How Employers Can Provide Support Through Racial Diversity

The technology industry is notorious for having an unbalanced gender ratio and this is something that we have supported many of our clients through as we help build out their technical teams.  Furthermore, we can all agree that recent actions in the US have caused us to step back and reflect. The murder of George Floyd has erupted one of the largest civil unrest movements in years. When it comes to team diversity, this not only affects our future hiring initiatives and considerations, but also has given employers an opportunity to create an environment of security and trust for their current teams.

So how can you support the Black Lives Matter movement within your workplace? And how can you support all visible minorities on your team who may be questioning their security at this time?

Provide emotional support

It’s very likely that employees may be feeling incredibly emotional, scared and angry right; their mental wellbeing will be taking a hit with such horrendous news. While you should already be supporting the mental health of all employees, realise that some may need extra help. Allow them to take time off if they feel they need it to heal, but at the same time, understand that they may prefer to be in work.

As employers, it’s crucial to recognise that people are understandably hurting and show your support. Ensure that your company has an open culture and they feel comfortable talking to at least one individual about how they’re feeling. Empathy and support from a workplace can significantly improve your mental health, and in situations such as this knowing your team are on-side, and care can mean the world.

Time off for demonstrations

Protests against Police Brutality are still occurring across the globe. If employees wish to go out and protest, employers must let them use their voice by allowing them to take time off work. There’s no issue with talking to your employees about protesting safely and sensibly as well keeping in line with social distancing regulations as COVID-19 remains a considerable concern. However, your employees must be entitled to freedom of speech and stand up for their rights. While this is hard to encourage remotely, why not invite employees to take a picture that you can share on social media? This shows your employees you support the cause and peaceful political demonstrations.

Review your own policies

Review your approach to racism and discrimination at work. While it’s already illegal, it’s more imperative than ever that employees take such actions seriously. It’s important to admit if you have made mistakes or overlooked issues of injustice in the past; acknowledging where improvement is needed is the first step to significant change.

Make sure that your stance and policy towards workplace discrimination of all kinds is known throughout your organisation. Employees must know how to report offences and who to report to. You must also make sure you act upon any issues that arise. It’s time to lead by example, and the real way you can instigate change is by doing, so don’t say you’ll tackle workplace discrimination if you don’t mean it.

Promote learning on diversity

One thing that the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted to many people is that they have been ignorant or unknowledgeable when it comes to issues of race and discrimination. With many already pledging to read more books, watch films and series about racism, listen to podcasts and engage in open conversations, it’s clear that there is a huge appetite to grow our understanding in hopes to fight racism.

Businesses can help with this. HR teams may wish to share a list of materials to help individuals educate themselves more on issues of race both inside and outside of work.

Diversity and inclusion programmes have been around for a long time, but now your employees will have a better understanding of why they are so important, and it’s a way of making all voices heard. Provide company-wide training sessions about diversity and racism, ensuring that everyone is clear on your policies and what it means to be an ally of BLM.

Openly support charities

While we appreciate that now is a difficult time for many businesses financially, if you are in a position to make a financial gesture, your employees may appreciate it. A public gesture of support not only makes your stance on racism clear to the wider community but shows that you care to improving life for many.

If you aren’t in a position to donate, like many businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, you can still share charities on your social media feeds and with employees internally. This can help rally support for much-needed causes. Make your position clear without getting yourself into an uncomfortable financial situation after any COVID related budget cuts.

Create a diverse workforce

It’s one thing to share a black square on social media, to offer a one-off diversity workshop or to ask employees to sign a petition; but in order to instigate change, your business must act. Ensure that you adjust your recruitment process to be more objective and reduce risk of unconscious bias and discrimination; investigate automations and blind screening as well as having diverse interview panels to ensure future hires are based on talent rather than any other factor.

This is the first step in ensuring your workplace is truly diverse and not just in the sense that you hire people of different races, genders, sexualities or even with disabilities. You must ensure that opportunities and development are available to anyone that wants to progress.

Opening opportunities to all will help you to create a diverse leadership team and play your part in the fight against systemic racism. Offer the opportunity to study for a qualification alongside work, mentoring schemes or even ensuring any online training opportunities are communicated throughout the business to all staff.

If you are changing your recruitment process or providing greater progression opportunities as a response to Black Lives Matter, tell your employees. They will not judge you for actions you didn’t take in the past but will take your response to the crisis positively.