Throughout the pandemic, numerous news stories have reported the outsized impact of COVID-19 on people of color—not just in terms of health equity but their overall well-being and career trajectory. While business leaders can’t control the course of the public health crisis, they can work to mitigate any negative secondary outcomes for their staff.
One way to do this is to ensure that team members of color have the support they need to continue to grow in their careers and maintain a healthy work-life balance, both now and beyond the pandemic. To help business leaders achieve this, eight Fast Company Executive Board members share their insights and advice below.
1. PRIORITIZE MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH.
I don’t believe in work-life balance, and I believe that many of our team members know that companies truly don’t either. At my company, we talk about work-life prioritization. Companies need to make sure that their team members of color are heard and supported. Encourage team members to prioritize their mental and emotional health so that they can contribute productively at work. – Harold Hughes, Bandwagon
2. RETHINK YOUR SYSTEMS, PROCESSES, AND POLICIES IN TERMS OF INCLUSION.
Part of the reason the pandemic hit people of color so disproportionately is that many organizations’ systems, processes, and policies were built without support for diversity in mind. Rethinking these on foundations of inclusion is the most important step in setting your organization on a new trajectory, removing any barriers, and providing support to underrepresented groups so they can thrive. – Joyce Kim, Genesys
3. OFFER FLEXIBLE SCHEDULES FOR FAMILY CARE.
Hispanics tend to be very family-oriented. It is not rare for us to live with our parents into our late 20s. The Hispanic home averages 1.6 wage earners per household, compared to 1.2 for non-Hispanic whites. If you have Hispanic employees, think about their families and offer flexible schedules so they can care for loved ones. – Ximena Hartsock, Phone2Action
4. STAY COMMITTED TO ALLYSHIP.
Companies should create safe spaces for listening and discussion, conduct necessary research to fill potential gaps in understanding, and take action that makes it clear that the voices of team members of color matter. The important conversations of the past year cannot be a moment in time, and organizations must remain committed to the ongoing journey of active allyship for all communities of color. – Amit Paley, The Trevor Project
5. DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE AND CORE VALUES.
A company must have a clear purpose and set of values and never compromise on them. At Neste, our purpose is to create a healthier planet for future generations, and our values are care, collaboration, and courage. By staying true to our purpose and values, Neste can ensure that employees get the support needed to ensure their well-being, health, and safety during any difficult situation. – Jeremy Baines, Neste US, Inc.
6. GET THE WHOLE COMPANY INVOLVED.
We need everyone involved in the solution, not just leadership. Companies must foster workplaces where diverse employees can thrive. On day one, all my employees receive DEI training, making inclusivity top of mind. Our ERGs, including ActivelyBlack and ActivelyLatinX, create forums to amplify the voices of our team. Also, use outside reviews on hiring and inclusivity to hold teams accountable. – Jason VandeBoom, ActiveCampaign
7. DEVELOP A HUMAN-CENTRIC ORGANIZATION.
Creating a healthy and human-centric organization for all employees should be every leader’s responsibility. Foster psychological safety so everyone can be appreciated for who they are. Create the conditions that allow everyone to succeed, including providing needed training or coaching and offering flexibility. Put employees’ well-being and resilience at the top of your list of priorities. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
8. TRULY LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES.
Create a safe place for all of your employees to share feelings, thoughts, ideas, and discourse. And then listen. Letting your employees know their voices matter, that their concerns are valid, and that you, as a manager, are paying attention to them may garner more open communication. Open communication allows for feedback—both good and bad—to be taken into account and acted on. – Becca Chambers, Ivanti