Company leaders have a tremendous opportunity right now to build real trust with people of color by being intentional about the conversations happening in the workplace. And as HR leaders, you have the important role of being the bridge for these conversations to happen. They may not be fun or pretty, but they're important.
As a mental health speaker, much of my work is focused on supporting HR leaders around mental health initiatives. This usually involves addressing the mental health stigma. I've learned having uncomfortable and awkward conversations is the critical key to transforming this stigma.
We don't usually like to have these types of conversations. But they help us reach a place of understanding.
The same is true for navigating racism.
We will only make real and lasting progress in this area when we focus on empathizing with people who have different perspectives than us. It's important to understand that we're never going to fully understand someone who is living in a different set of shoes. But we can do our best to have empathy so we can reach a place of connecting better. And ultimately be able to get more done together.
What you need to keep in mind as an HR leader
- Many people of color are angry, sad and scared right now. Those are difficult emotions that make it hard to focus, communicate and respond to everyday situations. They often stem from not feeling listened to or feeling a lack of control over what's happening in life.
- Company words right now need to be more authentic than ever and backed up by action. Your initiative cannot be about meeting the status quo to avoid being a victim of the "cancel culture".
- Diversity and Inclusion training needs to be an ongoing, regular part of your work. This will ultimately lead to increased productivity and profitability. You may need to use this angle when talking with your C-level executives about your initiative.
- Learn to ask the right questions and then listen. Here are some examples:
○ "What do you see happening that I don't see?"
○ "How do you think you are perceived by the leaders in the company?"
○ "What do you feel we need to be doing that we're not doing?"
○ Or simply say, "Help me understand."
Creating effective messaging
Right now, people want to hear what your company stands for. Let them know that you don't support racism. Share your policies and what the company is doing to prevent it. Then, BE LOUD with your actions showing the follow-through. The more public you are, the more trust you will build if you follow it up with action. Don't get caught saying one thing and doing another!
Please understand that it's important to embrace not getting it right. No matter how much you "perfect" your message, there will be people who think you're saying it wrong or not saying enough. We're not going to get it just right. But the important thing is making sure that we do our best to understand and empathize with others' perspectives. It's really that simple.
Together Forward @Work is a call-to-action for the HR profession and broader business community to drive racism and social injustice out of America’s workplaces. Get the resources you need to create racial equity at work.