More organizations are embracing allyship as a potent aspect of their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy and initiatives. Allies in the workplace can be DEI champions by serving as mentors or sponsors to employees from marginalized groups, who may feel their ideas and contributions aren’t being recognized because of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other characteristic.
Why allyship matters
There are many ways that being an ally can help organizations create and maintain a more inclusive work environment. Here are four of them:
- Promotes empathy
Workplace allies encourage inclusion by listening to, advocating for and amplifying the voices of marginalized employees, as well as educating others on the importance of allyship. Deloitte’s 2019 State of Inclusion Survey said that, “allyship – supporting groups or individuals one does not directly identify with – can be an essential component of an inclusive culture. Allyship promotes empathy, authenticity, and courage.”
- Champions behavior change
Workplace allies speak up about negative behaviors that can take the form of unconscious bias or microaggressions. For example, when hearing a harmful comment directed at a marginalized employee an ally might first ask them if they are okay and then let the person who made the comment know that it isn’t acceptable. Deloitte’s inclusion report says that, “Allies may serve as the missing link for organizations to take the next step in truly embedding inclusion into the everyday experiences of their people.”
- Broadens the leadership pipeline
Allies seek out talented employees from diverse backgrounds to mentor and sponsor, with an eye toward preparing them for leadership roles.
- Boosts engagement
By helping marginalized employees feel included, recognized and valued, allyship can improve employee engagement and productivity. Gallup research shows that highly engaged teams are 14% more productive than teams with low engagement.
Anyone can be an ally. As part of ongoing DEI initiatives, employees can learn to be allies through:
Allies ask others about their experiences and embark on a DEI learning journey by exploring books, films, webcasts and other sources of information and insights. A deeper part of the learning process involves self-reflection and asking oneself tough questions: What are my biases? Have I had advantages that others have not? Do I call out discrimination, biases and microaggressions when I see it in the workplace?
Allies seek to understand the perspective and experiences of others through one-on-one conversations or in small groups of employees. Active listening paves the way to breaking down barriers to honest communication and ensuring DEI concepts are embedded in workplace policies and practices.
- Showing Up & Speaking Up
True allyship moves beyond adding a hashtag, posting an “I support” icon on social media or participating in one of the company’s employee resource groups. It’s about building trust through specific actions that demonstrate that allies and the organization are committed to standing up for marginalized or underrepresented co-workers.
Allyship has the potential to advance DEI efforts by supporting and advocating for those employees who feel they aren’t being heard, valued or represented. Learning how to be an effective ally through ongoing diversity training, education and other activities is an important step along the journey to creating a more welcoming, inclusive workplace for all employees.