June 24, 2020

How Companies Can (and Should) Approach Diversity & Inclusion: A Conversation with Essence Souffrant

Likeable Team

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen social media serve as a powerful platform for people and brands to take a stand against systemic racism in support of the Black community.

A new study revealed that 62 percent of respondents between 18 and 35 years old said they will be “doing more research on brands and their inclusivity practices before purchasing, in light of recent events,” compared to 48 percent of those 35 to 44 years old, and 20 percent of those 45 years and older. In other words, younger consumers are over three times more likely to change their purchasing behaviors in the future due to the movement.

On the most recent episode of the All the Social Ladies podcast, Likeable hosts Jenn and Michelle spoke with digital marketing manager Essence Souffrant about her experience as a Black woman living through this moment in history. Keep reading for her thoughts on the brand messages she’s seeing in the media—and her advice for how companies (and the people behind them) can put action behind their words to become true allies.

1. Understand what having a diverse company truly means.

A lot of brands have acknowledged transparently that they haven’t gotten it right. But Essence says that, furthermore, brands need to talk about how they’ve gotten it wrong for such a long time—and what it actually means to get it right. What does it look and feel like to have a diverse workforce? What steps will you need to take to ensure diversity within your company? Whatever it may be, from opening more store locations in Black communities to monetary donations, have a plan.

And, before your company puts out an external statement, address the issue internally. Your employees are your greatest asset. Listen to what they have to say. Have one-on-one conversations with your Black employees. Learn about their experiences, and understand the specific steps you can take to be better. Create a space where your employees can facilitate conversations and have discussions about race and culture.

2. Hold your company and your employees accountable.

This enthusiasm around diversity shouldn’t just appear with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement—and it shouldn’t disappear once the media stops covering the protests. Essence notes that companies that have the most success with diversity and inclusion are the ones that have made it a part of their goals. Challenge your team to be more aware of their unconscious biases, and challenge them to find diverse talent no matter what it takes. Encourage them to look in other places—because if you keep looking in the same places you always have, you’ll just keep finding the same types of people.

3. Win with the 80 percent.

Essence also speaks on the podcast about something called the “20-60-20” rule. When you’re proposing a new idea or trying to change something within your company, 20 percent of your employees will be already on board with the idea. They already have an understanding or a viewpoint that is in complete alignment with what you are saying—so you don’t need to “sell” them on it. Another 20 percent will be the complete opposite. No matter what you do, you will not be able to convince this group that it’s a good idea. The majority of your employees, however, fall in the middle 60 percent. They are open to the idea, and can be influenced one way or another based on further communication. This is where you can make a difference, and where you’ll want to spend your time. So, combine this 60 percent with the 20 percent who are already on board, and the change you’re looking to create becomes much more real. “You can’t change everyone,” said Essence. “You can’t change everybody’s mindsets. But you can hope for the best and win with the 80 percent.”

She also encourages people to be introspective. “Think about where you want to fall within that 20-60-20. Where do you fall today, and where do you want to fall?” So, if your company hasn’t gotten diversity right thus far, there’s never been a better time to change that.

The ball’s in your court—what will you do with it?

Tags: Best Practices, Diversity, Inclusion

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