When organizations work towards cultivating more equitable and inclusive workplaces where all talent can advance and thrive; this is an environment where it is possible to have a counter-cultural experience. It isn’t Utopia; but for some, it sure might feel like it.
Creating workplaces that are more diverse, equitable and inclusive represent spaces that offer an experience outside of the normative experience of most Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in this country; as evidenced by the recent protests and civil unrest which followed as a result of the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
These on-going protests have elevated the issues of institutional and systemic racism. Namely, the more than 400-year struggle and oppression of BIPOC and other marginalized communities in this country; not only in the criminal justice system, but has particularly illuminated white supremacy culture which permeates every system in this country; including the workplace.
Organizations are described as socio-technical systems, comprised of two interdependent, interconnected systems which operate as one, with changes in one system impacting the other and, both systems requiring joint optimization for peak performance. So, this means the racism, injustice, discrimination, inequality and white supremacy culture which permeates our larger society is also prevalent in the social systems of many organizations today.
These systems and cultures impede peak performance, employee engagement and satisfaction, high productivity and retention of diverse talent. And, unless organizational leaders are taking concrete, tangible and measurable steps towards dismantling the oppression reflected in its own leadership, structure, policies, hiring and recruitment practices, pay and cultural norms; these unjust systems will continue to perpetuate.
In this Harvard Business Review reading list of articles: https://hbr.org/2020/06/confronting-racism-at-work-a-reading-list; organizations are encouraged to revisit their approach towards building more diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.
The SHRM article on “Taking Steps to Eliminate Racism in the Workplace (2018) reports: “Racism is bad for business on all fronts. Not only does it place a company in legal jeopardy, but it also fosters a divisive work culture that undermines morale, teamwork and productivity. It makes it harder to recruit, engage and retain diverse talent, and it tarnishes an organization’s reputation and brand.”
This moment in history is an inflection point which seems to be raising the collective consciousness of our country as organizations across the globe race to share their statements of solidarity with the Black community. Your BIPOC employees, in particular, are watching; expecting change and looking for results. Many organizations have a lot of work to do in eradicating systemic racism and other forms of oppression from within its own ranks.
Utopia may be an imaginary place with near perfect qualities for its citizens. However, a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace doesn’t have to be. It may not happen overnight, but it is possible for those who are actually ready, willing and able to do the work.