Transforming the Workplace with Transparent Conversations

Everyone wants to know how to get diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) right, but many don’t know where to start. Although it’s tempting for organizations to jump right into action by scheduling a company-wide unconscious bias training, we first need to take a step back to become truly aware of the issues in each unique workplace. That awareness is only possible when open and honest conversations can take place.

Earlier this month, I facilitated a conversation with Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., President and CEO of SHRM, the largest HR professional association in the world. In this interview, hosted by the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR), Johnny and I talk about the foundational elements necessary for transparent communication in the workplace. Establishing trust and psychological safety is paramount, but these two elements can only develop when we intentionally build relationships with one another. When it comes to management-employee communication, organizations need to create an environment where people can share their real dreams and goals without fear of reprisal and for Black professionals in the workplace, this can be especially difficult.

In the last twelve months, issues of diversity and inclusion have moved from Main Street to Wall Street and Johnny candidly shared some of his own experiences to encourage anyone who is passionate about DEI to seize this opportunity to get trained and build a career as a DEI expert. In response to company leaders who want to appoint Black and/or female heads of DEI mainly because of their race and/or gender, he said, “It is literally today, one of the most important, strategically important parts of every organization right now.  Everyone is trying to figure out what to do with this IE and D thing.  What I would say to you is if you are that HR professional . . .  whoever you are right now, if you are truly interested in doing this and building a career . . . go get yourself skilled in this. Don’t just go in – you need experts like you Stacey who actually know what they’re talking about – this notion that you are therefore a diversity expert because you are Black or you are a woman or you are both is ridiculous. It’s absurd! And so we have got to educate, encourage people in our community, that if you’re gonna be serious about it, get serious about it.”

Johnny also provided guidance for HR executives looking to make the case for diversity to their corporate leadership. If you had the opportunity to hear him live, you may have found the most effective arguments surprised you. And lastly, we discussed the purpose and efficacy of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and answered a few questions from our viewers about accountability and formal training for DEI specialists.

If you missed the conversation and have questions about unconscious bias education, let me know. And if you would like support as a Black professional in the HR world or want to know how to get started in DEI, reach out to Dr. Carroll Brown, VP Membership at NAAAHR-LA.

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