As a Human Resources Professional, a person of color and a student of the civil rights movement, today’s health and social pandemics serve as a reoccurring dream, nightmare, or both for me. Everyone’s asking the big question, “Where do we go from here?” Frankly, I’m back to “How did we get stuck in the first place?” Folks are saying today’s events of COVID-19 and the brutal killing of George Floyd are “wake up calls.” People in the Black community are countering this by saying that most of America has been hitting the snooze button on racial inequities, social injustice, mass incarceration, and historical, systemic, and structural racism for over 418 years. Can it be real that the souls of Americans have finally “woke up” to the plight and experiences of so many who have not remotely experienced “this more perfect union”, or “the American dream.”
My dear HR colleagues, my hope for you and us is to be able to provide leadership within our circles of influence, communities, families, and organizations, as we are charged with the attracting, developing, and retaining human resources or as it is commonly called in many of our companies – “Human Capital” – I prefer “Human Beings” or “People.”
A “pandemic” is defined as “a disease prevalent over a whole country or the world.” “Disease” is defined as “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.” COVID-19 is our most recent disease resulting in a global health pandemic. Racism is a disease that has been allowed to adversely affect Black people in this country and the world for centuries. Racism is not a new Pandemic! While the comfort values of prior generations produced legislation, systems, and policies that sustained the Racial Pandemic; generations X, Y, and Z have demonstrated little tolerance for the Racial Pandemic and have placed their lives on the line amid COVID-19 to ensure that their collective voices are heard.
This feels different than the Civil, Women’s, and Gay rights movements. Lots of people are saying that real change is needed and is finally here. Let me get really specific regarding how you as my colleagues and friends can be on the front lines, if you are not already, regarding this change.
- Each generation operates based upon a set of core Values. If you are not having facilitated generational values discussions and training, you are missing a rich and bountiful opportunity to create a broad understanding of perspectives and learning.
- Equity is the key to honoring Diversity and promoting Inclusion. Serious conversations with your Executive Leadership team regarding systematic and structural barriers that need to be removed/eliminated is critical. This includes an examination of policies, practices related to hiring, compensation, promotions, and career advancement. Diverse representation is the baseline to ensure that “all voices are heard.” A seat at the table is great, but a seat means nothing if the voice isn’t heard and acknowledged.
- Assess the current climate in terms of a readiness for Change (Willingness versus Skills). Develop a plan to: Eradicate the disease that causes the Pandemic. “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarding as adversely affecting a person or group of people.” This one will require significant heavy lifting. The demographic shift in America can be seen every night by those who are protesting. We see the rich fabric of a diverse nation right before our eyes. 40% of the U.S. workforce are Millennials. In many organizations where Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity work is a reality, there are Business Resource/Affinity Groups in place designed to bring unique perspectives that connect strategy, outcomes, management, community, and employee needs. These voices, if heard and acknowledged, can assist you and your company in answering the BIG Question – “Where do we go from here?”
The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
My HR friends, please do not be silent during these times of pandemic. A strong correlation exists between the two.
To your wellbeing,
Mines & Associates
This post was provided by our friend and training partner Bobby King. Bobby has served over 25 years as a Human Resources and Workforce Diversity, Equity & Inclusion executive in high tech, municipal government, and healthcare.