Is it time to break the unspoken rule of separation of workplace and politics? Employee productivity, engagement and sustainability could be on the line.
Whether or not you agree with the strong emotional reaction of those who opposed the tenor of the Republican campaign, the harsh reality of this polarizing chapter in history is that many individuals from diverse backgrounds are feeling fearful, angry and/or uncertain. They don’t know who to trust and it’s a safe bet that this includes colleagues and leaders at work. On the flipside, supporters of the President-elect may feel defensive of their decision, regardless of what motivated it, and resent the strong outpouring of opposition that is readily apparent. Neither “feeling” can be shrugged off like a coat just because an employee steps into the office.
Internal communications professionals like me, as well as HR and Diversity & Inclusion teams should inherently understand that to ignore the current climate and go on with business as usual could hurt a company’s culture, more than help it. Nevertheless, some companies will do just this. These are the same companies that execute a major RIF and don’t bat an eye, expecting those who “survived” to be grateful and happy.
But for those companies that have a conscience, for any manager that understands the direct correlation between outside events and employee productivity and for those senior leaders who see their employees as people rather than commodities, there is a great opportunity to engage, reassure and empower employees in a way that ultimately benefits the company.
At a time like this, companies and their leaders need their most trusted advisors in communications, human resources and diversity & inclusion to counsel, advise and support them.
Whether you believe this season will last four days, four weeks or four years, now is the time to act. Now is the time to move beyond offering a smattering of employee affinity groups, observing heritage months and featuring smiling faces representing diverse backgrounds in employee videos and marketing materials. Now is the time to truly demonstrate what a company that embraces diversity is – one that recognizes that each individual makes a unique contribution because they are a unique individual and that nothing – especially intolerance or bias – should pose a barrier to making such contributions.
It is only when employees work in an environment in which they feel safe enough to be who they are that they can thrive. When talent and competency trump demographic profiles and stereotypes, that is the hallmark of a truly inclusive company.
At a time of heightened skepticism for many women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities, companies are at risk of employees’ disengaging, or even leaving, if they feel they do not belong. In terms of attracting new talent, millennials are already notorious for selecting their workplace based on values, integrity and culture.
Every company will have to decide what is authentic and appropriate for them. Not every CEO may send out a reassuring email to employees like Apple’s Tim Cook. Not every company may choose to take it a step further and invite supporters of hate to quit, like GrubHub’s Matt Maloney. But the possibilities are plenty.
Whether you are asking leaders to join Town Hall discussions at affinity group meetings to address anonymously submitted questions and concerns or you run a campaign reminding people of important policies about sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, do something.
Your employees are watching. In fact, they’re waiting. Show them that your company has a pulse, and its senior-most leaders know and understand that right now this pulse, is racing.