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On Thursday, June 11, HRMAC hosted an open discussion for Chicago HR practitioners in an effort to support those in the community who are looking for insight in the wake of protests of systemic racism and inequality in the U.S. Led by HRMAC President and CEO Robin Rone and Navistar Inc. CHRO Donna Dorsey, the intent of the lunchtime event was to allow a space for HR professionals and peers to discuss and share ideas on the ways in which they have begun to champion meaningful change and support employees amid a renewed spotlight on – both internally and externally – diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and how businesses are responding to the latest cries for justice in our streets, and our society.

Like we shared in a message to social media, voicing support is just a start, as was last week’s event. Today is Juneteenth, a date that commemorates June 19, 1865, when the last remaining enslaved African Americans, in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom by Union General Gordon Granger in the months following Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. As reported by NBC Chicago and others, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker will honor the day by lowering the flag “out of respect for the lives lost due to hate and racism in Illinois.” To learn more about Juneteenth, click here.

To honor Juneteenth in our own way, here are some of the incredible resources, tips and ideas shared during (and since) the June 11 session. Read on for inspiration as you and your teams help lead the future of social purpose and DEI in Chicago.

Shared learning

A consensus echoed throughout the virtual room that these recent events have offered a chance for persons of color at all levels of organizations to share their stories, both as professionals and as Black people. This, in turn, is helping to open up the conversation and to broaden perspectives, encouraging colleagues to listen and recognize that this is not a new problem…it’s just being videotaped. It’s important for leadership to consider that the heaviness of recent events is being carried both at work and at home. Some ways you might support employees include:

  • Host informal panels or leadership sessions to increase understanding and address issues as they relate to what is happening. (Keep in mind: Authenticity is important.)
  • Like they’ve done at Allstate Insurance and Farmer’s Fridge, launch an anti-racism resource center for employees. This collection is a great start.
  • Open up the conversation internationally. The U.S. is not alone in this fight, so companies with a global employee footprint need to recognize that global colleagues can offer valuable insight. They, in tern, will appreciate inclusion in related events, meetings or education.

Social purpose

Much like the effects of COVID-19, these ongoing events have once again thrust corporate social responsibility (CSR) beneath the microscope. What is your company doing as it relates to CSR? How do you plan to communicate philanthropic, charitable or activism efforts? If you are seeking an organization, or organizations, local to Chicago that your company might support, consider this list:

As always, decisions on where to contribute have rewards and risks that each company should be thoughtful about. For example, an organization like YWCA supports women and minorities.

Revamp training

When it comes to training, it’s not an “or,” it’s and “and.” Are you addressing racism within your organization in the same way as sexual harassment? If not, consider the following actions:

  • Create conversation toolkits for people managers, and customer-facing staff, to help them lead and address discussions as they arise. Catalyst recently shared this example. (Note: Don’t forget to also focus on what managers and leaders should “do” beyond talking.)
  • Offer leadership consulting and coaching that specifically emphasizes unconscious bias, anti-racism. Then, take this a step further by embedding traning at every level of talent.

Build talent

Some companies may not have robust DEI programs, but may recognize a need to initiate change. Consider creating a Chief Diversity Officer position and hiring this employee to report to the CHRO and CEO. Not sure you can add a whole new position? Bring in a DEI consultant or hire an anti-racism educator to speak to senior leadership.

Time off

While Juneteenth has been celebrated yearly since 1865 – and is referred to by many as the country’s second Independence Day – the date has recently begun to be recognized by more communities, and companies, nationwide. Not to mention, there is renewed interest in making June 19 a federal holiday. What can your company do?

  • Educate and activate. Ben & Jerry’s, known for its activism, has posted to its blog, rallying everyone – customers and staff included – to actively support legislation.
  • Commit to observing Juneteenth as a sanctioned holiday, annually. Compiled by Hella Creative, this list features a growing list of companies who’ve committed to this to date. (Bonus: A list of Chicago businesses honoring Juneteenth.)
  • Encourage volunteering by offering a company-sponsored volunteer day or reminding employees if this already exists.
  • Plan to offer time off for reflection beyond Juneteenth, such as in support of legislative events like Election Day.
  • Want more ideas? Willis Towers Watson developed this great resource.
Want to share your ideas and resources, or to connect with fellow HR professionals throughout Chicagoland? Join the official HRMAC LinkedIn Group!