Steps Companies Can Take to Support Underrepresented Employees During Times of Crisis

(Image borrowed from https://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/)

Recently, I have had a lot of companies ask me what they should be doing in times of crisis. Especially in times when acts racial injustice have created a heightened awareness within the world. Many of these companies want to show up for their Black Employees as well as other Employees of Color. As I am working through my own trauma, here are some recommendations I am putting out into the world to help you all navigate these challenging times.

  1. The Ask: First, ask your employees what they need/want? There’s a chance that your employees are trying to work through trauma and may not need or want to talk to anyone in the company about what they’re going through. My recommendation here is to do two things: (Have a grief counselor(s) on call for employees who might need it. Make sure that these counselors are also diverse and represent the populations who need them the most. Consider giving employees paid time off for emotional wellness when tragedy (both direct and indirect) surfaces in their lives, in our society.
  2. Talks/Events: Create an option to have a private employee roundtable for groups who are directly impacted to either speak among one another or to speak to the whole company. You can also do this by asking your ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) if they’d like to put out a statement of support on your social media channels, to the company as a whole requesting what kind of support they’d like at this time. Remember the intention of a statement is to lead to actions so tell them to be specific, bold, and intentional in their statement and ask.
  3. Resources: Create an emergency resource fund for employees to contribute to causes, outside of a corporate giving program. It can be something that is used at their discretion but also has to be approved. This fund could be a social impact fund or crisis fund that helps create resources to give to communities that have been harmed by injustice. You can also run this through your ERGs and it could be extremely effective.
  4. Leave Them Alone: Give impacted populations space and let them come to you and request support. In times like this when racial injustice is so prevalent, it can become exhausting for people who are feeling heavily impacted to always have to show up and answer or speak on behalf of injustice.
  5. Leaders Step Up/Change Your Structure: It is time to change your mission, vision, core values and make sure they speak to diversity, equity, and inclusion for every part of your company. Amplify the voice of your employees, this promotes self empowerment and shows your commitment to them and their barriers. Now it’s up to you to create a company that sustainably does the same and measure your damn impact so that you know that it is working.
  6. Politics: Make sure your employees are registered to vote, educate (provide accessible resources) them about politicians, their backgrounds, how their agendas support your company and your mission and highly encourage them to vote and give them time off on election days. This is not just about us voting for a president, but also local politicians etc who represent our best interest. Also get involved in supporting bills, propositions, or everything else that impacts the communities they live in and not just your businesses bottom line.
  7. Policy: Create a crisis request within the company that uses all of these options and allow employees to request what they need. For example:
  • Paid time off to spend in the community/with family
  • Space and peace and quiet
  • A statement made internally by the company
  • A statement made externally by the company
  • A town hall/fireside chat to discuss possible solutions.
  • Funding to contribute to a legitimate cause that is addressing the issue

I hope this helps many of you to navigate the challenges you are facing and to build support systems for your employees who are facing racial injustices that lead to trauma and a need for healing. These steps are highlighted here but the processes are intricate and require time, planning, and resources (diverse human knowledge and financial). Get ready to commit all of them.

Dr. CI

Dr. Cheryl Ingram aka Dr. CI, is a very successful entrepreneur, blogger, content creator and expert of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.

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