What Your Black Employees & Customers Need to Hear
5 steps to craft a statement that matters.
If you haven’t issued a statement about today’s civil unrest to your staff or customers — do it. You may feel extra pressure because you haven’t said anything sooner. You might be anxious that the words won’t come out right. Do it anyway.
There is no true growth in comfort, and right now, although it is a challenge, it is essential that your Black employees and customers know that you value them, that you see them, and that you are doing whatever work your company can do to do your part.
Recognize that African Americans are experiencing a painful reality right now. Your company represents a type of normalcy that they trust and rely on. Be there for them. When you do not address the upheaval that we are all facing, you are expanding the elephant in the room, not avoiding it. Ignoring what’s happening will erode trust in you, your brand, and what your company stands for.
This may be the most difficult statement you craft in your career. We’re here to help.
Follow these 5 steps to craft a message that matters.
Have the Message Come From the Top
While most communication pieces work best with a united voice, the severity of this topic requires a targeted leadership address. To that point, whether spoken or written — this message should be in the leader’s true voice.
Struggling with your opening? Start with exactly what you are thinking. Do you feel a loss for words? Say that. Eloquent prose isn’t what’s important here. Authenticity is. Your employees and customers are not looking for a perfectly polished statement. They are looking for connection and they want to know if your company values their business, their contributions, their personhood.
Remember — it may feel impossible to put yourself in the shoes of a Black person if you are not Black. You don’t need to do that to empathize. All of us have felt fear, witnessed an injustice, or been unheard. Tap into those feelings. Write or speak from that place. We’ll hear you.
Have a Black Executive or D&I Specialist Overlook Your Statement
This is what inclusiveness is all about. Ask a Black leader in your company (if you don’t have one, that’s its own issue) or your Diversity & Inclusion specialist to weigh in. By allowing these professionals to share their perspectives, your statement will be more well-rounded.
Share a Plan
Talk about what you and your company are doing or are willing to do. Is it encouraging employees to take the time they need? Perhaps you want to offer more tangible support and resources. Whatever it is, make it simple and honest. If you aren’t sure what action to take — say that. Ask your employees and customers to tell you what they would find useful in the fight for equity.
Ally = Action. Keep this in mind when you put your plan forward. Here are some suggestions:
- Donate to an organization focused on racial justice and reform
- Encourage time off for mental health and peaceful activism. Consider an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you don’t already have one in place.
- Host an open forum or town hall to discuss changes needed
- Educate by sharing material with your team
Don’t Say It
Right now, your employees and customers are more sensitive to lip service than ever before. If you don’t mean it — don’t say it. If your door is not always open to discuss further, don’t use the phrase. Focus on what you can do and don’t over promise.
We know that this conversation is a difficult one. It’s the most sensitive topic in our nation and it’s been that way for centuries. Today is a new day. Silence is no longer an option. Make sure your company lends its voice to this critical effort. You can do it.