The 2020-2021 year has been one full of, both, challenge and change. There have been elections, civil rights movements, discourse and debate happening around the world. With the tension felt in the current political and social climates, many businesses have begun an attempt to define and set boundaries on appropriate discussion in the workplace. However, it is important that, as the world begins to tackle these decisions, it is mindful of players at stake: whom such restrictions are helping, and whom they are harming.
When defining politics, some have inappropriately defined diversity, inclusion and equity as a single topic, and placed it neatly under the umbrella of topics that are“too political for workplace discourse.”Over the past year, many social movements have been classified as political ones. Due to the tension these discussions around identity in general and these movements in particular have raised, some businesses are forcibly taking such topics off the table in order to avoid personnel conflict. But what does the removal of such conversations mean for those belonging to marginalized communities?
Recently, many businesses have begun responding to the collective call for social corporate responsibility and social justice. They have included it in their missions, campaigns, and social media posts. However, as some businesses indicate their alliance with certain groups and release statements condemning hateful acts and practices, they overlook the infrastructural work ahead.
Stating a value in diversity and inclusion in business is a step in the right direction. However, words fall flat when policies, internal communications, resources, work and business structures do not reflect the statements being released by the company. While discussions about inclusion and equity can be uncomfortable, taking such topics off the table for being “too political” will not make communication easier—in fact, it will stunt it. Marginalized employees will be hesitant to speak on issues and policies in the workplace that need improvement, for fear of broaching the topics deemed inappropriate for work.
To ensure that a company is genuinely prioritizing diversity and inclusion, allow conversations to take place. Create an environment in which every employee feels comfortable voicing concerns and opinions without fear of retaliation. Clearly define your ethical goals as a team, and outline the strategies and practices that will bring you closer to achieving it.
At the end of the day, every team is composed of human beings who are more than the sum of their professional contributions; they are individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. These valuable insights lead to novel innovations and input, encouraging optimal efficiency and efficacy in business and leadership.
So how can we ensure our business policies reflect our identified ethics? Implement practices that are centered on employee health, happiness and efficacy as opposed to just profit. This can be done in a number of different ways.
While a 40+ hour work week with core hours is the standard corporate approach to business efficiency, not everyone works well in a standard work week. Instead, consider adapting to a 30-hour work week to enhance morale and work-life balance; alternatively, consider allowing employees to work flexible hours. This accommodates balance, workstyles, and schedules, and can also prevent burn out. Adapting a flexible work schedule can increase productivity within your team, while also providing necessary accommodations for employees that need it without interrupting culture.
Being an ethical company goes beyond the external; It begins with how you treat your employees. The happiest and most effective employees have a balance between their personal lives and their professional endeavors. While society places value in committing life to working, there are so many beautiful aspects to living outside of one’s career. Vacation times allows for space to recharge or handle personal matters, and offers accommodation for different cultural and religious celebrations that your employees may celebrate. Life can be complicated and sometimes your employees just need a break
Kuvio has opted to democratize decision-making. What this means is that anytime there is a company-wide decision, our team makes the decision as a whole. Everyone gets a vote and everyone has the ability to voice their opinion. This policy makes the move towards equity by allowing each employee input. Your employees are a big part of the day to day and thus they should have the opportunity to impact the policies and practices that directly affect them.
There are many ways that companies can have a positive impact. One option is to create a grant program to offer services and educational resources to underserved groups. An alternative is to donate resources to organizations in need, or host events and sponsor different organizations. To give back to employees, one option is to provide ongoing training programs, implement inclusive hiring initiatives, offer educational assistance, etc. In the end, the important thing is to ensure the process you choose for giving back aligns with your ethical and business goals, and make it sustainable.
There are many ways to define ethics within your organization. The important take-away is that the team is integral to the success of this process. Open up channels of communication, and listen to what your employees have to say. While these conversations will be challenging, it will be worth it in the end.
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