- Two surveys conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed "significant gaps" between Black and White U.S. workers — including those who work in HR — with respect to each group's beliefs and perceptions of racial discrimination and inequality in the workplace, the organization said in a report released Monday.
- Slightly fewer than half (49%) of Black HR professionals surveyed by SHRM said they feel discrimination based on race or ethnicity exists in the workplace, compared to 13% of White HR professionals and 21% of all HR professionals. Additionally, 68% of Black HR professionals said their organizations were not doing enough to provide opportunities for Black employees, compared to 35% and 41% of White HR professionals and all HR professionals, respectively.
- SHRM reported similar findings among other workers. More than half (54%) of Black workers said their workplaces were not doing enough to promote racial justice in the world, compared to 29% of White workers. But the report also showed both groups had similar comfort levels discussing race at work: just over one-third of both Black and White workers said they did not feel comfortable doing so.
"The findings … are a little jarring for some. Not for SHRM," Johnny C. Taylor, the organization's president and CEO, told reporters during a phone call Monday announcing the survey results. "We literally now have the data that proves racial inequity persists at work."
Despite the survey's findings with respect to employee comfort levels discussing race at work, Taylor noted that the findings don't necessarily imply workers do not want to have such discussions. "I think part of the biggest fear is that they don't feel equipped to have them," he said, explaining that this is part of the reason SHRM is launching a new campaign, Together Forward @Work, around bringing racial equity to the workplace. "We acknowledge that if these conversations are not handled deftly, we can create bigger problems than we currently have."
News of the survey and campaign follow SHRM's announcement last month that it formed a "blue ribbon commission" that will seek to address issues of racial inequity in the workplace. SHRM has also published resources, including presentations and editorial content, for HR professionals to use as they address such issues, and the organization plans to conduct additional rounds of research in the future, Alexander Alonso, SHRM's chief knowledge officer, said during the call.
As the HR industry's largest professional association announced these steps in response to the killing of George Floyd, leaders in the HR community have also criticized SHRM's response. A petition launched in June by a now-former member of SHRM's expertise panel on corporate ethics and social responsibility specifically asked SHRM to support the Black Lives Matter movement, for example.
The aftermath of Floyd's killing and subsequent global protests against systemic racism and police brutality have led to a number of responses from large brands and corporations in recent months. In some cases, employee criticism of corporate progress on diversity, inclusion and racial equity measures has led to personnel changes at the executive level. One example of such change occurred at Adidas, which announced the resignation of its global HR chief following employee calls to investigate her treatment of racial issues in the workplace.
Broadly, D&I leaders may find increased opportunities to improve racial equity at work as well as increased scrutiny of their progress in the present moment, sources previously told HR Dive. Taylor said that SHRM's findings do not suggest that D&I efforts are ineffective. "It is more accurate to say that, while necessary, these efforts have been largely insufficient if we fail to see that culture is at the heart of every positive and inclusive workplace," he added.
Employers can create a healthy work environment in response to the protests by providing employees support as well as addressing necessary improvements on D&I issues, one attorney previously told HR Dive.