D&I COVID-19 ACTION RECORDING - A CONTINUED DISCUSSION ON RACISM IN THE RANKS - 7/28/20

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause unprecedented impact to business, employers, and employees, human capital leaders continue to face both short- and long-term challenges. Since March, i4cp has held a weekly series of calls to address the unique diversity and inclusion issues raised by both the COVID-19 outbreak and the social unrest following the murder of George Floyd. Each week, hundreds of decision makers join these calls to hear from their community and access the latest research from i4cp's Coronavirus Employer Resource Center.

Continuing its focus on racism among organizational employees in the second of two i4cp Diversity & Inclusion Action Calls, the format of the July 28th virtual gathering also centered on comments and discussion from the approximately 100 inclusion leaders and other business professionals in attendance.  

The interaction was moderated by Jacqui Robertson, i4cp Chief Diversity Officer Board Chair and call leader, along with i4cp Creative Director and CDO Board research lead Eric Davis. A recap of the preceding week’s call reiterated questions for attendees to keep in mind and summarized the previous discussion. Part II of the conversation began with new research data and sparked interactions around two instant polls. 

Key Ideas Shared Today: 

1. Early pulse survey results show organizations launch investigations into employees’ racist comments on social media. Offering a pre-close glimpse into a currently fielded i4cp pulse survey, Davis reported that 53% of responses received thus far confirm that companies investigate instances of employees posting racist comments or content on their personal social media accounts. Based on those investigations, reported consequences range from required education to suspension, termination, or other outcomes.

Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) reported having no organizational policy addressing such postings, and 11% said their companies’ zero-tolerance rules meant termination for workers who express or endorse racist views. 

2. Poll #1 examined company policies on employees’ expressions of views contrary to stated organizational values (such as racist comments/content).

The greatest proportion of attendees responding to the poll (53%) said their policies were part of their organizations’ employee codes of conduct, and 39% confirmed the policies applied to conduct both at and away from work. About one in five said their policies focused on compliance with anti-discrimination laws and not company values. 

Subsequent conversation focused on a number of challenging ideas:

  • Rules that are mandated but not enforced (such as masks for customers in business establishments)
  • Similarly, the notion that organizations say they don’t tolerate specific behaviors, but look at the circumstances in which transgressions occur. In some cases, violations offer opportunities to educate and enlighten employees in ways to be more inclusive. In such instances, rules may be viewed as starting places for positive opportunities instead of hard-and-fast mandates for termination or other negative consequences.
  • One organization represented on the call created guidelines for global employees to ensure respect in cross-cultural interactions. Issuing formal policies about such matters provides a supportive foundation for HR when addressing violations.
    3. When it comes to employee behaviors that clash with organizational values, some companies struggle to address difficult questions. Among the challenges that call attendees expressed:
  • How do policies for upholding organizational values balance at-work or work-function violations versus occurrences that take place during off-time in employees’ personal lives or on their personal social media?
  • How does enforcement of rules vary based on an individual’s role in an organization? For example, are senior executives or individuals with high-value specialties treated differently when it comes to values conflicts? If so, what effects does special treatment have on organizational culture?
  • At what point do companies become legally obligated to address behavior that conflicts with values and policies?

    4. Poll #2 explored the ways in which organizations enforce adherence to their stated values.

What enforcement methods does your organization apply to deal with employee expressions of viewpoints that run counter to stated company values (i.e., racist comments or content)?           

Top responses : 

  • Employee is counseled (or notified) that continued expressions could (or will) result in termination – 68%
  • We reprimand and document – 68%
  • Employee is counseled that continued expressions could adversely impact their career advancement opportunities – 40%