Four Steps to Promoting Racial Equity in the Workplace

As a leader, do you know how your company’s culture and policies perpetuate racial inequity? 

This month, the Kindred community welcomed Chantalle Couba, Founder and D&I Advisor at Namaste Consulting, and the Honorable Rodney E. Hood, Board Member at NCUA, for an open discussion on auditing policies and practices to promote racial equity in the workplace. 

This timely discussion is especially important considering that BIPOC employees are four times more likely to experience workplace discrimination related to race and ethnicity than their white colleagues, according to Hue. And nearly 85% of employees reported a lack of meaningful progress on building a more equitable environment for employees of color in the past year.

So, how can leaders create work environments that are free of racial disparities? Below, we share insights from the conversation. Read on to learn how to create workplaces where all employees have equal opportunities, improved outcomes, and feel a sense of safety and belonging. 

1. Create bridges for diverse talent.

The lack of access or bridges to different networks is one of the largest barriers to progress for diverse talent. Institutional biases can impact hiring strategies and where companies look for top talent.

According to Chantalle, if your company’s slate of candidates doesn’t reflect the population you serve or communities you work in, it’s time to upgrade your bridging practices. To get started, reach out beyond your immediate networks and partner with organizations that give you access to BIPOC talent.

2. Rethink the employee experience.

The employee experience is made up of multiple touchpoints, starting with recruitment through an employee’s exit from your company. Unfortunately, each of these touchpoints is also an opportunity for biases to show. Creating a consistent and inclusive experience starts with reviewing the employee experience for bias. Then, updating practices and policies that have a negative impact.

This may mean addressing biases within the hiring process and rethinking language in job descriptions (for e.g., avoiding gender-biased language). It could also look like developing systems to promote employees internally. Be intentional about listening to employees, following up with action, sharing the actions you’re taking and why, and updating employees on progress. 

3. Consider the user perspective from product design to sales.

Another important consideration for racial equity and inclusion is in product development and marketing. To promote equity, Chantalle recommends incorporating user feedback as you develop products, services, and experiences. 

Internally, employee resource groups (ERGs) are a wealth of information for leaders when it comes to providing feedback on recruitment, policies, product design, and gaps in the employee experience. However, to be effective, ERGs must be empowered and supported by leadership. Additionally, communities that provide safe spaces to ask questions can also help you understand different perspectives as you build your business. 

4. Develop a framework.

As you review your policies and procedure, creating a framework can help you ensure you produce durable and meaningful initiatives. This involves developing guidelines that align with your business strategy, mission, values, and philosophy. 

Experts recommend reviewing policies and practices from the perspective of impact on employees, customers, and the larger society, and using this data to inform your framework.  These guidelines will help ensure processes, tools, and experiences around the employee journey, vendor selection, and corporate philanthropic efforts are consistent with your equity goals. 

In an environment where agility is necessary, there’s always pressure to move quickly. But when the right action may take more time and resources, it’s okay to trade urgency for importance. When making the case for centering equity, Chantalle and Rodney advise being unapologetic about the fact that changing from the inside out will make you a stronger team and organization. Diversity and equity is a business imperative as well as a moral one. Be intentional about your efforts, set strong and measurable goals, and use your framework as a guide to creating inclusive products, services, and experiences. 

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Urey Onuoha

Published on February 25, 2022