After many enterprises came forward in solidarity with the Black community, calls for companies to now take action are rising in volume amid concerns that outside of social media posts and diversity reports, structural bias remains entrenched. 

An article in Harvard Business Review this week focused on interviews with black employees and a common theme that emerged from conversations was the disconnect between a company’s statement or commitments and the daily employee experience. “This disconnect is not new, but the awareness of its depth is novel for some,” HBR wrote. 

Vault Platform’s own research among HR, Compliance, and Legal stakeholders within enterprises found that discrimination, workplace bullying, and sexual harassment in the workplace were identified as issues that should be a key focus even before the most recent wave of protests triggered by the death of George Floyd.

Of the 1,000 corporate stakeholders surveyed, when asked “What forms of misconduct do you feel your organization should address proactively” 65% said Discrimination and the same number said Bullying*.

Clearly a level of awareness is there but there is still a disconnect when it comes to action. In February 2020 we polled 1,000 employees in the US and UK and 100% said they had experienced or witnessed bullying, sexual harassment, or discrimination during their career. 

When asked: “What type of workplace misconduct did you witness or experience?” Bullying was the top response at 70% of respondents, with Discrimination second at 54%.

The world of business has been aware of systemic discrimination for a long time, not least because the numbers speak for themselves. According to a survey conducted in late 2019 by the Center for Talent Innovation 58% of black professionals have experienced racial prejudice at work. Black workers also account for only 8% of professional jobs and only 3% make it to executive level. Less than 1% make leadership roles in large companies. 

A perception disconnect persists. Around 65% of black professionals say that black employees must work harder to attain the same advancements in their careers as white professionals. But only 16% of white professionals agree with that statement.

When Vault Platform polled HR and Compliance leaders in 2019 on the best way to tackle workplace misconduct such as discrimination, 68% say through a Speak Up culture. 

The challenge became clear when we polled the employees. When asked why they chose not to Speak Up about misconduct 51% said they were worried it would affect their job and 43% felt it would not be taken seriously.

Clearly there is much work to be done to bridge the gap across trust and accountability and perhaps some companies are just waking up to how big that gap actually is. 

*In October 2019, we used an online survey to question 1,000 HR, legal and compliance professionals working with enterprises in the US and UK. The majority (38%) were HR Director level and above, 7% were D&I Director level and above and a similar amount were Legal Counsel Director level and above. The rest were a mixture of legal, compliance, risk and employee experience professionals below director level.