Tackling racial inequity in the workplace

George Floyd’s murder forced individuals and organisations across the globe to examine race and racism in a way we had not been made to before.  Words such as ‘anti-racism’, ‘white-supremacy’ and black squares dominated board rooms and social media alike. But beyond the buzz-words and official statements, what have organisations achieved 1 year on?

Racial equity isn’t something we can hope to have achieved in the last year alone. The systemic oppression of Black, Asian and all other 'minority ethnic' individuals has existed for centuries, and the legacy of slavery and imperialism continues to shape the way we interact with each other, operate within society and within business to this day.

To truly eradicate racism, we must question our infrastructures and ways of thinking completely. This seems like a daunting task, but really it just takes practical steps, time and ultimately commitment. At Culture Shift we believe there are a number of actions that organisations should have taken over the past year to tackle racial inequity. We encourage you to read these, take stock of what you’ve done so far, but importantly, acknowledge that it’s not too late to start taking action.

1. Make a clear statement committing to eradicating racism from your organisation

Racism has long been associated with extreme cases of violence, racial slurs, and the segregation of Black and Brown people throughout history. When we speak of racism in the UK today we are acknowledging a long history of events that have led to the current economic, political and social condition of race.  

The first action is to acknowledge that these issues exist in the world and in the workplace. Whether that be biases we express in our hiring or promotion decisions, ignorance around the differences in how people live, or culturally marginalising members of our teams. Committing to learning about how members of your organisation experience racism, and what you can and will do to eradicate that is a vital step in showcasing the importance of the conversation.

2. Assess your policies and ensure they support racial equity in the workplace

Often the things we do become so commonplace that we don’t even think to challenge them. We put policies in place to hold teams and processes to account, to set expectations, and to ensure fair and equal treatment for all of our people. However, unless these policies have been created with an understanding of the diversity and needs of those that it aims to serve, there could be things lurking in the everyday running of your organisation that are disadvantaging your employees:

Does your holiday system prioritise Christian Holidays without the flexibility to adapt? 

Do your discrimination policies include specific definitions around racial harassment, or is this left to individual discretion?

Assessing the policies that communicate the values of your organisation may reveal some disparities in experience you hadn’t previously contemplated.

3. Identify diversity gaps in your team and the barriers in recruitment processes that might be impacting that

Increased profits@2x

Who’s representing your organisation or brand? Who’s making decisions? Who’s setting the tone of acceptable behaviour? If everyone in your team has a similar background, experience and way of thinking, you could be missing out on a wealth of added value. Research shows that organisations that have a diverse workforce can increase profit performance by up to 36%. Not only is building a more diverse workforce the right thing to do, but it’s also a great business decision.

So, what causes a lack of diversity? It could be a range of things:

  • Do you only recruit graduates from Russell Group universities? Black students are more likely to go to University than their White counterparts, but statistically less likely to be accepted into Russell Group institutions, so limiting your recruitment strategy here could be restricting access for some groups of people.
  • Are you limiting your search geographically? If we’ve learnt anything this past year, it’s that a lot of us can do our jobs as effectively, if not more effectively, remotely. If great diverse talent is a little further afield, consider casting the net a little wider. 
  • Do you recruit internally first as standard practice? Internal recruitment policies offer great progression opportunities for existing team members, however if you aim to benefit from the diversity of thought and experience that having a diverse team can bring, you’ll need to ensure that all jobs are posted externally, and the job is given to the person most qualified.
4. Audit your company culture to understand issues that might be impacting employees

Most leaders build their teams around core values but as time goes on, and particularly as teams grow, cultures can change and drift away from where we started. It’s important we’re consistently aware of the culture in our organisations. Imagine your business were a person, your company culture is essentially your personality, and you want one that people are going to like and feel comfortable around, right?

Understanding the culture of your company is key to knowing the environments that your people are working in, and to identifying and addressing potential challenges. Completing a culture audit can be a great place to start.

5. Give employees the means and empowerment to speak out when they're being mistreated because of their race

No matter how much you do from a leadership position to eradicate racism, it won’t remove the problem altogether, and until we see change at a societal level we need to ensure we’re prepared for when incidences of racial harassment do occur. It’s important that you create a speak-up culture that empowers your staff to let you know when unacceptable behaviour is happening in your organisation. Then it’s vital you have the systems available for them to do that confidently and securely, and the processes in place to handle reports effectively.

The road to change is a long one, but taking action today is the most effective way to protect your organisation and your team in the future.

For more help on how you can tackle racial harassment in your organisation, book a call in with our team today, we’d love to chat.

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