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Three Years Later, What's Changed?

Organizations said the right things and pledged resources after the racial reckoning of 2020, but much of that has lacked impact.




​The genesis of this edition of People + Strategy was straightforward: In the almost three years since the murder of George Floyd, what has changed? 

At the most basic level, organizations and leaders have said the right things, voiced the correct commitments and pledged resources to make shifts in the Black experience within their corporate walls. But at a more granular level, much of that has lacked impact. 

As the economy tightened in 2022, chief diversity officers and their teams were often included in the initial waves of job cuts. While the job market has been especially hot for senior Black executives, the internal leadership development pipelines below those high-profile hires have remained largely unchanged.

In one Fortune 50 company we spoke with, the global head of talent told us, "We spent the latter part of 2021 identifying diverse high potentials across the organization. Then in the first quarter of 2022, we drew up our succession plans for the key roles across the company. Those two lists had almost no overlap."

With the caveat that change—and particularly systemic change—takes time, as business leaders we are responsible for producing results and demonstrating actual impact. Efforts and a story about good intentions aren't enough. So the organizing principle for our editorial board heading into this issue was to find organizations and leaders who have made an impact on racial equity in their organizations, ask them how they've done it, and then put those ideas and practices into circulation for fellow senior leaders across the readership of People + Strategy.

We also checked in with a variety of stakeholders, from what Millennials and Gen. Z members are seeing (and believing) about what is actually changing, to CEOs, board members and senior HR leaders. In addition to talking about how they've operationalized their intentions, part of what is interesting here—if you look at the Big Question, the Directors Roundtable and the Research + Insights statistics—is the different sentiments and even definitions of what "good" would look like from these different constituencies.

As leaders, we don't get to choose our stakeholders. But we can help set clear boundaries of how we are defining performance against objectives. Perhaps one of the takeaways from this is that organizations can do a better job on three fronts:

  • Clarify for their constituencies how the organization will define success; 
  • Become operationally granular about how the organization will deliver on those goals (and who will be held accountable);
  • And, because the work is hard and the visibility not apparent, do a better job at talking about successes, struggles and strategies to scale future efforts in a sustainable manner.

Thanks for joining the conversation, and we look forward to your contributions to this dialogue. Even more, we look forward to hearing about your impact.

 

Kind regards,

David Reimer, Executive Editor
CEO of the ExCo Group, a senior leadership firm


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