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How Philly biz heads are talking to their employees and addressing unrest, this week and beyond

Company leaders have been making space for their teams to process the underlying causes of this past week's ongoing protests in the region and across the country.

Love Creek. (Photo courtesy of Delaware Center for the Inland Bays)

For the last week, in response to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25, people around the region and the country have been demonstrating and protesting the treatment of Black communities by police.

The current events don’t inherently involve workplaces, but after days of unrest in Philadelphia, many folks went back to work wondering how or if their company leaders would address it.

Online, we’ve seen cries from employees for their leadership to speak out, to get a conversation started or to enact new policies.

When we checked in with Coded By Kids founder and CEO Sylvester Mobley earlier this week, he explained why he believes every organization has the responsibility to talk about it.

“A large part of the reason racial inequity and oppression hasn’t been addressed is because as a nation we’ve been largely unwilling to address it. Every company in the startup space has a role to play in addressing it and those that don’t believe they do are complicit,” he wrote.

On Sunday night, we reached out to over a dozen leaders in this community, namely folks who are in charge of companies or organizations, to ask how or if they’d be addressing the local and national unrest. We also asked about looking to the future. Are there plans for an ongoing response?

Crossbeam’s Bob Moore told that this week, his team was doing some broad and direct outreach to all team members to provide support, time, flexibility and resources to process and focus on their families and communities.

The CEO called out an email that Philly Startup Leaders Executive Director Kiera Smalls sent to CEOs in the PSL community over the weekend as guidance. Moore also said the company is planning a forum for internal dialogue this week.

“We can’t predict the future, but we do know that it will require us to better listen to our communities and neighbors in Philadelphia and beyond,” Moore said. “Equity is one of the core values of the company and something we will always be working on — including making sure our staff reflects the city in which we are headquartered as much as possible and that whenever we spend our money or time we are not directly or indirectly supporting injustice.”

Bruce Marable, cofounder and CEO of Employee Cycle, forwarded us a letter he’d just sent to all company stakeholders in which he starts by calling out that the pandemic, economic “meltdown” and police brutality each on their own create stress and anxiety.

“But all of these combined have created an explosive and alarming amount of tension, frustration, and anger,” he wrote.

He wrote that he hopes people of different backgrounds can come together during this time “to constructively discuss these issues, and not back away from them, digging further into our biases.” Marable also outlined that Employee Cycle will have a voice to support the efforts of those trying to change the system.

“Through our product, we’ll continue to find ways to help companies leverage employee data to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce,” he wrote.

Guru CEO Rick Nucci said Sunday night that he and the executive team were planning to financially support an org “focused on helping this cause,” along with an internal moment of silence for those who want to participate.

The company was also planning an internal safe space discussion facilitated by a bias and inclusivity expert the team has used in the past, and employee-manager check-ins, as well as encouraging the use of PTO to grieve or heal.

“We want the team to understand that ‘business as usual’ will be hard for some team members, and we welcome taking personal time to help heal and grieve,” Nucci said.

PIDC President Anne Bovaird Nevins told that since Sunday night, she had been having conversations with her team and planned to continue them. They were planning for senior leadership to check in individually with their groups; to activate the text alert system that was put in place at the start of the COVID-19 shutdown with a message to check in on employees’ physical and mental well-being and offer resources; and planned a longer, all-staff communication to go out Monday.

“It was very, very clear from the initial check-ins that we were doing that people are feeling anger, fear, sadness, anxiety,” Bovaird Nevins said. “We are trying to acknowledge all this and stay meaningfully connected with everyone, even though we continue to be operating in the remote environment.”

She also added that she’s welcoming the opportunity to hear from and learn how others are coping and helping their employees through this time.

And the CEO of Leadership Philadelphia, Liz Dow, said she’d been sending comforting letters regularly with advice on how to stay grounded.

During the past year, the org chose to focus its 60th anniversary efforts on master classes for past Leadership cohorts designed to build trust through sharing our humanity, Dow said, and she plans to continue on that path and “our commitment to connect across race, generations, and economic sectors.”

“This is a time to listen and learn. Our employees have stayed disciplined about work while meeting periodically to share perceptions and support,” Dow said. “We are trying to be an oasis for those around us.”

Companies: Employee Cycle / Crossbeam / Guru Technologies / Leadership Philadelphia / Philly Startup Leaders
Series: Racial Equity Month 2020

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