Creating Employees Opportunities for Growth

Do your employees know the power they possess as individuals to impact their company’s climate? 

When I first started working at my current organization about three years ago, I had a 1-on-1 meeting with my manager at the time. He asked me how I felt about my role and the company thus far.  I answered, “It’s pretty good, for the most part.” He asked me to clarify and I explained how uncomfortable I felt being the only Black woman and one of just two people of color on our floor.  He listened to me explain this, agreed, and empathized with me and asked me a question that changed my entire mindset. “What do you think we should do about it?”  Before that question, I hadn’t thought about how I could have an impact on these issues of diversity, inclusion and belonging.  I began forging a personal path to success by finding my people and starting an affinity group for Black employees and allies.  What began as an opportunity for fellowship and fun evolved into an integral part of the organization’s culture.

After two years of this side work,  I earned a spot on our new Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging team.  While I always had the drive and the potential to get here, I needed that manager’s push and sponsorship to take that first step. This is a great example of leaders calling in their employees as valued participants in the creation of climate, rather than calling them out for possibly going against the current climate they dealt.  All employees need to feel that they are heard and trusted by their colleagues and leaders. Employees can add their diverse perspectives and experiences to influence an organization’s culture. They simply need the opportunity to do so.

Since the summer of 2020, many organizations gave employees chances to share these perspectives and experiences in feedback sessions, safe spaces, and workshops.  At my company, these conversations tend to cover an array of topics from colorism and hate crimes to traveling as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and being the best ally.  The best part is they are led by staff. It was important for us to include our employees in the creation of our programming for just this reason.  Together we are all changing the climate.

  Far too often, company climate is seen as something that just is. It can be perceived as something that comes from the top, down. In reality, it is a combination of peer and environmental influence.  Part of it comes from institutional polices and rules and is essentially inherited by new employees.  This is known as environmental influence.  The other part of it is peer influence.  Employees co-create climate, and how they act and move within their careers has a strong influence on their peers.  Imagine your organization’s employees of historically excluded groups speaking their truths, leading conversations, and proudly providing their experiential input.  Now, imagine how different your organization would be.  Your employees that happen to identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and having a disability feeling not just comfortable, but empowered to share their perspectives on business initiatives can only have positive impacts on your organization, your customers, your potential hires and on those employees, themselves.