George Floyd: 1 year later brands grapple with diversity

George Floyd
(George Floyd: One Year Later)

Today marks a somber anniversary as it was a year ago Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. While his death was a harrowing reminder of the threats Black men face every day from public servants, the tragedy also served as a wake-up call to White America as well as brands.

As the nation recognizes the anniversary of Floyd’s death, many corporate executives who vowed to change the course on diversity, equity, and inclusion are still trying to figure out how to take bolder actions to create more diverse and inclusive companies, according to experts at Fierce Conversations, a leadership development and training company.

Kaplan Mobray, an author, leadership, and diversity expert who has spoken to dozens of corporate leaders over the past year, offers six best practices that can help more corporate leaders to transform their companies.

“The death of George Floyd opened the door to long-overdue conversations about race and culture within their organizations,” says Mobray, who leads a 3D simulation training session on “Microaggressions in the Workplace” for Fierce Conversations. “Now, post-George Floyd, [corporate leaders] are really focused on workplace culture and creating an inclusive culture for their organization and employer brand.”

According to a recent survey of employees in the workplace, nearly 80% believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion attract high-quality talent and improve the company’s reputation with customers.

On the other hand, the survey points out that “34% of employees – including 39% of leaders” – believe that DE&I initiatives are a waste of organizational time, effort, and money. The survey included 1,527 full-time employees in companies across the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.

“This data exposes the fact that while we have begun to make progress, there is still much more work to do to drive inclusion within the workplace,” Mobray says. “Training and conversations need to continue to keep the momentum and create new norms for inclusiveness within the workplace.”

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Ed Beltran, president and CEO of Fierce Conversations, adds, “We know that when executives practice how to have better conversations with each other and with team members, they can transform an organization’s culture into a place where more people feel welcomed.”

Mobray says he has seen more corporate leaders conducting training to address microaggressions, unconscious bias and continuing the work by having difficult conversations everyday – not just “one and done” training sessions.

Mobray offers the following best practices to help corporate leaders move forward on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts post George Floyd:

  1. Innovation. Setting up innovation labs around diversity, equity and inclusion. Create ongoing forums, “conversation labs,” where employees of all backgrounds can share their experiences at work and develop listening and learning opportunities to address microaggressions in the workplace. Conversations are what create new learning for inclusive behavior. Difficult conversations around race, inclusion, and achieving fairness must become as prevalent as difficult conversations around revenue growth, risk, and market share.
  2. Culture change. Create a culture where employees feel valued and are encouraged to be their true selves, celebrating each individual’s uniqueness. That’s what enables talent acquisition, retention, and career advancement. Corporate leaders need to set the example by leading conversations on how to improve workplace culture and fix processes that are not fair or equitable.
  3. Impactful events. Creating a “Day of Expression” can provide employees an opportunity to express their passion for a social justice cause that is important to them. Organizations and leaders that encourage and support their employees’ connection to social justice, racial equality and other causes demonstrate that they value the “whole self” of each employee and that sets a true example of inclusion where employees are celebrated for authenticity. 
  4. Speaking out. Empower social justice and giving employees opportunities to use their voices to stand up for their beliefs and concerns. Companies should embrace taking a stand and communicating their values, especially how they align with social justice concerns and causes.
  5. Strategic values. Realign corporate strategic values to emphasize your organization’s commitment to take bold steps to achieve equity in representation, access and advancement. Commissioning enterprise-wide efforts to evaluate the existing processes around hiring, career advancement and mobility, and workforce programs are necessary.
  6. Representation and Board Diversity. Take bold steps to achieve inclusion and representation in areas where it may not have previously existed, including corporate boards, leadership positions, hiring processes, etc. Many CEOs issued mandates to take more direct steps to create access, expand opportunity and ensure fair representation of women and people of color in positions of influence throughout their organizations.