In response to the escalated racial tensions following the death of George Floyd, we will continue to hold open conversation about the corporate response to these unsettling times.
Guests Christopher Rowland, Global Diversity Officer and Dessa Johnson, Diversity & Inclusion Leader, NA at ManpowerGroup joined a more somber D&I Action Call this week to share their organizations’ response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25th and subsequent social unrest. Floyds death, as well as several other recent high-profile murders and racially charged incidents, have spurred two weeks of protests and demonstrations across the U.S. and around the world – all with a potential resurgence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic looming in the background.
i4cp’s CDO Board Chair Jacqui Robertson lead the discussion – attended by over 220 D&I leaders – which ranged from the impact on employee’s immediate psychological well-being to potential long-term responses organizations can use to help in remedying social injustice and inequity. As was pointed out several times on the call, I&D leaders are at the front of two pandemics; one a disease that unequally targets black and brown communities by capitalizing on social inequities, the other a continuous struggle against systemic racial injustice and racism that too frequently bubbles to the surface both in the U.S. and abroad.
- The impact of recent events has been both personal for employees and culturally challenging for many organizations. ManpowerGroup - named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere in 2020 – was no different, with many employees who contacted our guests saying that they were wrestling with the moment. Rowland shared that he was pleased to see many leaders willing to reach out and address the issue head on and to tackle uncomfortable conversations. This was done initially through multiple internal and external statements. An i4cp pulse survey focused on the current social unrest showed that at least 85% of organizations have been impacted in some way, with 56% reporting that the main impact was to employee stress and productivity. With mental and emotional well-being as a pevasive factor, showing employer support through formal statements, training leaders in how to recognize signs of stress, and creating portals for discussion were some of the ways shared to help create a more psychologically safe work environment.
- Formal statements issued by ManpowerGroup’s CEO Jonas Prising were sent out organization-wide early on, and they specifically mentioned racism and the murder of George Floyd by name. Several external statements were also issued, and ManpowerGroup’s President in North America, Becky Frankiewicz, sent out a communication discussing some of her feelings about what was going on and the responses the company had planned. One powerful bit of transparency Rowland shared was that the president received some negative feedback about not mentioning George Floyd or racism by name in her statement, but was able to role-model listening by addressing those comments in a follow-up statement. He echoed comments shared previously that it’s OK to ask for a bit of grace in statements and townhalls, as it’s hard for many to hit the perfect note and that communicating authentically about difficult topics always involves risk.
- Forums, town halls, and courageous conversations have been a big part of ManpowerGroup’s response strategy and is rooted in the need to listen to employees and other stakeholders before taking further action. The decision was made to have conversations in three forums. The first are small, family-style chats with five to 10 people from different levels of the company and from different backgrounds. Those meetings – focused on personal experiences – leverage a professional facilitator and will eventually go out across the U.S.. The second forum is a townhall meeting hosted by a business line leader, with some preparation for what could come up in a difficult large-group conversation. The third forum is more of a panel discussion that’s still a two-way exchange led by a consulting firm specializing in bias. Several other organizations shared their townhall experiences in the chat, most focused around courageous conversations. Many in chat mentioned that their leaders directly referenced George Floyd and racism in either their written statements or townhalls, while several others noted that those who didn’t mention the incidents directly received some negative feedback.
- Community partnerships. Rowland shared that ManpowerGroup has several partnerships, including the Urban League and CEOAction for Diversity & Inclusion, but that they are specifically working in Milwaukee with their local Chamber of Commerce. After identifying racial disparity as the number one liability in their region in 2018, the CoC interviewd CEOs and did focus groups to help develop a pledge to increase representation by 15% at the total employee level and 25% at the manager level by 2025. Rowland said that they would definitely partner more to accelerate this work, and that these partnerships were critical to bringing people together to take concrete action on racial justice and to supporting their core values.
- Leveraging ERG/BRGs. Johnson shared that ManpowerGroup has also heavily leveraged it’s multicultural employee resource group – Merge – to help with developing materials and talking points for their various forums. Merge has also helped to advance the conversation by creating a hub of resources such as films, books, and articles that can be shared internally. They are also partnering with a local group called the Greater Milwaukee African American Employee Resource Group Connection (link unavailable), who will be hosting a virtual call series called Wellness Wednesdays that will focus on topics like Black Lives Matter as an ally, as well as others that will help address racial inequities and injustice. Support from ERGs/BRGs was widely cited in the chat, with many hosting their organizations courageous conversation forums.
Other topics from the call:
Many on the call were interested in resources and discussion guides available from CEOAction, with many on the chat (as well as ManpowerGroup and i4cp) sharing that they were signatories with the group.
Results of an i4cp pulse survey were also shared on the call, providing insights on impact and responses to the recent unrest, including:
- At least 85% of organizations report some type of impact from recent social unrest
- 68% of organization have released and official statement from their CEO or other executive team member internally
- 56% have provided some type of forum for employees to voice concerns
- Almost 60% of organizations have some form of formal crisis response team in place to address social and political events
- And only 8% had partnered with community-based organizations to help address unrest in the areas in which they operate, though another 25% were discussing it.
- Resources shared on the call and in the chat include:
- “13 mental health resources for black people trying to cope right now”: https://bit.ly/2UdNaRU
- A Fast Company article discussing LinkedIn’s challenging town hall experience: https://www.fastcompany.com/90513831/audio-recordings-emerge-of-linkedins-disastrous-town-hall-on-race
- A guide from the National Museum of African American History & Culture on talking about race: https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race
- A TEDTalk by Amy Hunger titled “Lucky Zip Codes”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdX8uN6VbUE
- Two guides for talking with children: Book "Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America" by Jennifer Harvey: https://www.amazon.com/Raising-White-Kids-Bringing-Children/dp/1501856421 and a guide “Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race: https://nmaahc.si.edu/sites/default/files/downloads/resources/children_are_not_colorblind.pdf
- A vendor-sponsored guide from Calibrated Lens titled “Navigating Uncertainty and Unrest in 2020”: https://7eb00da2-96cb-4226-b3dc-6d4de58aba81.filesusr.com/ugd/1620bc_dc11f50b233d4c34be6e661a413e7e49.pdf
In addition to this recording, please see these resources:
- The i4cp Coronavirus Employer Resource Center - new research and next practices to help address the COVID-19 pandemic