Corporate first responders return to school
The need for more conversations and understanding seems to be at the forefront of all aspects of society. From our schools to our workspaces, pathways for better communication and empathy become necessary as more difficult conversations enter our daily lives.
Educators grapple with the complicated topics of Critical Race Theory (CRT), Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I), as well as scaling up social and emotional learning programs (SEL) for students even as the political embers burn – while battling their own emotional stress and burnout.
Challenging conversations and supporting inclusive learning environments have enduring strength that transcends generations, sectors and places. CRT, DE&I, and SEL discussions are no longer special topics; these are major issues that underline all aspects of our lives, including school and corporate cultures.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) responds to the bell by addressing the important conversations that reinforce DE&I as a key part of workforce culture. SHRM has more than 300,000 human resources and business leaders in 165 countries, and it impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families around the world.
As the nation’s leader in human capital management, SHRM takes top-tier status beyond cubicles and boardrooms and into the ways of the people who lead market sections across the world.
SHRM partners with Moral Courage College to deliver an innovative inclusion program, Diversity Without Division. Guided by SHRM research indicating that 95% of American employees have participated in polarized workplace discussions and 41% have left their jobs due to stigma, they are taking an active role in fighting the powder keg of us-versus-them toxicity in work environments.
Informed by science of how to unify people in times of stress, the program is set up to build trust, create common ground, reduce anxiety and ask honest, non-judgmental questions. .
“Better Workplaces Lead to a Better World,” says Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, President and CEO of SHRM. “Our own Blue Ribbon Commission on Racial Equity found that it is impossible to foster true inclusion without empathy. This is the groundbreaking work of Diversity Without Division. It gives people the tools to heal our deepest divisions, as well as ourselves.
SHRM has found a perfect partnership with Moral Courage College, whose efforts teach organizations around the world to turn contentious issues into constructive conversations and shared action.
Led by Irshad Manji, New York Times bestselling author of Don’t Label Me: How to Do Diversity Without Inflaming the Culture Wars and award-winning leadership researcher, Moral Courage College and the joint effort of SHRM’s Diversity Without Division connect staff and management for honest and empathetic discussions.
“Get rid of compliance and start teaching us how and why to care. That’s what diversity without division does,” says Manji.
“Include different points of view, perspectives and opinions. We are not ashamed. We don’t blame anyone for having an unorthodox point of view. We appreciate it because they may have something to teach us. It is not about teaching a person what it means to be correct or proper.
SHRM CEO Taylor acknowledges that since the pandemic the workforce is seeing things differently in what he calls “Covid clarity”. He recently co-authored a book called Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval which explores this new transformation. “There is a new social contract between employers and employees,” Taylor says. “Employees now think very differently and have a very different working relationship with the concept of work. Therefore, as HR staff, we have to listen very carefully. »
Listening is an essential aspect of the inclusion program put in place by SHRM and Moral Courage College. Yet, according to Manji, mainstream inclusion programs often become unproductive and exclusive because they focus too much on broader principles.
“One of the mistakes mainstream DE&I makes is that it focuses on groups while pretty much ignoring individuality. It’s important to understand this because diversity exists within groups, not just between groups,” Manji explains.
Diversity Without Division delves into the relationship between shame and blame and the intense emotional reactions that can develop from humiliation. It examines the deep levels of defensiveness, resentment and backfire that can set in for people who feel like their voice is not being heard.
Taylor sees a big focus of HR shifting into a more holistic role with employees. He believes that in a world that is increasingly dependent on the knowledge base, creativity and high functionality of human capital, the work of an HR professional is more important than ever.
“We’re enterprise first responders,” he says. “If we are successful, we can improve people’s lives. We are a profession that can transform the lives of people and organizations. So let’s determine our exploitable work. I want the best and the brightest to enter the field.
SHRM is taking the initiative to change the role of human capital management to make it a more expansive and educational partner between employee and employer.
Taylor’s apt mantra of his industry, as a collection of “corporate first responders,” denotes an out-of-the-box mentality. This time, stakeholders lead by listening and employees are ready to talk. Corporations may just be the accidental lead in an empathy challenge far bigger than any corporate office or school in this country.
Manji and Taylor bet they have the guts to prove us right.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.