The Intersection of HR and Justice Work

A few weeks back, I was a guest speaker on DriveThurHR with Mike Vandervort and Robin Schooling. We discussed the intersection of HR and advocacy work. 

There are parallels to advocacy work and HR functions. Perhaps there’s a tendency for HR to think the two things can’t coexist. 

“Would my employer be okay with it?”
“Would they disagree with me?”
“Could I lose my job?”

Perhaps some feel that by taking a stand on specific movements, we create a polarized environment. However, understanding that the context in which we exist is already polarized to favor the privileged means that by not taking a stance, we’re complicit to maintain the inequity or complicit to remain silent. People like to think that politics is not par with what we do, but politics, at its core, are the values we stand by. Politics is simply the action behind the social contracts we make in shared communities.

Does your organization allow the safety and security to be actively involved in civic engagement? Or only if those initiatives are aligned with the organization? There are ways for HR to be involved in equity and justice in a civil way that fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion. 

Are we, as HR, saying “we don’t want to talk about politics,” or are we saying, “We don’t want to create any controversy”?

And where is it controversial to talk about the inequities that exist within our society? That’s not controversial; that’s a conversation we need to have within our organization. I guarantee what is going on (and what has been going on) in our country and is also pervasive in every zoom meeting and email chain. 

Furthermore, employees who are directly affected by the inequities want to see these conversations happening. They want to know the organization is open to societal discussion. And they ultimately want to see organizations actively engaged in the work of equity and justice – inside and outside your “walls.” Creating a culture and environment where we don’t dissuade societal discussions but instead, create space where they can be considered and explored together is vital

There’s a tendency for HR to shy from involvement in fairness and justice because perhaps an organization’s culture has not been cultivated to include conversations around equity and justice. And if the culture isn’t open to supporting societal movements (or worse – participates in activities that directly go against equity and justice), then HR will feel like the odd person out and never have the psychological safety to stand up for what’s right. 

Be brave, HR. We should be actively involved in the conversation of equity and justice. If our purpose is to attract, train, and motivate humans to perform better, then both personally and professionally, equity and justice must be a requirement.  

You can listen to the full podcast here. 

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