Updated: Dec 2, 2021
75% of C-suite executives surveyed by McKinsey said they expect the typical employee to be back in the office three or more days a week “post pandemic”. The pandemic showed that most workers and teams were able to work just as effectively and efficiently in a virtual environment, so the expectation that workers will go back to the office is not about productivity or output. Instead, executives say that working from the office - in person - is important for fostering organizational culture and belonging.
However, culture is not just what happens in the physical office; therefore culture should be a primary focus for executives no matter the location of workers. So it begs the question, are executives really concerned about culture and belonging or is something else going on? According to a report from people analytics firm Visier, in 2021 at least 25% of people have quit in what is known as the “Great Resignation”. A survey from PwC also found that as of August 2021, 65% of people were looking for new jobs. The pandemic drove many unsatisfied employees to reflect on their work and their values. These employees found an increase of new roles that they were able to interview for virtually while working from home without significant disruption to their day. In this market, Black professionals specifically found an increase in recruiting initiatives that drive representation and or offer the flexibility in the work day that 66% of Black professionals need.
The drive for executives to get workers back to the office seems to be more rooted in boosting retention rather than fostering a positive workplace with shared values, beliefs, and attitudes or enhancing a sense of belonging at each organization. This misplaced focus may be driving Black professionals back to the job market.
As mentioned in our previous blog post, a recent Future Forum study showed that only 3% of Black Professionals want to return to the office, vs. 21% of white professionals. Corporate for the Culture asked Black professionals on Fishbowl about their hesitation to return to office and these are some of the responses we got:
"I don’t want to deal with WYPIPO and their microaggressions"
"I’m going to lose my mind if I have to deal with Karens again face to face"
"I have never attended a work 'happy hour' that was happy for me"
"I won’t be able to 'turn my camera off' in person when I want to react without repercussions"
"I’m not looking forward to answering 20 questions about my 'ethnic' lunch"
Black professionals have long desired a workplace culture where the shared values, beliefs and attitudes are inclusive and where we can both be authentic and feel that we belong. Many Black professionals found while working virtually they had a more positive workplace experience because they could be more authentic at home - especially off camera and between meetings - and experienced less microaggressions from colleagues due to limited contact. This combined with the increase in companies that declared DEI commitments in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, drove Black professionals to not only desire but require workplace culture to be rooted in DEI for to feel a sense of belonging within an organization.
However, according to the 2021 report Elevating Equity: The Real Story of Diversity and Inclusion:
76% of companies do not have DEI goals
75% of companies do not have DEI as part of leadership development or overall employee development curricula
Essentially, more than a year after many corporations made big commitments to DEI most have yet to deliver.
In short, "Roughly 80 percent of companies are just going through the motions and not holding themselves accountable" for DEI -Elevating Equity: The Real Story of Diversity and Inclusion:
Ultimately corporations will not be able to retain Black professionals or get us back to the office without a serious investment in, commitment to, and follow through on DEI. Furthermore, Black people are 13% of the US population but according to SHRM only make up 8% of professional roles and a meagre 3.2% of executive roles, which means companies are unlikely to seriously consider Black professionals in future of work strategies.
It lies on Black professionals to advocate for ourselves and to be strategic about how to get the best outcomes from the hybrid workplace.
Tune into this season of Corporate for the Culture where we will explore the challenges and opportunities for Black professionals in the hybrid environment.