Smithsonian Magazine called 1968 the year that shattered America. The amount that happened in a single year was astounding: the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the rise of the Vietnam War, ongoing protests all across the country for antiwar and racial and gender equality causes, and a step forward in space as Apollo 8 became the first manned spaceflight to travel to the moon and back would all individually be newsworthy events for a year.
But it wasn’t just the volume of events that made 1968 such a pivotal year in American history. It was the scope and context that encapsulated pent up mistakes, injustices, and innovations that made it possible, in retrospect, to move forward instead of returning to a pre-1968 normal.
As we approach mid-year in 2020, this feels like a similar moment. While COVID-19 and record unemployment were going to make 2020 a chapter of its own in history books, the killing of George Floyd by police sparked the pent up injustice of the treatment of people of color in this country.
For anyone paying attention, Floyd’s death isn’t unique. As NPR covered earlier this week, we’ve been exposed to more than a decade of cellphone video of the systemic killing of black people at the hands of people in authority. Of course, preceding this decade are centuries of mistreatment that was rarely captured for public consumption.
What makes George Floyd different than Eric Garner or Sandra Bland? It could be the fact that more than 20 million people are unemployed at this moment and many more are working out of their homes. It could be economic insecurity is amplifying long-term inequality. It could be that the talk of reorienting lives post-COVID means people are ready for other changes.
It could also be that this was the breaking point for many people. Tired of seeing the people they love murdered, with often little to no consequence, George Floyd is a line in the sand. This is where they say enough is enough.
Years of pain and disgust show themselves in many ways, though. The protests that have spread across the nation have been mostly peaceful, but, just like in 1968, it can spill over into vandalism and violence. While nobody wants to see needless destruction and injury, no one who cares about justice can continue to stand by and wait for change to come slowly at the expense of more lives. It has laid bare a norm that no one should have to go back to.
What does this have to do with HR and talent management, you may ask? Our work is driven by people. Inequality at work is a leading issue decades after landmark civil rights legislation made most forms of discrimination illegal and the lack of empathy and understanding of this movement is still evident — even in the organization that claims to represent the interests of HR professionals. Your employees need to hear and know unequivocally that Black Lives Matter. They need to know that they are not only seen but that you also recognize that enough is enough. They need to know that it’s time for action. Whatever discomfort that confronting what that means for your organization gives you, it pales in comparison to the centuries of mistreatment experience by people of color.
This is an important moment, not just for the people of our country, but also for the organizations that continuously claim that people are their greatest asset. Will you show up for the most vulnerable you employ or will you cross your fingers and hope that this is the week that the protests stop and things go back to normal?
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Will 2020 shatter America like 1968 did? If it shatters normal and begins the real work of bringing equality and justice everywhere, we better hope so.
Now, the rest of what’s happening.
- If you’re white like me, how can you start taking action? Corinne Shutack put together a list of 75 things white people can do for racial justice. [Medium]
- ICYMI: Twana Harris was on TLNT yesterday telling us why we’re past words and commitments from companies. [TLNT]
- This employee meeting on racial equality at LinkedIn seems like it could’ve gone a lot better. [The Daily Beast]
- 78% of employers plan on reopening within three months and nearly 60% plan to conduct employee testing or health screening as part of returning to work. [Littler]
- Is contact tracing part of your return to work strategy? Just 40% of HR professionals say they don’t support it — and that was the highest of all the professionals surveyed. [Fishbowl]
- According to new research, 50% of Gen Z lost their summer jobs and 60% lost their summer internships due to COVID-19. [Brainly]
- For those caring for elderly parents and loved ones, 61% believe it has impacted their employment situation and no paid leave availability. [National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP]
- What drives high employee satisfaction: Work role, employer, and salary all play the highest roles. [Zety]
- There is still year-over-year tech job growth in some cities across the country. [Dice]
- Bonusly, an employee recognition technology, secured a $9M Series A financing round. [TechCrunch]
Take care of each other
People are on edge right now. Even though I don’t commute into work, I can feel it in my community — both my local and online. The simplest place to start working to make things right is to take care of the people who need it the most. Show them you’re with them, join them in protest, take care of a meal, watch their house, keep their job for them, or give them space to deal with this unbelievable time.
Sometimes, it’s easy to look at what’s happening in the world and be overwhelmed with all that’s going wrong. Sometimes, it’s easy to focus on what you can’t do. Focus on what you can do and start there. Keeping people in focus, especially the ones who need it right now, is one way you can’t do this wrong.
The weekly wrap is where TLNT shares the stories that didn’t quite make it into a full post this week. We’ll also share links to some of our favorite things we read this week about HR, people development, the future of work, and more.