(Guest Blog by Kari Heistad - Culture Coach International)
This U.S. election cycle has been divisive like none other in recent history - and in the days since the election, that divisiveness has continued. Diversity and inclusion professionals can play an important role moving forward by helping people to reset to this new reality, to help people to realize that we can all play a critical role in shaping the coming years, and that knowing that while divisiveness may be the feeling that we are all grappling with, we can still find ways to move forward and to find common ground.
Within this reality, here are some useful steps and suggestions that D&I professionals can take in the coming weeks and months.
Acknowledge that Society Issues and the Workplace Overlap
The more social issues employees have on their mind, the less focused they are at work. While many organizations may resist bringing social issues into the workplace, we cannot ignore the impact that they are having upon employees.
Action Step: Raise awareness about how the election results may impact your employees, staff, vendors, etc. - and their sense of feeling valued and included. Acknowledge concerns. Drive home the value of respecting and including others - inside and outside of the workplace.
Engage in Dialogue with Senior Leaders
It is important to speak with senior leaders about what approach they want to take with social issues and employees at this time. Help them to understand how these issues may impact recruiting, retention, management, and engagement, particularly of diverse employees. Ask, does the senior leadership team want to actively look at improving the esprit de corps, trust, and common understanding? If so, what needs to happen? If they do not want to tackle social issues head-on, do they want to speak on topics like resiliency that will resonate and help with teamwork but not speak to social issues directly?
Action Step: Decide on a course of action with your senior leadership team.
Create Talking Points for Senior Leaders
Even if your organization isn’t talking about social issues at work, they will come up in conversations within the context of your diversity and inclusion efforts and programs. Ensure that your leaders have a clear idea on how to answer questions that arise so that they are consistent with messaging and that they feel prepared.
Action: Provide senior leaders with 3-4 talking points about what you are doing, why you are doing it, and the link to your business.
Support Managers Building Trust and Teamwork
D&I practitioners can raise awareness with managers about how concerns over personal safety, the fear of the future, and a sense of exclusion can create a constant level of stress for employees. This stress impacts an employee’s ability to function effectively in their job. Managers can build trust and improve teamwork with employees by listening to their concerns and asking how they can help. If they feel the employee needs counseling services, direct them to human resources.
Action Step: Give managers tips on helping employees, talking points for what the company is doing and why, and support for solving issues.
Review Company Policies
Review company policies on harassment and bullying so that if issues arise, managers and human resources personnel are aligned in terms of what actions to take.
Action Step: Remind managers of the policies and action steps to take if harassment or bullying occurs. Provide clear examples of behaviors that violate your policies.
Serve as an Ally
There will need to be allies of all kinds. Ask yourself who around you needs an ally and then step into that role in a proactive way.
Action Step: Use these tips on being an ally to help you and others be the allies that we all need right now.
Help to Build A Successful Future
Currently, the United States is the least diverse it will ever be in our lifetimes. The level of diversity found in the country will continue to grow. For companies to survive and thrive they will need diverse workforces that: have productive teams, retain talent, develop talent pipelines to replace those retiring, find innovative solutions to company challenges, and have engaged and productive teams that will achieve organizational goals. In this time of great social uncertainty, workplaces can provide a place for growth, strength, resiliency, camaraderie, and encouragement. Building a culture that will allows your organization to play a role in the future that we all want to be part of is the directive for diversity and inclusion professionals as we look forward.
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