Do all of your employees, regardless of race, gender, or other factors, feel that they have equal opportunities within your organization? Do they feel that mentoring, evaluation, and recognition are the same for all employees?

Or do they feel that they’re judged and treated differently because of who they are?

The killing of George Floyd, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gay/lesbian rights, Black Lives Matter, and other incidents and activities have shone a spotlight on how organizations do business, fulfill their missions, and treat their employees.

What steps has your organization taken to ensure an inclusive environment in both fact and appearance? And how do your employees, executives, board of directors, clients, and other stakeholders feel about what you’re doing?

Organizations in the spotlight

In response, many major companies have announced support for Black Lives Matter and other organizations.

Google pledged $12 million to groups that fight against racial injustice, while Facebook and Amazon pledged $10 million each. Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will spend $100 million for a new Racial Equity and Justice Initiative that will “challenge the systemic barriers to opportunity and dignity that exist for communities of color, and particularly for the Black community.” Walmart is promising $100 million over five years to create a new center for racial equity. And the list goes on.

Whether all of these companies support diversity and equality internally, and especially on their boards and leadership teams, is another matter. A recent piece in the Washington Post by Shaun R. Harper, a provost professor in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, highlighted gaps between rhetoric and action.

Benefits of diversity

A survey of consumers in 35 countries found that 64% of consumers would reward firms that they see as engaged in some kind of activism. Being a good corporate citizen can be good business. And “walking the talk” internally can benefit morale, productivity, and recruiting. Demonstrating that your organization prizes and embraces diversity is not only good ethics but also good business.

The Lindenberger Group has long advocated for equality and diversity, and we have a long history of helping organizations achieve their diversity goals. For decades, those efforts have benefited both the organizations and the employees.

One example that transformed the corporate culture was Brown-Forman, makers of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and many other brands of liquor and wine. The company sold its products to a diverse, global population, but its senior leadership didn’t reflect that diversity: in a company of 8,000, top executives included one woman and no minorities.

The firm wanted to:

  • Help employees advance their careers
  • Increase diversity among senior management
  • Encourage top talent to move to Louisville, Kentucky, and join the company

After meeting with the leadership team and a diverse group of employees, we helped Brown-Forman build a comprehensive mentoring program. The result: Surveys showed improved employee morale, and women and minorities increased to about 20% of executives. The program was so successful that it received the Athena Award for Excellence in Mentoring two years in a row, and it has been a core part of the company’s operations for 20 years.

Another organization that wanted to increase diversity and opportunity was MDRC, a non-profit policy research organization in Manhattan. We replaced the existing informal mentoring with a robust, organized program that the organization has continued for years.

But diversity means more than race. We helped the Pajama Program, a New York-based nonprofit, educate employees about economic, cultural, racial, and religious diversity.

Questions to ask

Moving your organization forward—and making it truly welcome, inclusive, diverse, and respectful—requires asking thought-provoking questions, such as:

  • What is the hidden racism and other biases in our organization and industry?
  • How is it affecting our employees, our operations, our turnover, our results, and our recruitment?
  • What are you/we going to do about it?
  • How are we going to work on this together with every employee and stakeholder?
  • How will we learn to truly listen and understand every voice?

While these questions are difficult and often uncomfortable, they are also vital to your organization. If you’re not sure where to start, contact the Lindenberger Group at 609-730-1049 for more executive coaching services. We can help you find answers that include everyone in your organization.