountability. This can take many forms, like publicly reporting on the diversity make up of your organization, especially at leadership levels (see this example from Microsoft) or setting goals for improvement to ensure the makeup of your employees is representative of the community and customer base.
A second way is to get feedback directly from employees to understand how they experience your culture on a day-to- day basis. Asking employees for feedback and analyzing the responses gives you a baseline as to how your organization’s efforts to support diversity, equity and inclusion are viewed today, and will help determine where and how the organization can focus its efforts for positive change tomorrow.
Given the current climate, there are two ways your organization may consider checking in with employees.
1. Ask employees for their feedback regarding how well the organization is living the values of diversity, equity and inclusion:
In addition to asking questions to address the three topics above, we also recommend asking open-ended questions so employees can share their perspectives on key policies, practices, or behaviors that may be contributing to a lack of fairness or belonging. Since we are not always aware of unconscious bias and how it plays out in the practices built into our organizations, asking employees a question such as, “What should we be considering that we may not be aware of in regard to creating a workplace that supports diversity, equity and inclusion?” may help uncover root causes of issues unknown to leaders.
Once feedback has been collected, review the data by various demographic groups (race/ethnicity, age, gender identity, LGBTQ identification, disability, veteran status, etc.) to understand where experiences may differ. The Newmeasures 2020 State of Engagement white paper found that while engagement levels are fairly comparable for men and women and by race/ethnicity, perceptions of experiences do vary. For example, women have less favorable perceptions of communication and accessibility to leadership. Examining feedback from the perspectives of protected classes can help identify opportunities and how to address them.
2. Directly ask employees for feedback on how well the organization is responding to the current social justice climate.
- Do employees understand what the organization is doing in response to current social justice movements, and do they believe it is enough?
- Do they feel like they have a safe place to talk about social justice? Do they feel supported by the organization in taking action in the ways that are important to them?
- Do the organization’s stated values match how employees experience them internally?
More than ever, employees are paying attention to the diversity, equity, and inclusion practices of their employers and demanding real change. Starbucks is one prominent example of employees pushing their organization to walk their talk. In early June, Starbucks tweeted support for Black Lives Matter, but kept a uniform policy in place that did not allow baristas to wear Black Lives Matter shirts or pins. This led to frustration and disappointment from employees as well as criticism from the public and media. Starbucks announced a change to its policy a week later and distributed 250,000 Black Lives Matter shirts to employees who wanted to wear them.
While the response to Starbucks’ change in policy has received mixed reviews, this example highlights the importance of employers acting consistently with their values of diversity and inclusion. When there is disconnect, the result is employee frustration and distrust of leadership. Checking in with employees for feedback on how well the organization is living up to its standards is an important step for organizations that are serious about holding themselves accountable for their DE&I efforts. While it may lead to difficult conversations and hard work to address unconscious biases, this is the path to long lasting change.