Black History Month 2021: 5 Things We Can Learn from History

February is Black History Month, an internationally recognized celebration of the contributions Black people have made and a time to reflect on the continued struggle for racial justice. Without implementing meaningful change in our daily lives and into our workplaces, history is unfortunately bound to repeat itself.

HERE'S WHY

Black History Month typically brings Black History Month campaigns, including webinars, social media posts, clothing releases, television specials and other content for consumers. At times, these gestures can come off as tone-deaf and performative, particularly when presented without context. This is a lost opportunity to make a real difference!

As we continue to navigate a time of heightened protests and movements calling for civil rights reforms, thinking critically in order to learn from our current and historical downfalls is more important than ever. 

Recognizing and celebrating employees’ racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds can help you boost workplace belonging and employee engagement

Here are 5 things you can do this Black History Month to move your organization’s allyship from performative to authentic:

  • Understand that “not seeing color” is not the goal. Difference is what makes us human. Your workplace should be an open environment, which enables your employees to openly discuss, embrace and be proud of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. 
  • Don’t put the onus on your Black employees to educate their peers. There are great learning resources produced by Black professionals already available. Doing your own research around diversity and inclusion at this time will save your Black employees time and emotional energy.
  • Recognize your organization is not perfect. Think critically about your own workplace. Do you create safe spaces to discuss current events affecting your team members’ communities? Do your policies and practices reflect your anti-racist values?
  • Look into company-wide team building initiatives to get everyone on board. Black History Month is a great time to think about your company’s culture and make changes as needed. Teams with inclusive cultures can outperform their competition by up to 80%.
  • Acknowledge the hard work your Black employees are doing every day.  Employee recognition is crucial to building inclusive workplaces. It’s also a great motivator for repeating key behaviors in the workplace!

As people leaders, we must set the standard of how to eradicate racism, discrimination and unfair treatment from our organizations—whether intentional or unintentional—to authentically encourage the inclusion of all employees. 

GO DEEPER

Want to learn more about what your business can and should be doing to improve the experience of your Black employees? Listen to our Businesses and BLM podcast and join the mailing list for our weekly Sunday Snippets newsletter to stay up to date on best practices for diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace.

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Dialectic helps businesses and organizations improve the way people work, learn, and collaborate through person-centred design and the latest in social psychology, industrial organizational psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural economics.

Dialectic is based in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

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