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Before Driving Change, Look for Change in Yourself

I call on you as leaders in HR to explore what belonging, inclusion and empathy look like on a personal level—not just at work but in your personal lives.

Three years ago, the murder of George Floyd sparked a public discourse around race that reverberates to this day. The message was clear: We could and should be doing more to foster racial equity in our society. Seemingly no corner of life escaped scrutiny. All institutions—from entertainment to education, religion to government—faced intense examination. 

The world of work was no different. In a collective response to the racial reckoning, employers implemented sweeping inclusion, equity and diversity (IE&D) measures. Going further, we've added belonging and accessibility to the mix. CHROs worked diligently to hold their organizations to account and vice versa. Amid their response to a pandemic, HR also transformed its approach to workplace culture and workforce development. HR sought—and frankly, workers demanded—culturally embedded IE&D in the workplace. Inclusion shifted from something "we did" to something "we are."

I applaud our collective response and am proud of HR's work as a profession. However, I still wonder, "What more can we do?" Justifiably, we've focused on IE&D on a macro level. This inflection point in history is well documented. How much the world is changing is chronicled daily. Ultimately, how much we can change is in our hands. We've dissected the broad systemic issues and societal problems to diagnose the cause and prescribed macro-level remedies. Our progress relies on how much we narrow the aperture and identify what each of us can do in our daily journeys to close the gap. I wonder how we can infuse inclusion and diversity into our approach to race, age, gender, lifestyle and thinking.

I call on you as leaders in HR to explore what belonging, inclusion and empathy look like on a personal level—not just at work but in your personal lives. As the adage goes, "How you do anything is how you do everything." The habits we practice are for all of life, personal and professional.

Does our head knowledge of diversity reverberate in our hearts? What are we doing in our relationships—both inside and outside work—to practice inclusion, to break old patterns? Are you stretching yourself? Have you listened with your eyes as well as your ears to learn someone's story or understand their life experiences? To fully accept someone, we must first understand them.

Before we cast judgment on others, let's first look in the mirror and assess our daily practice of inclusion. Let's measure our success not by the people we talk to but by the people we listen to, the diverse voices we hear. Let's gauge our success by the people we've grown to understand, those who don't look, think, act or live like me.

Before any training initiatives or companywide development programs, creating substantive change starts with us as leaders. We cannot ask more of organizations than we ask of ourselves. Before pushing for diversity in our organization, we must set the stage for inclusion in our own lives. Before we can truly drive change, we must first change ourselves.


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