February marks the beginning of Black History Month and I encourage every employer and organization to actively take part in recognizing its importance. For decades, Black History Month has shed light on the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and Americans throughout history. 

With all of the rioting and confrontations we’ve seen in 2020, this year’s Black History Month means we need to work harder to ensure we are delivering the message that Black Lives Matter.  This is the time to not only reflect on the hardships of the past, but to truly show that we can make the changes needed to shape a brighter and more equitable future.  As employers, we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our employees, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, have their voices heard at all levels of our organizations.

As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s also take action by making our workplaces a more inclusive and equitable place for our employees.  Here are some ways you can accomplish this.

Celebrate Black History Month

One of the easiest ways you can ensure your employees feel seen and supported is by celebrating Black History Month.  Recognition and visibility are key factors to show your support for improving employee satisfaction for People of Colour (POC).  There are many ways you can celebrate, and this article has some great ideas.

Implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives

Providing resources for your employees is one way to implement diversity, equity and inclusive opportunities, but by taking a proactive approach to actually implement these initiatives and ensure that changes are happening is even better.  You can start off small by reviewing your current policies and practices to remove any barriers that might be indirectly discriminating against certain groups. You might want to conduct an employee survey to benchmark how your employees feel about your organization’s openness to POC with regards to hiring, promotion opportunities, diversity training and general support. You could create a KPI for this initiative and therefore make it part of your measurable performance.

Include POC Voices in Decision-Making Processes

When making decisions for your business, make sure to include POC to ensure your leadership decisions are inclusive and representative of the employees at your organization.  According to the Conference Board of Canada, visible minorities are poorly represented in executive positions and on boards of directors.  One survey found that only 1.7% of all directors on boards are visible minorities.

Aside from actively recruiting people of colour and other minority groups for leadership positions (which I highly recommend), there are several ways you can ensure employee inclusivity in the conversation, such as through surveys or round table discussions.  Be sure to give equal opportunities for your employees to speak and to be promoted.  You might want to consider inviting a third-party facilitator to some of your discussions to make sure all employees feel comfortable to share their opinion. 

We’ve made great progress as a society to right our past wrongs, but we still have a lot of work to do.  Employers have a unique responsibility to ensure they are providing equitable opportunities for their employees, but specifically for people of colour.  As you strive to become a more equitable workplace, I encourage you to promote your Employee Assistance Program as a resource for your employees to access should they require confidential mental health and wellness assistance.