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Key takeaways:

  • Timely Communication: Emphasize prompt communication of action plans during social crises, ensuring transparency and swift response.
  • Collaborate Widely: Engage with internal and external stakeholders, including business partners and employee resource groups, to ensure inclusive and supportive responses to social issues.
  • Listen Actively: Conduct listening sessions with employees to gather feedback and insights, prioritizing employee input in shaping effective organizational responses to social challenges.

After many of the DEI social issues that occurred this year alone, it’s evident that companies must take actions in supporting their employees and customers to address the crises that have caused threats to mental and physical safety.

After mass shootings in Buffalo, New Jersey, Uvalde, and more caused traumatic experiences for communities, and a groundbreaking overturn of Roe v. Wade created safety concerns for many people in organizations, leaders of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) realize the importance of having a plan to address these crises.

But taking action is not an easy task. It requires strategic communications and a willingness to show support to employees and the community your organization serves to make actionable change.

During the DEI Board’s leadership panel about developing a crisis management plan, senior DEI leaders at the world’s largest companies shared how they’re addressing DEI social issues. Here are the key steps they say can help address ongoing concerns.

1. Create a plan to communicate your actions for DEI social issues

One of the first critical steps in addressing what your company is doing to support employees is communicating how your organization will provide support. Randy Irving, Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Nutrien, shared how he realized the importance of communicating about situations as they occur.

“Right after the shootings in Jersey and Buffalo, I was personally feeling helpless in that situation,” Randy said. “I just felt really bad about it. And I was like, I think we need to look at communicating about this,” Randy said.

But after an initial meeting with the director of communications, it was felt as if timeliness played a crucial role in communicating. Randy explained they thought they waited too long to make a statement.

“Then the next day, you had the Uvalde shooting,” Randy shared. “I got right back on the line. I was like, ‘Okay, this is three of them back to back. This one just happened. We can’t use timeliness as a scapegoat to not speak.’ So from there, we pulled together our Chief Safety Officer, our biggest North American business unit, which is our retail, we pulled together legal, and our HR VP that supported the retail organization. And from that, we came up with a plan to communicate.”

Randy explained how they communicated internally about the situations and made it come from their Chief Safety Officer because it was deemed as a safety concern. He used their employee advocacy program to share resources for support to employees and tips on how to handle an active shooting situation.

2. Collaborate with your business partners

After the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Dr. Monica Curry, Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Subaru of America, noted how they had to collaborate with business partners to review their benefits packages.

Because Subaru is a Japanese-owned company, Monica explained how they understood this specific social issue impacted their U.S.-based teams.

“We needed to make sure that we are making sure that our employees understand the benefits that are already out there. But we are also reassessing our benefits to ensure that they are inclusive or as inclusive as we possibly can as it relates to this most recent verdict. So I think all that to say is we’re starting to engage different areas because the social unrest is looking like we’ve never seen before,” Monica said.

Collaborate with your employee resource groups, too

Along with working with their benefits team, Monica said she also took time to collaborate with their employee resource groups on the company’s actions.

“We’re starting to engage other areas in the organization so they can take the lead on the benefits,” she said. “Myself and the ERGs, we do have a Super Women’s Network. And so they are partnering with our benefits, and we’re working through what that message will be. But we are starting to engage different areas of the organization because of the situation and circumstances surrounding us.”

3. Establish listening sessions with employees to address DEI social issues

While senior leaders are expected to understand best how to take action, it’s always valuable to leverage employees themselves on how you can better support them. Darice Brown, Senior Director of DEI Strategic Partnerships, Community, and Brand Impact at ServiceNow, shared how she utilized listening sessions.

“We invited the entire employee base to a listening session because we were aware, even as a team and me as a Black woman, we understood the implications of not only this reversal, but what can possibly happen,” Darice said.

Use employee surveys to get their feedback

Monica also shared how they used listening sessions with employees and asked for direct feedback on how leadership teams can help them.

“We sent out a survey to our population to say, ‘What do you want to know about, what are you feeling, and what are some things that we can do as an organization, as a leadership team, to care for you,’” Monica said. “We didn’t want to make an assumption. Because different states are reacting in different ways.”

4. Work with your peers to create a plan of action

While you may be working to understand better how you can support employees, you don’t have to do it alone. Your peers, senior DEI leaders at the world’s largest companies, can provide support for your strategies.

Randy Irving explained how he received leadership insight from DEI Board members before finalizing their plans to communicate their actions.

“And I was speaking with our director of communications that morning, and we were trying to decide if this was going to be something that we would step out on and call together the team for it to run through our crisis protocol,” Randy said.

During his meeting with the director of communications, Randy was alerted that DEI Board members had an emergency meeting to discuss their companies’ actions to address some of the ongoing crises.

“I took the information that our colleagues shared about what they were doing and why and what they were seeing across the board,” he said. “I was able to have a more informed conversation with our director of communications. And from that, we decided to go ahead and hold the emergency meeting that Monday morning. And we communicated internally as well.”

The DEI Board is here to support your actions

“Having a network like the DEI Board who are going through it in real-time, to be able to talk through what we’re doing, gave me a lot of good insight to have better-informed communication or discussion to be able to drive action,” Randy shared.

While Randy, Dr. Monica, and Darice were able to share their insights during the DEI Board’s panel discussion about developing a crisis management plan, they can strategize more with their peers in our confidential, vendor-free community.

If you lead diversity, equity, and inclusion at a large company, you have the opportunity to learn directly from your peers on best practices for supporting employees during crises, establishing crisis protocols, and more.

Interested in learning more?

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