George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, resulting in an immense response worldwide. In the U.S., citizens took to the streets and expressed anger through protests, giving birth to the Black Lives Matter movement.
During this period, many businesses made public statements against racism and injustice. Many companies voiced a desired to boost support for diversity, equity, and inclusion in response to the movement.
Today we’re nearly 2.5 years out from Floyd’s death, and we’ll highlight how DEI has and hasn’t changed.
Workplace DEI: Sustainable or Performative?
In the wake of Black Lives Matter, companies sought to illustrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They did this by, for example, promising the following:
- Making hiring practices more equitable
- Selecting vendors that support D&I
- Financial commitments ($50 billion overall)
Unfortunately, some of these promises were not sincere. Companies like Wells Fargo and the NFL have been accused of conducting sham interviews of candidates with diverse backgrounds, after positions were already filled. In other words, they never intended to hire these candidates; they simply held them to meet their stated diversity objectives.
Furthermore, although U.S. companies pledged $50 billion toward racial equity, only $250 million has been spent toward that specific initiative, according to the firm Creative Investment Research.
Make DEI Mission-Critical, Not Peripheral
DEI training in the workplace is often treated as a task to be done when there’s additional time. One way to ingrain DEI into your organization’s genetic code, is by hiring or expanding your DEI leadership. Job roles such as Chief Diversity Officer, with a dedicated team, will help ensure that DEI is core work, rather than elective.
Another way to do this is by including a DEI section in performance evaluations. When you tie DEI work to rewards (i.e., pay, promotion, bonuses), it becomes central to people’s daily jobs rather than an afterthought.
Make DEI Real
Performance activism is dangerous. It’s unhelpful at best, and at worst, it’s detrimental. It makes social justice trendy while simultaneously killing the movement of actual social progress. Companies must do more than send an email, schedule an extra interview for a candidate they won’t hire, or pledge funds they won’t spend.
This leads employees to believe that their employer is doing more than they actually are. For employees that choose to work for companies in part because of their alleged DEI initiatives, this can not only be incredibly disappointing but unfair.
Focus on Behavior-Based DEI Training
The DEI efforts in your workplace cannot simply be geared toward increasing awareness or changing attitudes. For it to be effective, training must be behavior-based so that employees (managers included) can see appropriate behaviors modeled and learn how to conduct themselves properly in the workplace.
Activism takes time and change requires effort. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it often requires an overhaul of what’s always been done. The racial justice movement ignited in 2020 shouldn’t be a passing trend; it’s worthy of being ingrained in our society and business forevermore.