(Editor’s Note: Today’s article is brought to you by our friends at Kronos, a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Kronos has introduced employee contact-tracing capabilities for their customers at no additional charge. Check out their COVID-19 Resource Center for details. Enjoy the article!)
Every year, The Workforce Institute at Kronos publishes a list of global workforce predictions. One of the bolder predictions the group made for 2020 had to do with managing employee activism. This is the actual prediction (published back in January). I’ll let you decide how on target it’s been so far.
Guidelines, ground rules, and guardrails (oh my!): Handling political discourse, activism, and the employer‐employee relationship in divisive times. In a time of global economic and political turbulence, employers must determine how they’ll manage controversial and potentially divisive dynamics in the workplace. The groundswell of employee activism and looming political elections worldwide will challenge even the strongest corporate cultures. Organizations that lean into more formalized diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies – built on a workplace culture foundation that fosters respect, openness, and trust – while establishing guidelines and ground rules for discourse and behavior at work will be better‐suited to maintain a productive workplace. Corporate leaders will likely be called upon to set the tone for civility and tolerance from the top.
Over the past few weeks, Kronos, together with its new family at Ultimate Software following the closing of what’s being touted as a ‘merger like no other,’ has been a leader in the discussion about diversity and inclusion in the HR space. They’ve taken a stand to support equality, end racial injustice, and systemic racism. They’ve recognized the historical significance of Juneteenth and made it a company‐wide holiday for the now 12,000 global employees. They’ve celebrated the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that says employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal.
In addition, this week, Kronos and Ultimate announced the formation of the Equity at Work Council (EWC). The group will be comprised of thought leaders and practitioners who will be working together to understand and develop the science underpinning diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. They’ve created a social room on LinkedIn for anyone who is interested in learning and promoting equity and inclusion at work. Check it out when you have a moment.
The reason I wanted to mention recent statements and activism from Kronos and Ultimate is because, if you go to their Facebook pages or LinkedIn accounts, you’ll see employees (who call themselves Kronites and UltiPeeps) are chiming in and saying how proud they are to work for a company that stands for something. This isn’t new. Employees want to work for organizations that they can be proud of.
If you’re looking for some additional reading on how your organization can support employee activism, here are a few articles from The Workforce Institute specifically focused on the subject.
Workforce Institute advisory board member Dan Schawbel wrote that more than a third of employees have spoken up to support or criticize their employer’s actions over an issue that affects society. In addition, almost half of Millennials have spoken out about issues as well as 27% of Baby Boomers. Research is telling us that employees are most encouraged to do their best work when they feel their ideas, projects, and contributions are valued by the organization and its mission.
According to a 2019 SHRM survey, more than half of Americans feel that discussions of politics in the workplace have become more common. The same survey indicated that 42% had been involved in a political argument, and 1 in 10 say they’d personally experienced differential treatment because of their political views or affiliation. Dr. Chris Mullen, director of HCM strategic advisory services at Kronos and the new executive director of The Workforce Institute, said it’s time for employers to step in. “Employers need to find a way to meet both sides in the middle. It might behoove employers to develop training to help employees better understand how to interact with one another on such polarizing topics such as the election. The bottom line is that all efforts should aim to promote mutual respect and civility among employees.”
While this story happened a few years ago, it’s a very relevant example of employee activism. Market Basket is a privately held and wildly popular grocery chain with approx. 25,000 employees. When their beloved CEO was ousted as a result of a power struggle, employees rallied behind him, demanding his return and, in some cases, losing their jobs in return for their activism. And customers started backing the well‐organized employee outreach that was driven largely through social media.
One of the reasons we’re seeing employee activism play a role in organizational culture is because employees want to know that they work someplace that shares their values and beliefs. They want to know that the organization they work for wants to support the community.12