To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr.: There’s never a wrong time to do what’s right.
As we reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, let’s consider three ways communicators can push for a more just, equitable and inclusive workplace:
1. Acknowledge that injustice still exists. There’s an unwritten, unspoken rule at most companies: Ignore tinderbox issues that might divide or distract employees. Keep your head down, don’t make waves, and keep your opinions to yourself.
This outdated attitude flies in the face of what modern employees expect—and increasingly demand. Research is showing that head-in-sand “neutrality” can be quite costly for companies. Employees want to work for organizations that stand for something—and consumers enjoy supporting companies that speak out.
Of course, you don’t want to inflame tensions nor whip your colleagues into a frenzy, but communicators should be willing to address issues, incidents or injustices that are affecting employees’ lives. Ignoring hot-button events and important cultural conversations is a missed opportunity to increase genuine trust and engagement, and it makes your company look either clueless, callous or cowardly.
Push your execs to have hard, candid conversations with staffers. Call out bias where you see it. Apologize, if need be. Create forums where people can exchange ideas and discuss current events.
Use your voice to acknowledge that injustice still exists, and demonstrate that your organization is committed to doing something about it.
2. Highlight diverse voices and viewpoints. If you’re a communicator, you have a prominent voice. You have a platform.
As much as it’s in your power, highlight diverse voices. Interview different people in different departments who come from different backgrounds. Encourage an array of people to share their words, photos, videos or other artistic content. Proactively add color to your internal comms.
Don’t lean on the same three execs to serve as sources for your storytelling. Interview a diverse cross-section of colleagues. Listening to different viewpoints will make your storytelling richer.
Lending your platform to diverse voices and views is a great start toward creating a more inclusive culture.
3. Go beyond empty “woke” platitudes. It’s easy to list “diversity and inclusion” as a core value on your website. Any organization can tweet nice sentiments. It’s quite another to put your money where your mouth is.
Push your company to go beyond lip service in fighting injustice. Go further than empty virtue signaling, and demonstrate tangible evidence of your company’s strides to right wrongs or fight injustice.
Consumers (and employees) are not stupid. You’re not fooling anyone with “woke” platitudes designed to score cheap PR points. Words do not constitute a CSR campaign. Encourage your company to take concrete action to do good, make amends or be more inclusive—otherwise it’s useless hot air.
You don’t have to be a freedom fighter, activist or hero to pursue what’s right and make a positive difference in your workplace (or world). All it takes is a selfless, empathetic, “others-first” mindset.
As King said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”