Woke Leaders

A lot of the people that we work with are company leaders. In many cases, they would be considered what some may call “woke.” They are paying lots of attention to matters around diversity and inclusion. They are focused on creating a better and more fair environment for their employees. After all, they have contacted a company whose sole purpose is to improve the employee experience, so it stands to reason that they're experts in this space.

These are easy companies to work with. The harder companies to work with are the companies where the leadership hasn't bought in. Sometimes when we become aware of a company that wants or needs our services, it is because other members of the company have surfaced issues, not because of the leadership. Sometimes it's as simple as a misalignment of priorities between the rank-and-file of the company and the leadership. There are members of the staff who feel that things like diversity and inclusion and welcoming and fairness and advancement are more important than the leadership does.

Questions we often get from employees are how can they produce change? How can they have an impact in this space, before they are in a leadership position? These are really valid questions. Basically, how do you impact the employee experience from the lower levels of the company or wherever you are in your career? How do you create a more diverse and inclusive environment if you're not making payroll decisions or hiring decisions, or even invited to the senior staff meetings? These are really important questions that need to be answered. Therefore, at Holistic, we've come up with a handful of different methodologies and ways that employees from anywhere in an organization can have their voice heard.

The first piece of advice is to just do something. There are so many different ways to start to foster diversity and inclusion within a company that it's pretty easy for somebody to find something that they can do. Suggesting a day of service, decorating your own office space or cubicle, taking the lead on a project like the holiday party and making sure that it is as inclusive as possible, or even taking the extra step to make sure that people who need to be in meetings are in meetings or have their voices heard, those sorts of things are important. Saying, “Hey, Michelle, we haven’t heard from you, what do you think?” is actually a pretty powerful act of inclusion, and one that virtually anyone can do.

Every marathon starts with a single step -- so take one small step towards inclusiveness wherever you can think of it and then take the second step and then take the third step. It's a bit like running a marathon as a group. The one thing that we know is that everybody at some point in time is gonna have to take that first step and you can be the first person to do it.

The second idea that we have is to bring your whole self to work. This is actually kind of an ironic one because a lot of the people who are very interested in fostering more diversity and inclusion at their company are actually not doing a great job of applying their inclusiveness to themselves. They are being very cautious or not really investing themselves into what's happening at work as a result for their distaste of the situation, and so they are actually contributing to the lack of inclusion and the lack of advancement at the company through their own actions. Think for a bit about what you can do to be completely present and completely invested at work. Think about what you can do, almost like an act of good faith, to get the environment moving a little bit in the direction that you want it to move in.

Next, networking for diversity is a huge component of this, especially when it comes to hiring. If your company has open job positions and they invite the opportunity for staff members to submit candidates, you should absolutely be out there finding everybody who's gonna help create an inclusive environment and recommending them for the job. Everybody who works in this space knows that it's a numbers games and that pipeline is critical. This is something that we understand fully and building out a pipeline of accomplished thoughtful people who will add to the environment of the company is one of the best things we can do to foster diversity and inclusion and advancement in our companies. Anything that you can do from wherever you are in the organization to help that process is gonna be extremely beneficial. Everybody can network for diversity in their own job.

Furthermore, take pictures, post them, and put them up on the walls. Do whatever you possibly can with them. Pictures tell a very strong story and if you're thoughtful about the way that pictures are used, even on your own social media, it's going to start to change the complexion and the environment of your company. You can take pictures that demonstrate an inclusive environment, share them, and almost always inclusiveness of your environment will continue to improve over time. This is something that we have seen time and again and this is something we actively work with companies on doing.

Another idea: In certain cases, we recommended forming a resource group or a book club, or any sort of gathering of people where ideas can be shared in a safe space. Most companies are very willing to accommodate this sort of thing if they don't have them. This is a great way to demonstrate leadership at work.

A friend of ours just started a resource group at a major tech company in Los Angeles and is being really thoughtful about how this group can have the most impact on the organization. Even though she's relatively young in the company, this is a great way to add value and institutionalize diversity and inclusion within the corporation.

Finally, train yourself to act inclusive all day long. Prepare yourself with responses for situations that you might see as being exclusive and train yourself on ways that you can be inclusive every day. When you sit down in a meeting, how thoughtful are you about who's around the table and who's not? Are you going out of your way to create opportunity for people who might not have a voice? Maybe you want to give up your seat or spot in the meeting? Maybe you wanna hold an extra meeting so that somebody who couldn't make the other meeting can be there? Maybe you want to reschedule the meeting so that it's not at 8:30 in the morning or 5:30 at night when parents can't make it? Whatever it is that you can do on a day by day basis to be inclusive on a daily basis is gonna be extremely valuable to your company.

These are just a few tips of many tips. We are really anxious to have this discussion because we think that facilitating ways for people from throughout the organization to have an impact on the diversity and inclusion of the organization is the only way for it to truly be successful.

We'd love to hear from you. What techniques have you tried? What's working and what's not? What can we be adding to our services that's going to really help companies be successful in this space?

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