I shape discussions with C-suites and responsible leaders across North America about inclusion, diversity and equity [ID&E] every day. Recently, I read a Wall Street Journal piece titled “The New Push for Corporate Diversity Comes with an Atlanta Address,” which left me thinking about the gap between the intentions and consequences of ID&E-driven corporate relocations.
There are ramifications for every business decision focused on where work happens: location, relocation, expansion, remote work and working from home. Corporate relocation and neighborhood revitalization to some are seen as urban displacement and gentrification1 to others. Atlanta is not the only North American city that’s seen as the answer to corporate issues such as diversity, talent recruitment and lifestyle. Spare a thought for the Washington DCs, San Franciscos and Miamis of the world. Cities all victims of their own success.
By moving your business to a more ethnically diverse area, opportunities are created and there’s a trickle-down effect in the surrounding community. But is this effect good or bad? In 2019, Harvard Business Review author Adia Harvey Wingfield identified essential questions for organizations moving to majority-Black cities:
- How will this move affect the cost of living in those areas?
- How will it impact worker pools in those cities?
- How will it affect affordable housing?
- How will it enable Black-owned business?
- How will it impact the local culture & community?2
If you’re focused on addressing ID&E and looking for a broader pool of candidates, a place that has more minorities, a wider choice of housing, services, leisure and recreation, then you need to think not just about the talent potential of relocating but the effect the move will have on the community. It’s here I have to ask: are these corporate moves trading one inclusivity issue for another?
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Creating paths to advancement and skilling and keeping communications relevant and empathetic with minority talent can increase satisfaction.
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In the Wall Street Journal article, Ryan Wilson, Black entrepreneur and CEO of the Gathering Spot, pointed out the pros and cons of corporate relocations to Atlanta: “Our largest export is our culture,” and “The people who make that culture have to be able to live here."3 Atlanta is not the only city balancing the needs of its culturemakers and historical residents with cost-of-living increases precipitated by big business moves.
To be a responsible business and achieve 360-degree value for your shareholders, stakeholders, workforce, and future neighbors, you’ll need to care to do better. This means building trust and bringing your people and business to a place where they are holistically better off. Before you’ve even looked at a shortlist of cities for relocation, there are five things to consider and include in your ID&E strategy.
- Initiate skilling programs in local neighborhoods: Share the wealth. Building a relationship with your future hometown by creating access to new jobs will invite locals to enjoy the benefits of economic development.
- Corporations can make their own—largely white—headquartered towns more welcoming by investing in ethnically diverse and culturally accessible services, such as food stores, restaurants and bars, events and entertainment, health and wellness, and hair and beauty.
- Invest in local education. Do this before establishing headquarters or considering relocation. When developing your infrastructure, commit to broadening your scope and consider the long view. Make decisions that will benefit local youth: they could be your future talent pool.
- Double down on inclusion: Fostering Black and Ethnic Minority representation within your company is a start. Work to identify and remove systemic barriers to professional development, advancement and promotion. You’ll see an increase in retention and belonging.
- Avoid the remote work tax: Working from home has its benefits and pitfalls. On the positive side, Black and Ethnic Minority workers are less likely to experience micro-aggressions. However, it’s vital to safeguard Black and Ethnic Minority workers’ social capital that may be diminishing without our current lack of real-life interactions. Sustain meaningful connection points to curb an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality.
- Be more transparent with equity metrics: Conduct pay equity studies to illuminate disparities between Black and Ethnic Minority workers and then close the gaps. Transparency builds trust, trust builds retention.
- Do your research and know before you go. Be proactive and engage with the local community and government. Review policy actions to avoid displacement of local workers. You’re building trust, not brokering transactions.
- Lead with ID&E efforts: corporate infrastructure should be advantageous internally and externally. By building better towns, participating in community development, establishing access to new technology and jobs, fostering a friendly environment and taking time to look and listen, everyone benefits.
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I’d be interested in learning how many businesses take a serious look at the above ideas and dig deep into their data before settling on relocation. And, I have some more questions: will your current team move with you or are you relying on new talent? Do you have a long-term, actionable ID&E strategy? Is your ID&E relocation resolving some issues only to have others take their place?
Last year, Accenture and Amazon jointly released the “Upskilling for a post-pandemic economy” report. In it was a list of obstacles mirroring those I see in ID&E: upskilling, the basics of daily life, breaking new ground, race disparity and income disparity. Whether you stay or go, you want your workforce to be better off. Our data shows that clearing barriers to advancement, skilling and keeping communications relevant and empathetic with your Black and Ethnic Minority talent can drive up work satisfaction by a factor of four. That’s a positive result no matter where you’re located.
Addressing inclusivity, diversity and equity is a goal of every responsible business. The intention is to create sustainable progress for the workforce, with a positive impact on the surrounding community. I believe shaping a well-planned, proactive ID&E strategy gets to the heart of inclusivity and wherever you call home will be the place you care to do better.
See more Workforce insights.
2. How Organizations Are Failing Black Workers — and How to Do Better
3. The New Push for Corporate Diversity Comes with an Atlanta Address. Wall Street Journal (March 20, 2021)
2. The New Push for Corporate Diversity Comes with an Atlanta Address. Wall Street Journal (March 20, 2021)