Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
As millions of Americans continue to quit their jobs, it is important that employers take ownership of why they are unable to retain employees during this Great Resignation. It is time that employers finally admit their culpability in empowering abusive cultures that lack accountability to ensure fair, inclusive and healthy work environments.
It is no secret that attrition rates for Black professionals are higher when compared to white counterparts and that Black professionals are not getting a sense of belonging, trust and respect from corporate America. Also, Black professionals are more likely to encounter racial prejudice and microaggression than other racial or ethnic groups within the workforce.
Instead, corporate America has utilized training programs to gaslight their concerns, but the rise in employee activism to speak up against their actions when it comes to social injustices, racism, harassment, unfair policies, financial insecurity, grueling hours, unfair hiring and promotional practices, and so much more within the workplace has exposed their covert ways.
While corporate America remains stubborn and chooses to look towards advancements in technology to compensate for the loss of employees and to divert from issues that come with having employees, they forget humans will always be a necessity within the workforce.
So instead of only “pivoting” to solutions that can fulfill employee obligations, it’s important to also focus on investigating what solutions can be implemented to ensure corporate America operates based on healthy, safe, fair, and inclusive policies and cultures that uphold accountability.
It’s also time to consider educating teens and young adults about their employment rights before they enter the workforce. Only then will they be prepared to self-advocate to create safer and fairer workplaces that hold abusive individuals and cultures accountable. As a teen living in rural West Virginia, understanding that my first job was actually discriminating against me and other Black kids would have saved all of us years of trauma. I knew I was being treated differently, but I did not know how to self-advocate and challenge ignorance.
I’m sure others may feel the same, as one study found that 81% of high schoolers felt the curriculum should focus on actual real-world issues so they are prepared. Informing teens and young adults of their rights will help to prevent future workplace trauma and empower new company cultures and workplaces that are inclusive and accountable.
Many may argue that as teens and young adults enter the workforce, they are trained in employment rights. Yes, this is true, but it’s important to note that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requirements for informing employees of their rights are only required for employers with 15 or more employees. This gap allows teens and young adults who work for small businesses to remain uninformed unless they obtain employment from a larger company.
In addition, even when young adults become informed, they are already entering an environment that may have a culture of acceptance. For example, as businesses struggled to pivot during the pandemic last year and an estimated 800,000 businesses permanently closed, EEOC complaints only decreased by 7.2%. Additionally, companies such as McDonald’s and Amazon continue to battle private discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits, while Amazon and Tesla were ordered to pay millions due to discriminatory work environments.
Lastly, only 20% of managers questioned in a Gallup study felt compliance and ethics training resulted in actual behavioral change. It can be argued that companies only provide training on employment rights and diversity due to legal obligations. Especially since an estimated 27% to 30% of training professionals consider actually evaluating the effectiveness of training and ensuring actual behavioral change is a priority.
Instead of focusing on investments that divert attention away from understanding why employees are migrating to new opportunities, businesses should concentrate on ways to improve how employees are treated in order to ensure retention, productivity, and social standing. It is also time to consider how teens and young adults are prepared for the workforce to proactively address unfair and abusive cultures. Yes, the purpose of a corporation is to produce a product or service in exchange for financial gain, but employees are the key to fulfilling this obligation.
Dr. Lisa Marie Lee is a Performance Improvement Solutionist who founded Linked Results, LLC. First developing her career at the age of 17 in the United States Navy, she learned her passion for solving workplace issues. Her experience with leading teams of over 50 individuals at a young age has fostered her understanding of what is required to ensure a healthy, ethical, inclusive and effective work environment.