In the last few weeks, protests have sparked a major shift in daily discussion and sharpened the public’s critical eye on how companies behave. Brands are left wondering whether to speak up or stay silent until everything blows over and returns to “normal,” but let’s all agree that there is no return to what was. This conversation isn’t going anywhere, and the march toward change will continue to accelerate. Companies and public figures are being held accountable for their actions—even their lack of action— past, present and future.
We’ve seen the formulaic “Instagram apology” design pop up on numerous accounts, and while apologies are necessary, how much do they actually do to fix issues and improve the public’s perception? In some cases, there’s a staffing change, like when editors step down from major publications. Some companies have come forward to publicly announce, with copyedited certainty, that they will do better. Others have put action to their words, including Lego donating $4 million to education nonprofits that teach children about racial equality. The brick company is going as far as to halt marketing on Lego sets that include police officers and stations, as well as their White House set.
Looking within a company from leadership down is really the only way to figure out the best path to take. There are no easy answers, so here are some considerations as you and your colleagues think about how diversity and equality fit into your business.
What are you doing to actively recruit for diversity?
Diversity is essential to a successful team. A diverse team comes to the table with different backgrounds and may lead to ideas you would never think of on your own. As a Brand Strategy Agency, we strive to make our teams diverse, and when working on a project, we love to collaborate and brainstorm ideas with the entire office to get new, fresh ideas that no single person would be able to formulate on their.
And this starts with hiring valuable team members from all walks of life. There are multiple ways to make sure you are actively recruiting for diversity. If you go around to college career fairs, what is the diversity of the college? Are you visiting colleges in areas with different economic backgrounds? While these considerations could lead to all sorts of debate and criticism, it is important to understand that many groups aren’t given a fair chance at participating, even at schools where overall diversity exceeds that of the surrounding area. What are other pathways to a career at your organization that would enable more diverse experiences and backgrounds?
Is your company environment inviting for everyone?
What inclusion strategies do you have in place within your company? These methods can vary wildly based on the size of your company. Some companies make a point to include a diversity and inclusivity strategy at the executive level, training their teams at all levels on topics like unconscious bias or microaggressions. They might even have a program in place for those of diverse and minority backgrounds to help prepare them for leadership positions. If you’re a large company, look into creating employee resource groups to help with inclusion and education for your staff. Finally looking at your anti-discriminatory policies, strengthening them if needed, and making sure you hold yourself to them is crucial. Clear rules can help to clarify any issues employees might not have previously considered.
Are you donating time or money to organizations that help the underprivileged?
Donating your time or money as an organization, now more than ever, may be an important step. There are so many organizations out there that need support. Think about not only donating once when the call to action is placed on you, but regularly to the same or different organizations to have a lasting impact.
This does not have to be a public gesture, but internally your company can set an example for its team, inspiring employees to provide a more welcoming culture and have a positive impact within their workspace and beyond. Once restrictions are lifted, donating time with your team members or putting programs in place to bring experiential opportunities into your workplace can also be a great way to give back to your community and boost morale.
Do you want to speak out publicly about actions you’re taking or your company’s stance on matters?
Companies that make a point to be supportive of those facing difficult social and economic issues are often publicly celebrated, and as a result, benefit from the positive public image. Ben & Jerry’s is a prime example of a brand that hasn’t held back on their beliefs. The inventive ice cream company created a base of loyal customers based on the positivity they put into the world, both with their imaginative flavors and their charitable donations and work.
But, this isn’t for all brands. Internally, a company needs to evaluate what to publicly share regarding their opinions of the times. You need to take the time to ask why you are sharing and who the message serves. If the answer is that it only serves your company’s image than maybe it’s best to hit pause. Brands sharing their opinions through social media, especially to large, public audiences at a time when it is a hot topic, can come off as performative, almost disingenuous.
Consider making a public statement if its what you believe and what your company stands for. Hesitate if it’s just to keep up appearances. If your company has not been publicly active regarding social, economic, or political issues in the past, think about starting internally to form a genuine basis, sharing the company’s stance publicly once there’s something to back up your claim. It’s a simple way to slowly be outspoken about causes you care about without coming off as insensitive or opportunistic.
Common sense always seems obvious, but it’s important to remember to act with true compassion and caring as social norms are uprooted and the world changes. Things don’t happen overnight. Implementing steps and guides for growing the diversity in your business at all levels and staying accountable for those steps is a necessary action. Work to make the world a better place for others first…then maybe post about it.