We are facing turbulent times. COVID-19 has shifted the world of work and claimed many lives, disproportionately impacting the Black community. Simultaneously, the impacts of systemic racism and police brutality in the US have led to international protests demanding justice and reform.
Perhaps more than ever before, organizations are looking for ways to keep lines of communication open in order to understand the experience of their employees and better support them. Our Diversity, Equity, Belonging (DEB) team has been working internally and with customers to answer these tough questions. We created this resource in order to provide you with best practices and considerations during this time.
You can still take action (even without a survey)
Many of our customers have been asking if they should launch a survey to address the current social unrest surrounding Black Lives Matter. The short answer is no. Launching a survey for the sole purpose of responding to recent events runs the risk of appearing disingenuous and may break down trust between your organization and marginalized employees. For example, asking questions focused on whether or not to support specific movements or causes (e.g., ACME should support the Black Lives Matter movement, etc.) is equivalent to putting the value of underrepresented employees to a popular vote.
The best practice in these circumstances is to focus on creating a space for dialogue within your organization. This could be an opportunity to connect with Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders in your organization, or if you’re looking to consult data as an input, review prior survey results to identify where you might need to improve your efforts and take action.
Additionally, consider some of the activities our DEB team uses at Culture Amp:
Checking in during meetings and conversations
We have moved from “work-life balance” to “work-life blend” because we recognize that the two intersect more often than not. At the beginning of meetings (internal and external) and 1-on-1's, we acknowledge the state of the world.
This gives people the space necessary to discuss what is truly on their minds or what may be holding them back from being fully present. It communicates that we know it may be difficult to focus on work at that moment and shows that we value our employees’ experiences inside and outside of work.
Example script for meetings:
"Before we start today’s meeting, I want to acknowledge the current state of the world and the immense impact that it has on all of us, especially our Black colleagues, friends, and family. I’d like to take a moment to hold space for everyone to consider how they’re feeling right now and anything that may be holding them back from being fully present in this meeting. Feel free to share aloud if you’d like to, or we can just pause briefly before we get started. We also welcome folks to take some time and sign off, if necessary.”
In addition to meetings, consider starting off emails with acknowledgment, empathy, and available resources.
Example script for email communication:
"I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well this week. It’s personally tough (wild understatement) watching the current events unfold in our communities. Know that Culture Amp is here to support you in any way we can (here’s our public commitment to standing with the Black community).”
Sharing resources and taking action
To create a truly inclusive environment, organizations must move beyond traditional diversity or unconscious bias training and incorporate active anti-racism education and accountability. We highly recommend checking out this resource guide.
In addition to learning, start to think about how you can take actionable steps toward designing more equitable processes at your organization. Learn more about biases within performance management and how you can avoid them. Consider other places, like job postings or benefits offerings, that may marginalize certain groups in your own company.
If you’re already launching a survey...
Your organization may be launching a survey soon or in the near future. In this case, you may want to make some amendments in order to collect data that will help you better understand the experiences of your Black employees.
The questions you include could ask about things like work-life balance, organizational support, and feelings of inclusion. You could also consider asking questions regarding your company’s response (if you have instituted any programs, initiatives, or public statements) to gauge how your employees feel about what you’ve already implemented. You should also plan to analyze qualitative data related to Black employee experiences (e.g. via comments, focus groups, ERG sessions, etc.).
Specific questions to consider
- We’re genuinely supported if we choose to make use of flexible working arrangements
- I am able to arrange time away from work when I need to
- I am able to make necessary changes in how I work to improve my own wellbeing
- I have access to the right resources to cope with stress
- My manager regularly checks in with how I am doing (not just work-related)
- I receive support from people around me at work when I need it
- I know where to access the wellbeing resources available to me at [Company]
- I know where to access guidance/support from my company if I experience grief or loss
- I am included in decisions that affect my work
- Perspectives like mine are included in the decision making at [Company]
- When I share my opinion, it is valued
- I can voice a contrary opinion without fear of negative consequences
- I can be my authentic self at work
- I feel respected at [Company]
- I feel like I belong at [Company]
- [Company] values diversity
- I understand my company's _____ (e.g., “commitment to anti-racism” or “plan to address racism”).
- My company’s commitment to anti-racism (e.g., community support, anti-racism, etc.) is genuine
- I know where to access XYZ resources available to me at [Company]
- I know how to access my company’s Employee Assistance Program [other employee support program]
- I believe my company's Employee Assistance Program [other employee support program] will meet any needs I may have
- My company really allows us to make a positive difference
Communicating about your survey
Sending out communications about your survey is always important. You should clearly outline why you’re launching the survey, who will have access to the data, and how action will be taken. Also, consider what you may want to add as additional context for why you’re still launching your survey now. This is an opportunity to express empathy to your employees.
You may also want to consider allowing employees to opt-out of participation in a survey. Given the emotional toll your employees (especially your Black employees) may be experiencing, it can be a lot to ask them to share their feedback. You might even acknowledge the emotional energy that goes into providing thoughtful feedback in your survey communications.
Example survey communication:
"In light of the violence impacting the Black community and ongoing protests, we feel it's even more important to give you an opportunity to help us understand your experience and what you need to be successful here. We'll be taking special care to ensure our Black teammates get what they need as we gather insights and action the responses."
What about demographic information?
Self-report demographics are especially beneficial, as you will be able to use the results in conjunction with your other quantitative data (via filtering, the spread of scores, and heatmaps). Consider adding additional self-report demographics or utilizing demographics that you have available to you, but never considered using in the past (e.g., employees with dependents, sick leave utilization, participation in L&D initiatives). Check out this resource for more information on how to add self-report demographics.
We recommend asking the following self-report demographics:
When including self-report race and ethnicity options, ensure that they match your local context. On the Culture Amp Inclusion survey, we allow for two additional race/ethnicity options, and we recommend this as best practice in order to capture the nuanced experiences of employees who identify with multiple races. To get started, check out the race/ethnicity suggestions, by various regions, outlined by the Culture Amp team.
What are your caregiving responsibilities?
- Children (part- or full-time)
- Other adults
- Children and other adults
- No caregiving responsibilities
- What is your living status?
- Living alone
- Living with family
- Living with other people
Survey results are a great first step, but questions in a survey and any action that can be taken immediately afterward may not be enough to fix or solve complex issues of systemic racism.
Consider complementing survey data with qualitative employee-listening sessions to learn more about the experience of specific groups within your organization. You may want to involve employee resource groups (ERGs) and other DEI leaders at your organization when analyzing and identifying areas for action. These groups likely have greater context and understanding of the experience of your employees and can help implement programs from the bottom up.
It can be easy to focus on and feel overwhelmed by the challenges of our broader society. Remember that you have the power to initiate change within your employee population and create an organization that is equitable. Take this opportunity to identify and mitigate sources of systemic oppression internally.