How You Can Support Black Employees During This Time

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The recent bouts of racial injustice have been traumatic for the entire world, but especially for the Black community. This has left many Black employees managing grief and frustration while continuing to go about their work day.

We have received many requests from our partner companies on how they can best support Black employees during this time. For some of our partners, working with Jopwell is the first step to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. For our other partners, we are one of many organizations they work with to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. Regardless of where you are on your DEI journey or how many diversity organizations you are partnered with, we encourage you to address these issues now with Black employees.

At Jopwell, we believe the initial step requires an organization to look internally and take care of its Black employees and culture before any external messaging, partnerships, or commitments are announced. Once you have created a safe space for Black employees, then you can begin outward work and support the rest of the Black community.

We created the following step-by-step framework to guide you in your response:

Step One (Immediate Action): Acknowledgement

Black employees need to know that organizations are hearing them in this moment and acknowledge the realities of police brutality and racism in America. As an organization, you will need to address your commitment in creating lasting change that better supports them and future Black employees:

  1. Organize a meeting with manager-level employees to create a consistent plan for support- Consistency is the key word here. All employees should be afforded the same opportunity to grieve and be heard. During this meeting, encourage management to approach these conversations with humility and active listening. Having a plan of action provides a clear process for managers and holds them accountable.
  2. Do not expect Black employees to lead discussions or meetings- Unless they want to. This tokenizes Black employees who may already be dealing with a lot of pain, grief, and frustration. But, you also shouldn't make assumptions of what Black employees are feeling, supporting, or interested in discussing.
  3. Incorporate a “No Questions Asked Day”- Support employee well-being by implementing an extra day off for mental health purposes, without asking for any type of explanation or clarification.
  4. Host management office hours- Create time for managers to listen to employees. Black employees may need a place to express their feelings and emotions-- allow them access to any managers hosting office hours, as they may not feel comfortable going to their direct manager.
  5. Create a safe space- Only for Black employees. Many times, it’s helpful for Black people to process what is going on with other people who have the same racial experience. If there is interest from Black employees to host a space for other Black employees to process what is going on, management should fully support it.
  6. Send an announcement- That places responsibility on non-Black employees to show up for Black employees and actively unlearn racism. Recent events of racial injustices are not isolated incidents; these events are deeply rooted in a history of systemic racism in America that is implemented and enforced by systems of violence and control (police brutality and incarceration being the primary instigators). Any announcement should acknowledge that there is more work to be done, both (1) internally to consider implicit biases and challenge complacency and (2) externally to enact systemic change. Make sure to reiterate your company’s commitment to anti-racism. If this is your first time speaking up, recognize that your company has failed to show up and speak from a place of humility.

For an organization to successfully move forward, you will need to understand where you are starting from. The immediate action is necessary to let employees know you acknowledge what they are dealing with, but it doesn’t solve any structural racism or sentiments that alienate your Black employees— that’s step two.

Step Two (Short-Term Action): Internal Analysis

In Step Two, you need to analyze your internal culture; how do your employees of color feel about working at your company? Historically, has management proactively engaged with issues related to discrimination? How diverse is leadership? These questions don’t even begin to scratch the surface. If this is the first time management has seriously grappled with how racism affects employees, you must first ask yourself why that is. Systemic racism has been an ongoing problem. Police brutality has been an ongoing problem. Consider the ways your company has failed to show up in the past, and plan a response from that place of humility. You need to do a full top to bottom internal analysis in order to create a robust strategy:

  1. Create a D&I Assessment- Use this assessment to understand diversity at your organization. It should include:
    • How many Black employees are there?
    • How many Black people are there in leadership?
    • What’s the retention of Black employees? (You can calculate your retention rate using this calculator.)
    • Is there a Black ERG?
    • Has your organization ever taken a stance on issues related to race? Why or why not?
  2. Create a survey and require all employees to complete- It should follow the internal audit and should be anonymous for employees to feel comfortable sharing their honest opinions and answers. The survey should include the following:
    • A space to identify with more diverse gender options, learn more about the options here.
    • A space to self-identify racial identity. To get a good foundation to understand how racial identity works in America, find an introduction here. You might be able to base your questionnaire off census categories, but understand that even these government categories aren’t perfect. For example, for many people in the Latinx community, it is hard to know which box to check.
    • Questions surrounding feelings of support and preparedness - From an organization level - From a managerial level
    • Questions asking how committed they believe the leadership team to integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion practices from a culture and management level.
    • Questions on whether or not employees feel like they have experienced identity-based discrimination at the workplace.
    • Questions on what employees would like to see more of: employee resource formation, learning and development training, unconscious bias training.

While you should leave room for open-ended responses, you do not want to overwhelm employees with these types of questions.

  1. Review the company budget- Where is your organization spending most of its money? Make room to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives like: recruiting, employee resource groups, and anti-racism training.

We want to be clear: racial justice will not be achieved in the short term. By committing to change, you need to continuously work towards it, which is a long term investment.

Step Three (Long-Term Action): Make the Investment

After the internal audit, it is time to take the results and implement change. This might look like some of the following:

  1. Create a working group- If your organization does not have a group of DEI advocates in the workplace, create one. Encourage allied employees to also join and put in work. Be cognizant of the workload this adds to working group members, and make sure managers reward employees for taking on this responsibility to make your workplace more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
  2. Invest in internal education- Systemic racism continues to persist in our society, because it is hidden in plain sight. In order to combat systemic racism, we need to learn more about it: its place in our laws, society’s structure, relatability, and within ourselves. it shows up in the way our laws are written, society is structured, how we relate with one another, and even deep within ourselves. Understand type change what Black Lives Matter movement leaders are calling for. You can find a policy platform here.
  3. Consider hiring an expert- Let’s face it - race is a really difficult conversation to have because of its traumatic history and its traumatic role in many of our lives. If management feels at a loss for what to do and if employee are unable to take on internal leadership, consider investing in a DEI consultant to help your organization think through how to respond.
  4. Invest in diversity partnerships- Find organizations that are working directly with the community and can support you in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive space. This could be a partner, like Jopwell, that provides a candidate pipeline or consultation on surveys, onboarding and other employee experiences.
  5. Employer Resource Groups (ERGs)- If you don’t already have them, create them and allow them to hold space, suggest changes, and implement policies in your organization. If you already have them, what are you doing with them? Do they have enough funding and resources to influence change?
  6. Create a strategic plan- With deadlines and KPIs. Think beyond the quota and goals that improve on the initial survey responses from Step Two. Hold managers accountable beyond adding to the pipeline, but also focusing on retention and overall employee experience.
  7. Make a financial commitment- To an organization supporting Black Lives Matter causes. Ask your Black employees which organizations they feel passionate about supporting to show a commitment to the cause beyond this moment, consider crafting a plan for what it would look like to make a multi-year commitment to funding organizations doing the work on the ground.

Remember it is a long journey ahead, but with the right foundation in place you will arrive on the right side of the fight. Be ready to admit your shortcomings, but provide the empathy, humility, and transparency Black employees need to feel heard.

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