Posted by: Thomas Godden

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May 25th 2021: A Reflection of World Events over the Past 12 months and the Impact on the Corporate HR Space

May 25th 2020 was a day that has changed the world.  For many it will be a day that will be etched into their memories, a moment in time where they will remember where they were and what they were doing when they saw the news.  It was a seminal moment but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

May 25th 2020 was the day that George Floyd was murdered at the hands of a man that was paid to protect him.  Over the coming days and months this event would spark protest across the globe demanding justice for George, and that black people be treated the same as the rest of society.  This call for justice has resonated across borders, through societies and has and will continue to impact us all.  It was whilst having a conversation with Janeace Thompson, Head of Talent Acquisition and Diversity Lead at Addison Lee, about this that we decided that we should mark the one year anniversary of George’s death by reflecting on the impact that the event has had on our HR world.

On 25th May 2021, I was privileged to host a D&I round table that was attended by a number of influential HR Leaders from across the Industry, Scientific and Consumer markets.  Janeace Thompson gave a personal account of her lived experience as a black woman of mixed heritage, talked us through the impact of George Floyd’s murder had on her, and how she is now supporting cultural change at Addison Lee to make it more inclusive.

Janeace’s approach instantly put the attendees at easy and created a safe space for those who wished to talk to do so in a candid and authentic way.  Patricia Lorde, Head of People and Performance at Arup spoke of her lived experience as a black woman and the obstacles and instances of racism that she has encountered.  She highlighted the “pause” that Covid had given us in life to be able to really stop and take notice of what was going on in the world.  She also explained how showing the events of May 25th repeatedly on media channels had impacted her, and many people like her, in a way that could be liked to PTSD.  It was a truly humbling experience.

It was interesting to hear from Tariq Ahmed of Achilles Therapeutics talk about his experience with racism growing up.  He made a very strong point about data sharing being powerful in the D&I space.  He also flagged that data suggests that unconscious bias training isn’t effective in tackling racist bias and suggested that more proactive and engaging methods be used.  This led Sarah Sturton of Nomad Foods to highlight conscience inclusiveness and purposeful inclusion as practical ways of helping employees understand their own biases and the impact they have on those around them.  This approach focuses on how to create an environment where curiosity about differences is encouraged and where inclusion is the mutual responsibility of all employees.

The conversations that followed where truly authentic and the group as a whole shared their response to the event 12 months ago and how they are trying to make a difference from a personal and professional stand.  It was a great insight into other people’s lived experience.

At this point I posed a question to the group: “How do we keep up the momentum of this global conversation to effect more positive change?"  Four key areas were highlighted:

  • Education – at home, at school and at work
  • Mindfulness – knowing the impact your behaviour has on others
  • Take thought for others – walk a mile in their shoes
  • Personal action – it all starts with me!

On a personal note, I wish to thank all of those involved in the event.  I believe that everyone who attended added value to the conversation, and I hope learnt something. Holding space to reflect on the impact that George Floyd’s murder has had on individuals, communities and the corporate world is a positive way that we as a group chose to mark the passing of a year after a tragic event in our world history.

If you are interested in attending future Oakleaf events or would like to propose a topic to discuss an event then please contact me.

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