Employee activism, a movement associated with actions employees and workers take to deal with specific issues, events, and experiences, has been on the rise since the start of the global pandemic. Some of these issues involve a company’s policies, practices or a stance on some hot-button topics that can no longer be ignored or swept under the rug.
While traditionally we observe employee activism in unionized environments, the movement has been rapidly evolving in all types of work environments where workers are challenging their employers to embrace crucial political and social causes that are of immense importance to them, their colleagues, and their loved ones. These issues may range from alleged discrimination and harassment to demands for increased wages and benefits. For example, in 2019, employees at big companies and large corporations were actively protesting policies that impacted the way their employers managed complex social issues.
Things have certainly come to a head since the pandemic – in 2020, 2021 and the current year 2022, and employers increasingly recognize that many employees feel empowered to act, openly express their passions and do what they believe is right while setting the bar higher for their organizations. In fact, studies suggest that most employers expect their workforce to become more engaged in employee activism. Furthermore, statistics suggest that younger workers prefer working for companies aligned with their deepest values, passions, and concerns.
We all know that the highly publicized death of George Floyd and other dramatic events have invariably led to racial, social, and political unrest transforming workplaces all around the country. These events have shed light on many critical issues that were not part of workplace discussions in the past but may need to be addressed in the post-pandemic world.
When it comes to organized worker movements, 2020 was unprecedented with hundreds of essential workers working for major companies calling in sick and protesting against what they believed were unacceptable or unsafe working conditions during the pandemic.
One of the most important social issues facing organizations is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Now that employee activism is on the rise, today’s savvy business leaders have their work cut out for them when it comes to encouraging and promoting DEI in the workplace.
There are so many questions, challenges, and concerns to address. What is the best or the most effective way to maintain highly productive teams in a diverse workplace? How do we reconcile differences among employees from various backgrounds? What steps should organizations take to educate workers about the numerous benefits from having an inclusive workplace?
According to some studies, diversity goes hand in hand with the financial performance and profitability of many corporate bottom lines. In fact, organizations with greater ethnic, racial, and other forms of diversity usually get ahead of their competitors with less diverse teams.
Statistics also suggest that companies with greater gender diversity or diversity among management, typically gain competitive advantage, attain higher profitability, and achieve increased innovation.
When it comes to employee activism, employers may benefit from building upon engagement and fully embracing the movement. It is important to keep in mind that, in many instances, employees, even those who are critics of a company or organization, can be a company or organization’s greatest advocates. For example, according to KRC Research, 61% of LinkedIn members who follow your organization are willing to be your brand ambassadors and share your Employee Value Proposition with their networks. Fifty percent post messages, pictures, or videos on social media about their employer; 39% have shared praise or positive comments online about their employer; 16% have shared comments or criticism about their organization online.
Therefore, it is to the benefit of employers to lean into an environment that promotes employee feedback and engagement. Companies and organizations can encourage employee feedback by providing specific and easy-to-understand guidelines employees could share on social media or during face-to-face interactions with friends and family. In addition, they could urge employees to stay alert to social media postings about the company or organization and provide training to employees on how to utilize social media properly, and how stay up to date on all the latest developments taking place at their organization.
According to the analysis conducted by one major PR firm, only three in ten employees are deeply engaged with their employers. Organizations can take these findings into account and carefully examine their workforce to identify and cultivate groups of employees to serve as activists for their brands and reputations.
In my book, The Workplace Transformed, I provide further insights on increased employee activism in the workplace, and the various ways in which employers can use this time to build both stronger and healthier workplaces. Please click on www.angelareddock-wright.com/book/ today to learn more and to get your copy.
I hope you will enjoy reading my book and join me in the discussion and the movement of The Workplace Transformed on LinkedIn @Angela Reddock-Wright, on Facebook and Instagram @iamangelareddockwright.