belonging. The workers and their ideas were captured in
a video, “Inclusion Starts With I,” which has been made
available on You Tube so that other organizations can use
it to start the tough conversations needed to move toward
a more inclusive workforce.
The video was shown to 750 Accenture managing
directors at an annual training in June where they were
asked to commit to driving change. Afterward, the room
was silent as they absorbed the emotional message and
one by one they stood to show their support.
“What started as a simple moment has really turned
into a movement,” within and outside the organization,
Shook says, as the video’s popularity has soared.
After the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August, employees at Accenture’s New
York City office invited five leaders of various faiths to
a Building Bridges discussion in which workers sought
to understand differences in their religions. Afterward,
the employees went to a kosher restaurant for a Shabbat dinner.
A Segregated Nation
Is the workplace an appropriate place for such discussions? In fact, Sherbin argues, it’s the best place—because
work is one of the most desegregated environments in
In neighborhoods, at social events, even at places of
worship, people rarely interact with individuals outside
of their own racial or ethnic groups.
“For many individuals, the workplace is actually their
first opportunity to communicate with somebody who
speaks a different first language than they do, who grew
up with a different socioeconomic background, who is a
different race or ethnicity,” she says. “By creating positive environments around differences in the workplace,
we really do believe that that will then spill over to our
society and we will create positive environments around
it in our society.”
After racially charged shootings in Baton Rouge, La.,
Minnesota and Dallas heightened societal tensions in
2016, Tim Ryan, the then-ne w U. S. chairman at accounting giant PwC, convened companywide “ColorBrave”
conversations in which employees were encouraged to
share their life experiences.
“We found that a lot of people wanted to come
together to connect,” says Mike Fenlon, chief people
officer at the accounting giant based in New York City.
“For everyone, it was the basis for learning and insights.
It wasn’t for political debate.”
Fenlon, who is white, recalls an eye-opening moment
when a black male partner shared how differently he is
treated when he wears a suit and tie at work compared
to a T-shirt on the weekend.
“It was a powerful moment because this is someone
I know and someone I care about,” Fenlon says, and it
didn’t occur to him that someone might view his colleague as a threat simply because of race.
The conversations were intentionally informal. The
HR team provided guidance at the large forums, including an introductory video that modeled helpful conversations, but there wasn’t a lot of structure.
It helps to acknowledge at the outset the trepidation that everyone is feeling and to stress the need to be
forgiving. While the words might not come out right,
emphasize that they come from a place of caring, Fenlon says.
While such discussions can be uncomfortable, the
openness helps build the relationships needed for strong
“We know from research that one factor that influences the quality of any team is psychological safety. It’s
trust, an environment where people can be open and
have candid dialogue,” he says.
To help others raise awareness, PwC is sharing its
“Blind Spots” training videos and discussion guides on
Earlier this year, The Hershey Co. also held a
series of discussions with employees about the bias,
Employees who say it’s never acceptable to discuss racial
bias at work:
Source: Easing Racial Tensions at Work, Center for Talent Innovation, 2017.
Employees who view companies more positively when leaders
address racial discrimination or bias publicly:
Source: Easing Racial Tensions at Work, Center for Talent Innovation, 2017. (continued on page 43)
WATCH Blind Spots, training videos
about unconscious bias.
WATCH Inclusion Starts with I, a
video about the importance of an