“I’m convinced that the pandemic we’re currently living through is both a manifestation of and a mere interruption in the relentless march toward an interconnected world, one in which peoples and cultures can’t help but collide.”
This line from President Barack Obama’s latest memoir, A Promised Land, beautifully articulates the importance of preparing for the inevitable, inter-connected future.
From an organizational standpoint, the pandemic and the recent societal revolutions have shed light on the importance of supporting employees. It can be manifested in various ways, but one of the most effective is through establishing encouraging, and growing initiatives within the firm.
These initiatives can vary in mandate, scope, and objective. However, their underlying principle must be the same: cultivate a supportive, equitable, and just culture.
ORGANIZATIONAL INITIATIVES SEEN IN THE PAST
Employee resource groups (ERG) are one of the first initiatives that come to mind. This is a program where employees with a similar identity, and allies, can meet to socialize and strengthen their network. These ERGs can be dedicated to women, parents, LGBTQ2+, people of colour, etc.
Aside from creating effective advocates for minorities, transforming mindsets, and recruiting under-represented talent, ERGs can foster a strong organizational commitment to the community around them. For example, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Amazon committed $10 million in an effort to fight social injustice and aid black communities. The company’s Black Employee Network (BEN), their ERG for black employees, helped leadership identify the best recipients for the funding.
This initiative by heavily endorsed by the Amazon senior leadership team; by being proactive and genuine, they were able to find a way to make meaningful change and create an avenue for help that could last for years and continue to generate impact.
Within the organization, employees — both of colour and not — had tremendously positive reactions to the initiative. Their morale was boosted, along with their confidence in the company and among each other. With Amazon supporting an initiative by including the right people, the impact they fostered was both on the micro and macro scale.
ACTIONABLE PRACTICES AN ORGANIZATION CAN ADOPT
Support for an initiative, whether it is company or employee-led, can be expressed in several ways. The following is a handful of practice that an organization can adopt to facilitate its support for initiatives and demonstrate their commitment to themselves, their employees, and their community:
OPTIONS FOR INITIATIVES TO IMPLEMENT
There are plenty of initiatives that an organization can look to implement. These will help build a more equitable office culture, support employees, and encourage them to take leadership roles or bring their own ideas to life.
Health initiative. It is a well-known fact that Google provides access to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to its employees on almost all of their campuses. Their use of fresh and organic foods helps promote their culture that is health and well-being oriented. This type of initiative creates an environment where employees can measure their health progress and enjoy spending time at the office complex.
Shadow initiative. This relates to cross-training employees and creating groups where employees can absorb one another’s workloads in a situation where an individual needs to take time off. Aside from preserving institutional knowledge, building resilience, reducing minority ostracization, this initiative helps create flexibility and increase employee engagement with and understanding of the firm.
Philanthropy initiative: A company initiative focused on giving back to your community in tangible ways will help boost employee morale and respect for your firm. Examples of this initiative could be holding a bi-annual event where individuals all volunteer at a non-profit organization of their choosing, or where employees are given an arbitrary day every specified period to volunteer and give back. This relatively easy-to-implement initiative is inherently a good deed, but it also builds loyalty among your employees.
ONE KEY DIVERSIO RECCOMENDATION TO CONSIDER
Similar to the shadow initiative above, consider implementing an absenteeism policy where you can cross-train employees and have individuals absorb one another’s workstreams as a contingency for any absence. This cultivates an environment where employees are more engaged, and individuals do not fear repercussion for taking time off to pursue their personal needs or passions.
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