Black History Month – 5 Facts HR Should Know


Black History Month, taking place from February 1 to March 1 annually, is an opportunity to measure how Human Resources is addressing the black experience at work. The problem is that too often, recognition of this month is performance art rather than a priority-for-always.

“It’s really frustrating when you see companies that just want to tick a box for Black History Month but are not prepared to invest in the advancement of their Black employees throughout the rest of the year,” says Octavia Goredema, author and career coach, in an article by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). 

WATCH: Create a Culture of Belonging

How to Honor Black Employees 

Black employees are individuals. This is not a monolithic group. Therefore, addressing the needs of individuals is the best path forward. HR professionals have taken this approach with employees in recent years. That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that much work still needs to be done to address systemic racism and bias that has inhibited those in underrepresented groups from reaching their true potential. Here are five facts that can help Human Resources understand their obligations all year: 

Speak Up

Four out of five employees expect CEOs to take a stand on discrimination. -Edelman Trust Barometer

Once upon a time, employers kept quiet about injustice. They never took a position that might be deemed political. Those days are over. Especially with the arrival of Gen Z in the workplace and a push for companies to share their values as part of their mission, more employers are speaking up about important issues. Those who fail to do so are at risk for backlash. Think about Disney’s belated response to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill. 

READ: HR Guide to DEI

Side with Employees

69% of respondents say having a societal impact is a strong expectation when considering a job. -Edelman Trust Barometer

Employee activism is on the rise. Workers want to feel as though their bosses are on their side. In addition, people want their work to have meaning beyond making money. Therefore, employers are obligated to determine how they will contribute to society. How are they going to help the community? It’s not just about doing the right thing. It is also part of employee engagement and retention strategies. 

Invest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Companies are expected to spend $15.4 billion on DEI-related efforts by 2026. -Global Party Alliance, which measures DEI 

To provide some perspective, consider the fact that companies spent only $7.5 billion on DEI in 2020. Clearly, organizations are doubling down on their efforts to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. However, this particular stat should come with a caveat. The fact is that spending money on something does not always equate with making progress. These investments show an interest in doing the right thing. But organizations should take time to measure whether these efforts are actually helping them positively influence DEI. 

READ: HR’s Guide to a Successful Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Create Equity of Opportunity

Only six Black CEOs led Fortune 500 companies in 2022. -SHRM

There is no question that creating talent pipelines that better reflect our communities must be a priority for an effective DEI strategy. Beyond getting people from underrepresented groups in the door, Human Resources must create succession strategies that have them moving up the ranks. This requires mentorship, leadership training, and continuous support. For employees to be successful, HR must pay attention to who is earning opportunities to rise. This requires committment all year long. 

Commit to Pay Equity

Black workers earn less than $30,000 a year more often than their peers do. -McKinsey & Company’s The Black Experience at Work in Charts report 2021

Pay equity remains a problem for many underrepresented groups, and this data point from McKinsey demonstrates how far employers still must go to create parity. The fact is that this discussion goes beyond the Black experience. It is about many underrepresented groups that have been denied access to wealth. This puts them behind the curve for earning money for eternity. Paying attention to fairness in pay is a way to rebuild the middle class, address poverty, and make meaningful change beyond the walls of an organization. 

What have you done to recognize Black History Month and how will you ensure these practices continue all year? Let us know in the comments. 

Photo by Christina Morillo for Pexels

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