Why is it important for people to feel safe at work?
While it might seem obvious that workplace inclusion and employee support leads to a better work environment, many organizations don’t actively work to foster that.
Employees feeling like they can voice suggestions or concerns regardless of their position in the company hierarchy is crucial to succeeding in today’s fast-paced world.
People of color have long been victim to greater discrimination and a lack of opportunities compared to their workplace counterparts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 87.3 percent of American CEOs were white and only 4.8 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian and 3.8 percent black.
In the last decade, this has stagnated. The 2018 statistics show 89.5 percent white, 6.1 percent Latino, 5.9 percent Asian and 3.5 percent black among American CEOs. Still, women of color face even greater hurdles – there are no female black or Latina CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
The problem exists at the top and every level below it.
A 2017 Harvard Business Review Study found that 78 percent of black professionals said they have experienced discrimination or fear that they or their loved ones will, yet 38 percent felt they were unable to speak about their experiences of bias at their companies. Those numbers were echoed in other groups as well: 28 percent of white and Latino workers and 36 percent of Asian workers felt it was unacceptable to bring up experiences of racial bias at work.
These statistics highlight the widespread nature of the issue. Putting principles into practice is what it takes to overcome this – but how do you do it?
How do you create a sense of safety?
- Encourage conversation about race
It can be difficult for employees to feel comfortable talking about race. That attitude often starts at the top, and if lower-level employees see their CEO being silent on the topic, they’re more likely to censor themselves as well. Many don’t want to become known as “agitators.”
It’s vital to encourage discussion of race, and let employees know speaking out won’t be reprimanded. White employees need to be a part of it, too – approaching the issue in an open and non-judgemental way means that everyone can contribute.
2. Recognize bias
Many people aren’t even aware of their unconscious bias in the hiring and promotion processes. Take active steps against this by training supervisors to look beyond their tendency to give a greater look at those similar to them.
Invest in retaining employees of color, and reinforce the ethos that race will not be a barrier to hiring or advancement. If executives make it clear they look at everyone equally, employees of color will feel more motivated and better positioned for advancement.
3. Measure accountability
Inclusion programs do little good if they’re more words than action. It’s important to use tracking systems like Stratus TMS Strategy Lighthouse to make sure what’s actually taking place in the company reflects diversity and inclusion goals.
Tying bonuses to meeting these goals is one way to encourage such accountability.
4. Create sponsorship programs
Don’t just tell employees of color they have the same opportunities at your company as anyone else – help them see those opportunities and encourage them to make use of them.
It’s all about who you know, and workplace inclusion is not excluded from that adage. Mentorship is vital, and the advocacy of a sponsor can make a world of difference. Research from the Center for Talent Innovation shows that women of color that have the support of a sponsor are 81% more likely to be satisfied with their career advancement than those without.
How can Cockerham & Associates help?
We’re here to help you figure out how to make workplace inclusion and employee support central tenets of your company. We provide consulting and advising services backed by technology. From setting up mentorship programs to organizing events, we want to help you make it happen.
The strategies we help build focus on implementation, measurement and impact. The previously-mentioned Strategy Lighthouse and ERG Insight technologies help your company stay organized and on-target. Check out our website to see how we can help you.