By Darren W Martin Jr
CEO, Bold Culture
1. You should have been thinking about this BEFORE protests and riots.
Before buildings started burning. Proactive engagement allows you to understand the needs of your Black employees and know how to best connect with them in times like these. Times that are unfortunately repetitive. There should be an awareness of what’s going on, why it’s going on and how your company is going to pitch in to fix it. Your company should reflect that consciousness across it’s talent ranks. You should be having conversations with your customers and clients around how to best mobilize for change. This should be happening outside of times of crisis so that you’re prepared to support your team and consumers when needed. This support should be mirrored in your standard-time processes.
2. Offer mental health days & therapy-of-choice stipends
Some agencies and clients already offer therapy services; if you do, ensure your insurance or third party providers are diverse. If you do not provide mental wellness benefits, ensure you are offering a stipend for therapy for your employees. In addition, ensure you make mental health days off in times of cultural grief and/or uncertainty a norm. There are many companies who allowed employees to take a day off in response to the effects of COVID. Consider the effects of sustained racism and state violence on Black employees. Encourage them to take a day without thinking about it and support their right to process emotions at this time.
3. Don’t ask your black talent to solve your problem.
If it’s not their job to focus on DE&I, culture, PR or talent management, then it is not their job to focus on how you should address the pain that they are feeling. This should be something that you figure out yourself and if you are having a hard time figuring out what to say, you may want to address why it’s so hard to proclaim and support the necessity for Black lives. In addition, you may want to address the fact that you have so little diversity within your company and leadership for this to even be a question.
4. Do an internal bias and racism audit across your company processes and management structure
Systems are as biased as the people who created them. In order to understand if your company is contributing to the systemic racism that is being brought to fire, you must conduct an independent internal bias and racism audit. Look into your hiring and talent development processes. What does your leadership pipeline look like? How many mid managers are not Black and how does that affect retention in your company? What does your talent reward process look like? How many Black people are making decisions? How many Black people are there in general? Why have we not prioritized this before? Asking these questions and building an actionable plan to improve each pain point is investing in doing the real work. Trainings are great, we offer them ourselves, but ensure they are ongoing and tied to executive performance reviews and overall company goals.
5. Declare your awareness and your flaws with actionable, accountable and immediate action
Similar to #4, just know right now: you are not perfect as a company. In fact, you have a very long way to go. Becoming conscious of that point and then having conviction to change is the most difficult challenge for company leaders. You don’t have the opportunity to sit on the sidelines any more. You have to recognize your complicity in the problem and then create actionable, accountable and immediate items that show your employees and consumers that you are connected to the positive change they want to see.
6. Challenge and guide your clients
Those who pay the bills – clients or consumers – are stakeholders in your company. Challenge them to be connected to your values. An agency does not have to work with a client that is morally disconnected from reality, who is not working to solve their internal problems and the problems at-large. For companies connected to Black culture — tech, apparel, etc — we saw an almost immediate outpouring of support reaffirming Black lives with monetary donations. Agencies cannot hide behind the veil and they must encourage all of their clients to support Black lives. However, agencies cannot push clients if they are not pushing themselves, so they should be focused on reforming their own internal bias before trying to champion this reform for others.