The unconscionable fatal attacks on Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and George Floyd coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic have illuminated the long-standing racial divide in the U.S. and continued inequalities across healthcare and economic opportunity in this country. Through impassioned protest, we’ve seen the world viscerally respond to centuries of systemic oppression and racism. We’re now at a unique juncture in history to reflect, unlearn, and educate ourselves on the structures of racial oppression and evaluate how to pursue a more equitable future for all.
Change doesn’t happen in moments of strength, it happens in moments of vulnerability, and businesses can and must play a leading role in addressing racial equity and driving meaningful progress. Over the past few weeks, companies large and small have publicly spoken out to condemn racism and systemic oppression. We all agree that this is not an issue that will be resolved with just one note or in a series of conversations.
We must be accountable for the growth and progress we have committed to, setting measurable goals and benchmarks. We must also think about how we’re developing over the long-term and what practices we’re putting into place that are sustainable. Leadership must look at all levels of an organization in order to be accountable for growth, from the boardroom to middle management to new hires.
I am a leader of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at LinkedIn, but the onus of this work is not just on me. It’s on leaders across organizations and on all of us to foster a culture of belonging. This is a time for critical conversations about the real work we have to do, the journey ahead, and how we’re measuring our progress along the way.
Acknowledgment and allyship
Before enacting change, we must acknowledge the inequities that have lasted for ages within our societal and corporate structures. We also need to take a close look inward at biases that may be present in the practices and culture within our own corporate structures and organizations. It will likely be uncomfortable, but it’s a crucial first step. Leaders must be role models who operate with intention and conviction to continuously practice and learn the art, science, and skills of inclusive leadership.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen progress with companies like Nike and Adobe after they provided a day off for employees to commemorate Juneteenth, and take time to reflect, learn and support each other. We’ve also seen a variety of organizations host webinars–including LinkedIn’s recent TransformHER conference—for Black employees and active allies to come together to inspire positive action and recognize that they are not alone in the struggle for justice and equity.
Measurement is an essential component of this accountability and requires both qualitative and quantitative analysis of goals and annual benchmarks. These measurements must take place both from the department level and across the company as a whole to see where change has been made, and where there is room for improvement.
If you haven’t already, explore creating an annual workforce diversity report and ensure there are regular quarterly diversity check-ins with senior management. You can also use tools such as Glint, that provide a direct feedback loop via internal employee surveys. These real-time surveys provide crucial insights into employee sentiment and needs in a way that helps inform strategy and action.
Building a diverse talent pipeline
We know that nonwhite Americans are expected to compose a majority of the U.S. population by 2042—a statistic that suggests diversity needs to be embedded in our entire business strategy. However, the demographic shift of our audiences has far outpaced the demographic shift of our industry, particularly in the C-suite.
We must recognize that we have made slow progress in prioritizing not just diversity but also racial equity at our organizations. This, even after it has been demonstrated and shown in study after study that racially diverse leadership makes a company more profitable and raises performance. According to research from McKinsey, companies with the most racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Companies with the least racial diversity actually lag in performance compared to their peers.
Many companies have recently announced commitments to building a more diverse workforce, such as Google which recently announced plans to improve representation at senior levels by 30% over the next five years. Similarly, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella shared that they plan to increase Black representation by adding an additional $150M of D&I investment to programming, and by doubling the number of Black and African American people managers, senior individual contributors, and senior leaders in the U.S. by 2025.
When people from diverse backgrounds and cultures work together, we all succeed. We must evolve not only the way we hire but also ensure we’re retaining and promoting employees by building programs across the employee lifecycle to create a culture of belonging.
In addition to an increased focus on diverse candidate slates and new investments in onboarding and mentorship, one of the key focus areas for us at LinkedIn is a company-wide learning curriculum and accountability framework for our people managers.
We know that hiring managers have an outsize impact on the hiring, professional development, and retention of talent from underrepresented groups. That’s why we are doubling down on building a group of people managers that’s world-class in inclusive leadership. We’re committed to making sure they reflect our vision to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. With this focus on our people managers, we are working to drive real progress in the hiring and growth of employees from underrepresented groups. These training programs will help to ensure managers are equipped with skills to be inclusive leaders, to understand and confront bias, and to actively create a culture of belonging.
The learning curriculum and accountability framework will be mandatory and company-wide. The curriculum will include coursework that enables our people managers to become stronger allies and to foster a culture of belonging and inclusiveness. Courses will help managers to understand and confront bias, conduct inclusive conversations, and lead compassionately.
We’ll have more to share on the accountability measurements and framework soon, but, at a high level, people managers will be responsible for skill building (via coursework like our LinkedIn Learning pathway on allyship and inclusivity) and progress will be measured via manager’s quarterly objectives and key results and tools like our company-wide employee surveys.
Leading the fight against racism and injustice takes more than just lending your voice to the cause. It takes courage, vulnerability, and most of all, action. Companies, and the people who work for them, can use this pivotal moment to enact real change that’s long overdue. Those that take specific, pointed actions to build an equitable workplace that enables all people to thrive will come out of this period of unrest more successful and stronger than ever before.
Rosanna Durruthy is LinkedIn’s vice president of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.