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Managing Organizational Change to Advance Racial Justice

For most of us, 2020 has been the year no one saw coming. Thus far, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over a million lives globally, caused businesses to reimagine how they operate, and drastically affected economies. While we were all trying to get a sense of the new normal, businesses quickly had to adjust to another reality that radically affects their employees, their consumers, and required the attention of the country; racism, and its deadly consequences in the United States.

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans at the hands of police sparked protests around the world, and a shift in the national conversation about race and the Black Lives Matter movement. Non-Black Americans began to examine their privilege, and how they can actively demonstrate both allyship and anti-racism. Naturally, many American businesses followed suit and released powerful statements pledging their support of the movement, their commitment to equality in the workplace, and financial contributions to causes that uplift the Black community.

This moment has been an inflection point, causing organizations to take an internal look at the health of their organization from the perspectives of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Companies that take this moment to lead with awareness, authenticity, and sustainable action in how they’re managing organizational change will harness the power of transformation toward a more equitable workplace.

Awareness

The first step in managing organizational change is to assess the current situation. This becomes especially important in the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A thorough evaluation of where you stand and where you would like to be is integral to determining how to get there. What steps did you take to evaluate your workforce? What metrics did you use? Who did you survey, and what were the insights and recommendations? You cannot begin to develop a plan if you have not identified the potential problems.

Even if you believe you’ve compiled all relevant data and insights regarding your workforce, think bigger – from climate surveys to organizational network analysis – leveraging people analytics can help diagnose areas of opportunity. Data collection for diversity and inclusion is not a one-time effort and should occur continuously.

As your organization continues to grow and evolve, the focus on data collection should continue to ensure that current efforts are being impactful and to mitigate new ones that may arise. It not only highlights areas of opportunities but can also highlight what you are doing well so you can replicate successes in other areas of the business. It’s important to consider both the short, medium-, and long-term goals your diversity plan seeks to accomplish, and how those goals may eventually require adjustment.

Lastly, despite the cliché, remember that change does not happen overnight. Setting actionable goals with realistic benchmarks over 1, 3, and 5+ years will keep your organization focused and flexible should adjustments need to be made.

Authenticity

The next step in managing organizational change successfully is to maintain authenticity. Genuine authenticity goes beyond saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It involves developing a plan and communications that are honest based on who you are, that align with your organization’s core values, and that can hold leadership accountable as the initiative progresses. Ben and Jerry’s is one example of a company that successfully achieved both, thereby aligning themselves as a leader in the corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion space, and as racial justice advocates.

Among the multitude of corporate statements, Ben and Jerry’s stood out for three reasons. First, the branding was simple, and instantly identifiable as Ben and Jerry’s: “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy”, in the classic brand font on a black background, with links to their full statement and resources on every social platform. Second, it echoed previous statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and aligned with their history of social justice advocacy. Lastly, and most importantly, it included a 4-step plan toward anti-racist action in the United States and solidified its commitment to racial equity and justice for Black people. Ben and Jerry’s successfully voiced their commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement in their unique brand voice, with well-researched action items reflective of their core values.

Sustainability

Now that your organization has identified its opportunities, and developed an authentic call-to-action, the final step is ensuring sustainability. Can your organization sustain the proposed initiatives internally and ultimately affect change outside of it?

The work toward racial equity goes beyond the four walls of your organization. Although “talking the talk” and leading by example internally is a start, “walking the walk” and changing your community externally is where the real work begins. A great example of this is Netflix investing 2% of its cash holdings into Black-owned banks. By doing so, the company hopes to invest in financial institutions that directly support the Black community. In America, 19% of Black families have a negative net worth or no assets at all. That percentage is more than double that of white families. Historically, Black banks have tried to advocate for their communities, but limited access to capital has left them at a disadvantage. By investing in Black banks, Netflix can redirect cash to the Black community at a local level and create better financial futures for Black people.

The Bottom Line on Managing Organizational Change for a Better Future

Corporate responses to racial diversity, equity and inclusion are no longer optional or nice to have. Frameworks and strategies should be developed with the intention to bolster equity within the walls of your organization and improve equity in the society beyond it. Clarkston employs a variety of methodologies that can help clients develop a holistic, proactive and flexible diversity approach, in the hopes of creating a stronger more inclusive workforce. If you would like to learn more about how Clarkston approaches Diversity Services or our current projects, or see the follow-up to this article, feel free to subscribe to our insights below.

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Tags: Diversity + Inclusion
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