A lesson from a trailblazing grandma: Challenge yourself to challenge norms
We owe it to ourselves and future generations to reach for the things we want, unapologetically, and break down the barriers in our way.
The pandemic forced us to work differently—now the real disruption must begin.
Those of us engaged in fostering an inclusive workplace often talk about the need to create a culture where employees can bring their “whole selves” to work. I don’t think we quite imagined having screaming children in the background of our meetings—but here we are.
Interrupted Zoom calls are only one way in which the walls between the home and the workplace came crashing down this year. At the same time, quarantines, shutdowns and the powerful movement for racial equity have focused our attention on the things that matter—and how much employees need greater support and understanding from their employers.
This holiday season, I wanted to share my “wish list” of what I’d like to see companies like ours do for employees in 2021 and beyond:
This year has shown us we still have a lot of work to do to be fully inclusive. Events for Black History Month, International Women’s Day and Pride Month bring employees together and remain important, but we need to do more than just grand gestures a few times a year. By providing managers with toolkits for having difficult, yet crucial, conversations about race and responding to feedback, we can focus on improving the everyday interactions that help create a positive culture for everyone. By setting clear milestones to surpass throughout the year, we can ensure we make real progress toward social equity and are held accountable.
If the makeup of our leaders doesn’t reflect that of broader society—by race, gender, life experiences, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds—we’re not going to be the place where top talent will choose to spend their careers. That’s why, two years ago, we launched an initiative to increase our diversity in our senior ranks by 5% over five years. Not only do we need to widen the net of our recruiting efforts, we must amplify the diverse voices of our Black Leadership Forum and our executive leadership teams for women, veterans, Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ colleagues. They can serve as a network of leaders across our businesses that younger employees can look up to for mentorship and advocacy. I’ve seen the power of this firsthand—networking through the women’s executive leadership team helped me find my current role.
The attitude that working from home is “shirking from home” will hopefully be a thing of the past. From the early days of the pandemic, our colleagues from New York to Japan have busted their butts; we’re more likely to tell people to please sign off rather than ask where they’ve been. A remote work environment has placed focus on people’s impact, not their proximity; on achieving outcomes, not just keeping up appearances. An inclusive work environment gives every worker what they need to succeed—providing flexibility to balance work and home is a big part of that.
As our laptop screens became windows into one another’s homes, we learned things about our colleagues. Noticing that someone on our team is a single parent or taking care of elderly parents. Recognizing the anxiety and real hurdles many of our Black colleagues face every day. We’ve gained very real insight into what’s important and what we’re capable of when we work together to get through difficult times. A return to normal can’t include a return to normal attitudes.
Kindness and empathy are leadership 101. Throughout the pandemic, leaders who found ways to promote their team’s physical and mental well-being have produced strong results. At the same time, the virtual workplace and less travel freed up our executives and senior leaders to connect much more often—and more personally—with younger staff and those just starting their careers. That personal touch will be all the more important as we enter a very changed world post-pandemic and reimagine what the workplace can be in the years ahead.