Harnessing social consciousness to enhance culture
Compassionate leadership presents a gift to people
professionals , writes diversity and inclusion director Aggie Mutuma .
Social justice , equality and self-reflection ; these are terms that many of us have read , discussed and explored more in the past few months than in the rest of our lives . The backlash against the killing in police custody of an African-American man in the US , in the midst of a novel coronavirus pandemic , has led to an awakening in people across all walks of life ; a sense that we have shared ‘ enemies ’ ( the virus and racism ) and shared goals to end both .
As with any seismic societal shift , this awakening has made its way into organisations , where leadership teams have had to consider the mental health of their staff as a result of lockdown restrictions , while having conversations about race and the lived experiences of under-represented people . Words such as ‘ care ’, ‘ consideration ’ and ‘ compassion ’ are becoming common parlance in leadership discussions .
The value of ‘ softness ’
Personally , I am encouraged by the ‘ softness ’, care and compassion I now see reflected in the thoughts of leaders ; in this , I see an unparalleled gift for people professionals . Both staff and managers have joined the call for flexible working , for equity and fairness in the workplace and for leaders to listen , reflect and learn from their people . Never before has there been such an open conversation about employees ’ lived experiences and the role that leaders have to play in this .
Now is the time for people teams to ride this wave of humanity in the workplace and make significant , lasting changes for their people and their organisations . We have a chance to do the following :
Review and reflect , taking stock of our organisations ’ employee value proposition ( EVP ) through the new lenses provided by both the pandemic and the ‘ black lives matter ’ conversations . People teams should ask themselves whether their organisations are caring , fair spaces , within which there is equality and all voices are heard equally . If the answer is “ no ” to any of these , action is required .
Words such as ‘ care ’, ‘ consideration ’ and ‘ compassion ’ are becoming common parlance in leadership discussions
Engage in conversations , talking openly with employees . This includes their experience of the pandemic and the support they need . We must also talk to our people about race , asking about their lived experiences , what we need to do better and what changes they want to see . Our inquisitive listening , our desire to learn and the open sharing , will serve to build and strengthen organisational culture .
Take action after reviewing , reflecting and conversing , making tangible changes and talking to our people about them . Whether these includes changing policies and practices , introducing shared targets , developing inclusive competencies or committing to working with suppliers run by under-represented groups , every organisation has changes that they can make .
Globally , there is a heightened sense of consciousness and activism in society and this undoubtedly spills into the workplace . People professionals have an opportunity to step into their light and work to make their organisations the caring , equal and just workplaces we have always wanted them to be .
Aggie Mutuma is diversity & inclusion director , HR leader and executive coach at Mahogany Inclusion Partners , applying an HR lens as she supports leadership teams to develop diverse , inclusive and winning cultures .