An Effective Diversity Policy Means Never Having to Say You are Sorry

It hasn’t been a good year for Goodyear.  COVID concerns disrupted operations, second-quarter sales were down 41% from a year ago, and to add insult to injury, last week, company officials found themselves in crisis management mode.  A slide from a Topeka diversity training session, labeled “Zero Tolerance,” itemized two columns of permitted and banned symbols and phrases on apparel worn at work.  Among other slogans, Black Lives Matter was listed under “Acceptable,” while Blue Lives Matter was listed as “Unacceptable.  Predictably, Twitter blew up, and in the digital melee, President Trump accused Goodyear of “playing politics” and called for a boycott.  

On defense, Goodyear denied official responsibility for the slide, stating in a press release that the presentation “was not created or distributed by Goodyear corporate, nor was it part of a diversity training class.”  The company’s policy, it explained, is that employees are asked “not to engage in political campaigning of any kind in the workplace,” and it discourages “forms of advocacy” at work “that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues.”

While many of us hope for the promised radical transformation that presumably will arise from the social disruption we are seeing, we still have businesses to run.  The blowup around Goodyear reminds us how important it is for managers and human resource practitioners to stay on top of current trends like protected speechfair recruitment practices, and consistent and fair diversity and inclusion policies.  To avoid being tomorrow’s front-page news, take these steps to ensure your company is not front-page news tomorrow: 

Take control of your HR communications. 

Despite Goodyear’s denial that the zero-tolerance policy was official, leaked audio caused further consternation and elicited a clarification by Goodyear CEO, Rich Kramer.  As we should know by now, technology no longer gives companies a “wait it out” period until a controversy dies.  

There is an important lesson here; be proactive about eliminating wildcard messaging!  No local office managers should be writing handbooks, offering training programs, or applying unapproved HR policies.  In addition to the legal and regulatory ramifications, there are real financial implications as Goodyear investors found out after stock dipped over 4% after the blowup.   Keep corporate-wide policies simple, geographically consistent, and ensure local HR managers are well-trained in delivering and communicating corporate office training materials and guidelines to your employees.

Evaluate the current state of your culture

If your employees can’t boast of a fair and inclusive workplace, in other words, that people of any age, gender, ethnicity, language, educational level, culture, physical ability, religion, or sexual orientation are heard and treated fairly than get to work!  Being intentional about listening to varied perspectives from your workers will help you decide what to focus on first.  

Consider training programs that educate and remind people about unconscious biases, respect for differences, and how to collaborate and resolve conflicts with others.  Remind all employees of the consequences for bullying, discriminatory language, or sexist comments and behaviors.  Helping people understand what a harassment-free workplace looks like will go a long way toward preventing someone from displaying a Confederate flag in their cubicle or culturally appropriating someone’s heritage.

Lastly, review the state of your diversity hiring.

Start with your executive and managerial team.  There are real performance and financial benefits to diverse leadership.  A 2020 McKinsey review of 180 companies showed that when there were gender and ethnic diversity on executive teams, returns on equity were 53% higher.  Diverse leadership results in better problem solving, less homogeneous thinking, unique perspectives, and increased innovation for many companies.   

If you are struggling to improve diversity, remember that unique talent attracts heterogeneous referrals through word of mouth.  You can be your job market’s employer of choice!  Avoid job ads with words or phrases that unintentionally discourage particular groups from applying.  When was the last time you saw a woman described as a “ninja” or “rock star”?  Finally, be sure that hiring teams are as diverse as those you wish to hire.  

Focus on the mission.

The purpose of a good diversity and inclusion policy is to help people to work together to accomplish their goals.  While you may not be able to control all biases, political opinions, or polarizing advocacies, you can positively influence how people feel about their jobs.  And that starts by creating a rich, culturally aware, and fun work environment that people are eager to take part in each day. 

Avoid being tomorrow’s news story.  HR policies don’t create negative headlines when they support a harmonious work environment in which managers and employees respect the dignity, worth, uniqueness, and equitable treatment of every person regardless of differences.  

If you need help attracting and hiring diverse talent to meet data-driven diversity goals, contact us today.  Partnership Employment has top candidates ready to join your team, with a wide range of backgrounds and qualifications.  Let us partner with you to help you connect with candidates who can help you build a 21st-century workforce for success!