How the Black Lives Matter Movement Might Just Save Us from Our Economic Crisis

business diversity and inclusion Innovation

The world order is being shaken up at a scale our generation has never seen before as we face a pandemic, widespread social isolation, and a global economic collapse. And as if we haven’t seen the worst this year had to offer, we bore witness to the tragic injustice of a man named George Floyd, who was killed by police during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

Black Lives

Source: Mlle Sonyah / Shutterstock

A new pandemic was brought to our attention: the racism pandemic. Our citizens did not remain silent; our entire country is inflamed and outraged over moral inequities. We are searching for answers, refusing to be bystanders any more, and finding a way to shine a light on those who have been marginalized for centuries. There is no better time than now to forge a future—a far more inclusive one.

Diversity Will Save the Day

I propose that the rallying call that Black Lives Matter (BLM) is the answer to solving the world’s economic crisis.

As a talent acquisition leader and an HR professional who has hired 10,343 people over a span of 18 years, I am an expert in following the letter of the law when it comes to diversity. Two of the strongest governing bodies that oversee equal opportunity in the hiring process are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

While the current laws and regulations that oversee fair hiring have made an impact, diversity has never been equated with increased business results and performance and has been meteorically placed on companies’ back burners, merely “checking the box” for their inclusion efforts.

The real enemy of diversity and inclusion in corporate America today, especially for those marginalized voices, is a phenomenon called groupthink. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon wherein people come together and create the “yes men,” the idea being that this group creates strong, unified decisions … in the beginning. No one intends to be a part of groupthink, and it happens when we tend to go along with it to make sure we get along.

Get Rid of ‘Group Think’

As this phenomenon of group decision-making goes, the group comes to believe their consensus and performance history will be able to continue to grow the organization and don’t second-guess their assumptions. They believe that as a single group, having a combined voice or directive is more powerful than the ideas of outsiders, or those who look or sound different from them.

Human beings are tribal; it is how we survived for millennia. As people came together as tribes and, eventually, countries, states, and cities, it created an “us vs. them” mind-set. This resulted in a zero-sum game that means only the fittest survive and those who sound or look different from the group are considered outsiders and are thus silenced and ostracized.

If you want to see groupthink in history, look at the dynamics of the Bay of Pigs, the Pearl Harbor attacks, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Decision-making groups inside of these incidents did not listen to outside voices or differing perspectives, which created the blind belief that their decisions were superior and accurate. The result? Those same well-intentioned groups created global disasters that resulted in millions of lives lost.

Today, groupthink is alive and well. Google any Fortune 500 company, and find a picture of its corporate board of directors or leadership team. You’ll find one commonality: older white men. The benefit of white privilege got them to the top, and groupthink helped assimilate leadership teams that look exactly the same.

I’ve even heard of a leadership team bragging about having diversity because all the white men went to different Ivy League colleges. This means we look at people and classify them as not a good cultural fit when we need to question that standard narrative because this thought that people aren’t like us is actually the thing that will set us free.

What does diversity for black people really look like? Only 3.2% of executive jobs are held by black professionals; less than 1% of Fortune 500 organizations have ever had an African-American CEO. In comparison, 14% of the United States population is black. Creating a homogenous leadership group creates conformity and is the antithesis and enemy of change. This kind of systemic racism and groupthink combined into one deadly force of discrimination has deafened the voices of black Americans.

The Benefits of a Diverse Organization

We all know that diversity is the right thing to do. But it shouldn’t be seen as a trophy or a box to check but rather as a key to running a business better. What if I told you it’s also in a company’s best interest? The benefits of diversity are seen in outcomes. Diversity brings many added benefits to an organization.

Diverse organizations see better profitability and increased problem-solving and outperform other companies that do not invest in diversity. It’s been scientifically proven that companies that actively hire and promote diversity create better business results to the tune of a 19% increase in their revenue.

In other words, by embracing diversity now, you could help your company achieve record-setting growth. The death of innovation has been caused by not listening to voices that speak a different truth or experience. It’s time we started listening.

When we listen to the message others tell us with open hearts, we hear their truth and their reality. Most times, the voices we’re listening to have different experiences, education, and other realities we have not experienced ourselves. By truly listening with empathy, we learn about ideas and possibilities we could never have considered ourselves. This is the spark of innovation. You only need to ignite it for it to create the catalyst for a dramatic change in an organization.

Embracing diversity at work is a secret superpower for businesses and their employees, as it gives space for fostering creativity, innovative ideas, and knowledge that homogenous workplaces rarely have.

Hiring, promoting, and including diverse people, especially those of color or marginalized voices, can absolutely transform a company’s financial performance.

6 Tips for Increasing the Bottom Line Through Diversity

Here are six tips for how you can immediately increase your company’s bottom line through diversity:

  1. Lean in: Lean into the idea of diversity as not only good for your community but also good for your business. Create strategies and rewards, and incentivize your team to hire, train, and promote African-American professionals.
  2. Commit to mirror your community, and measure your progress: Find the demographics of the communities you serve and are based in. Your organization demographics should attempt to mirror or do better than your community. Measure, analyze, and report on this every quarter.
  3. Poll your people: Do a quick pulse survey, and ask your existing employees to share their ideas on how to improve diversity inside your organization. Provide a place to be safe and heard. Listen carefully to those voices you’ve never heard speak up before.
  4. Create an advisory board: Create a diverse advisory board to lead your diversity initiatives. Make sure this board reports to someone who is impartial, who sponsors diversity, and who is not just “checking the box.” Identifying top ideas allows the advisory board to be an integral part of the implementation.
  5. Create fair hiring practices (for real): Don’t settle for check-the-box activities. Allocate volunteer time and financial sources to your local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or BLM Chapter, and send them all your job openings. Ensure referrals from these organizations get a chance to be interviewed. Do active outreach to your black professionals for additional training, mentorship, and promotional opportunities. Ensure all interviewers understand that cultural fit is not the color of someone’s skin. When candidates are equally weighted and all things are considered fair and equal in experience and qualifications, we should see diversity as an additional qualification. Strive for inclusion, not assimilation.
  6. Share the success: Share stories of promotion and achievement of marginalized employees. Give them a platform to share their success with their peers and the leadership team.

Imagine if we started leaning into the idea that those voices that have been silenced for decades had something that could save our world economically. Imagine if every company leaned into the idea that diversity is necessary for a business’s survival. Imagine if we could grow revenue for every company today by 19%. Imagine a world where every voice matters and it makes us better by listening to it. That’s the kind of world I want to live in.

A self-described “recruiter gone rogue,” Lindsay Mustain is the former most visible employee of Amazon, the Dream Job Hack Podcast host, an #asklindsay author, a keynote speaker, and a LinkedIn “celebrity” with millions in readership.

Mustain teaches senior-level professionals and executives how to leverage their personal brand to land their six-figure dream job. Highly attuned to the growth of companies around the world, her clients have landed opportunities at Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, and she has assisted thousands in their job search journey.

​Mustain’s background and ascent to becoming an authority in job search, talent acquisition, employment branding, and Human Resources came from a humble beginning. She connects with HR professionals and jobseekers around the world through her message of perseverance, inspiration, and using authenticity to build a personal brand that is true to their highest values and beliefs. In 2017, she released the bestselling eBook 7 Critical Resume Mistakes to Avoid.

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