Employee activism is nothing new.
Throughout history employees have taken to strikes, walkouts, and demands for their own human, labor, and moral rights along with the rights of others.
Just last August WalMart workers staged a 15 minute walkout and moment of silence to protest the sale of guns in the company’s stores. And in June of 2019, Wayfair employees did a walk-out to protest the company’s agreement to furnish migrant detention centers.
It was the work of employee activists that gained us the 40 hour workweek, paid parental leave, and other benefits aimed to promote a standard of living for blue-collar workers. And today, 71% of employees feel like they can make a difference in society, with 62% believing they can make an even greater impact than business leaders.
Needless to say, employee activism is important. At ZoomInfo, GIDI and our respective ERG’s know that activism isn’t simply something employees add to their resumes, but an unavoidable part of who they are.
“When it comes to activism, for most people that do it, it’s who they are and what they love to do, so it’s not another job,” explains Trailblazer of Zoom In Color, Cam Johnson.
And, again, we don’t have all the answers here, but we have a good start with GIDI.
GIDI and Employee Activism
As we mentioned in the GIDI origin story blog post, the formation of the group wasn’t so much a conscious decision as it was a genuine passion for diversity and inclusion in the day-to-day lives of employees.
And from that passion, came the desire to develop a tangible group at work to provide a space for others to discuss social issues, work towards planning events, and elevating voices of underrepresented groups — especially in the tech space.
“I can do my job and I can sit up here and I’m always going to be black, I’m always going to identify as a black man, and I can tell everyone my experiences and the things that I’ve gone through,” explains Cam.
“That’s activism. And trying to get better rights and get more black employees and recruit in historically black colleges and helping communities, but that’s every day of my life, what I’ve lived with.”
GIDI fosters a company culture that sends the message of everybody being able to have a voice, and to feel like they have a group to turn to within the workplace.
“We’re real people with actual human interests and passions and hobbies at the end of the day. And I think that people need to take action on those things, so that way everyone gets to have access to something like that,” explains Trailblazer Cassie Harris.
“We should make sure that the people who are feeling not ignored, but you know, not there, not present, are being able to say, ‘Hey, these are the things that are really important to me,’ and they get to be their authentic selves just how I can be my authentic self.”
Why Employee Activism is Important
Employee activism is about elevating voices of underrepresented groups and employees feeling empowered to speak up about the things they think need changing. And as it turns out, most U.S employers believe that employees are right to speak up about their employers, whether or not they are in support of them.
Some of the main benefits of fostering a work environment where individuals feel safe to do so are:
- Improved retention rates
- More diverse recruitment
- Positive shifts in company culture
- An increased sense in corporate purpose
- Employers who are more in touch with their workforce
“I think activism with anything is super important, and activism has helped get rights that weren’t previously there before,” says Cam.
“And when it comes to technology and the software space, it’s really not diverse at all. We know that. We looked at the numbers and I think the average tech company has 2% to 4% diversity.”
Employee Activism in the Workplace
When employees feel like they actually play a part in what the company does and stands for, rather than simply being cogs in a machine, they’ll undoubtedly feel more fulfilled in their jobs.
“When you talk about getting top talent, if you look at the Googles of the world and the Salesforces, they have massive inclusion and diversity programs. People want to go work for those companies because of things like that. Obviously in the world we live in today, being happy at work for a majority of the population is more important than the money that they can make,” explains Cam.
Another reason employee activism is so important is that we spend 8+ hours at the office five days a week — should those spaces feel safe and inclusive?
When we talk about safety, we don’t just mean physically. We also mean:
- Psychological safety
- Social safety
- Emotional safety
- Moral safety
- Health safety
“We spend the majority of our day working, especially right now. I think that raising up and empowering even just one person has an incredible domino effect across the organization. Even just small acts will do that. And I think that is one of the driving forces for that because if we can make a difference in even one person, one time, that one person then has the ability to net out and expand that into a really awesome web,” explains Trailblazer Cassie Harris.
Let Your Employees Be Heard
As the spotlight on political and social issues grows, employees have become more motivated and empowered to speak about the issues impacting the society we live in.
Activism groups enable employees to create a safe and healthy workplace that is built on collective values. Because at the end of the day, we shouldn’t have to separate our work selves from our authentic selves that care about social issues.
Trailblazer Josh Compton says it best: “Some of the best companies in the world are more than likely will be the most diverse companies, because we can say it time and time again, different values bring different views. And that’s the goal is to bring everyone together and that’s why it’s so important.”