You may have noticed there is a spirit of “woke” consciousness in the air within your organization. Your employees, shareholders and industry collectives are coming together to make their desires for social and cultural change heard. Face it folks, the dawn of a new era is upon us. Gone are the days when racial equality, social justice, white privilege and an ongoing epidemic of black men and women being killed in the street are topics to be discussed far from the employee break room and even further from the C-Suites.
This social injustice movement is gaining traction and if that scares you, that’s not a good sign.
In the past 12-18 months we've seen
- Women walking out in protest of the mishandling of sexual misconduct claims;
- Employees using their shares to get the attention of the board over concerns about the lack of action on climate change;
- Protests over facial recognition software further marginalizing people of color and immigrants;
And that's just within the corporate world. Some might say we are watching America transform before our very eyes into a totalitarian society akin to the fictional Republic of Gilead from Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale. More are fully realizing that there is very little diversity in executive level positions - or anywhere else for that matter. There is a new kind of industry organizing around uncomfortable social issues. It has arrived quickly and - potentially - with a high personal cost to your organization.
Is your organization prepared for change?
The good news (for some) is that by all accounts this movement is only going to grow in support; and more inclusive and fair-minded employees are mobilizing and strategizing ways of holding businesses and their leaders accountable. The bad news (for others) is that the system has worked as it was designed to during a time when Jim Crow reigned supreme and women were called Housewives. That's a lot of social structure to tear down.
Change is overdue and your organization may not be prepared to manage it in the correct way.
How an organization responds to this new movement depends on the ability of leadership to see the organization through the lens of employees at all levels and to take accountability for the culture they have fostered. While an organization may be rightfully committed to the inclusion of all things LBGTQ and pay equity for women, there may be very little evidence to the naked eye that “Black Lives Matter.“ This cannot be a one-size-fits-all type of change. It needs to be done intentionally and with multiple perspectives involved. (Tip: Should you choose to beef up your Diversity & Inclusion and/or Social Justice initiatives as a result of the recent worldwide call to action, please refrain from starting your campaign with a declaration that “All Lives Matter.”)
This movement is also not going anywhere anytime soon. With the Global Climate Strike kicking off, continued Black Lives Matter protests taking over many cities, and an American presidential election just months away - it may be just starting to gain traction. The question is, how prepared are you to listen, learn and take action? The methods of yesteryear (or even last year) aren't likely to work any more.
What’s different about this social injustice movement?
Millennial and Generation Z employees are on the rise; and they are more concerned about the employer brand they represent vs. their own personal interest. They are concerned about the footprint and social values of the organization they work for. They also have an expectation that the businesses they buy from think of and make a meaningful contribution to people, communities, and society -- not just profits.
Inherently shifting the nature of recruitment and consumer demand, the values held by this more socially committed demographic has already managed to infiltrate and influence more conservative organizations. Including those headed by leadership teams indifferent to the wants, needs and desires of diverse employees that have largely been marginalized in the past.
We are living in a time where racism, antisemitism, gender bias, cultural polarization, and even modern day lynchings are being woven into the fabric of our daily experience, for some more than others. Don’t miss this opportunity to take a stand and lead change.
All organizations will face challenges in determining how best to respond to the call to eradicate injustice and foster more progressive environments. Some will choose to do nothing while others will rise to the occasion. If you are ready to be part of progressive movement for social change and impactful diversity and equality, we will be providing some best practices to support you in your journey.
Stay tuned. We're not about to let this momentum pass us by.
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