What is Allyship? A Guide For Your Organization

There seems to be a gap between what people perceive to be proper allyship and what their colleagues actually need to feel supported. Learn the steps to bridge the gap and make a difference.

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What is Allyship? A Guide For Your Organization

Here's what you need to know about what is allyship? A guide for your organization:

  • You can help your people become allies by giving them the tools they need to succeed.
  • Managers should listen keenly to how people pronounce their names, employee pronouns, and what groups your team members identify with.
  • Allyship is essential and will significantly affect how safe and supported your people feel.

Being an ally to your colleagues is important to creating a healthy, functional organization.

The majority of employees see the value and understand the importance of being an ally. Still, there seems to be a gap between what people perceive to be proper allyship and what their colleagues actually need to feel supported. According to the Mckinsey Women in the Workplace report, while most white employees see themselves as allies, they fail to speak up against racism in the workplace or advocate for women of color.

So, what are some ways that you can help your employees demonstrate allyship at work? Below we outline what it means to be an ally and six ways you can put allyship into action in your organization.

First of all, what does it mean to be an ally at work?

According to Change Catalyst, an ally “is someone who:

  • Learns
  • Shows empathy
  • Takes action on someone else’s behalf.”

The importance of allyship in the office should not be understated: When people feel they have at least one ally in the office, they’re more productive, more likely to be satisfied with their job, and feel a better sense of belonging.

The great news is your employees want to be allies! Twenty-seven percent of people in one report said the biggest roadblock for them to becoming an ally is a lack of skills, knowledge, and confidence. You can help your people become allies by giving them the tools they need to succeed.

When people feel they have at least one ally in the office, they’re more productive, more likely to be satisfied with their job, and feel a better sense of belonging.

Moreover, psychological safety is something your company should be striving for, and allyship makes a huge difference in how safe people from marginalized groups feel in the workplace. People in the LGBTQIA+ community say they feel 2.1 times safer with at least one ally in the office, and Black people feel 1.5 times safer.

How to put allyship into action at your company

So how can your organization show your employees that you’re an ally to them in their place of work? These are concrete steps you can take internally to show your support with both words and actions.

1. Invest in your Employee Resource Groups (ERG)

An employee resource group (ERG) is an employee-led group with the goal of ensuring the company stays aligned with its mission and values. It also serves as a space for employees to support each other, especially those in minority groups (religion, race, sexual orientation, etc.).

Within these groups, employees can be allies to each other and help guide their fellow colleagues on how to be an ally to them.

2.   Offer allyship training

Offering training for every employee on how to be an ally in the workplace is another concrete step you can take. Educating your people about what it means to be a diverse and inclusive workplace is one of the first steps towards creating a more supportive company. This should be taught to employees at every level. It can even be part of your onboarding process!

Companies that pay for professional DEI training show significant results.

Training employees on DEI requires calling in experts who can teach your employees about a range of topics that impact your marginalized groups. These include:

  • Unconscious bias
  • Microaggressions
  • How to work with diverse teams
  • How to create a space where everyone can be heard and feels valued

Companies that pay for professional training show significant results: “93% of people working at companies that provide training have at least one ally in their workplace.” So the cost of training is well worth the payoff.

3.   Don’t ignore microaggressions

Allyship means not letting even minor slights go unnoticed, such as microaggressions and interruptions. A microaggression is a subtle yet powerful attack on an individual’s identity. Some examples include continuously mispronouncing someone’s name even though they’ve corrected them several times over or making jokes about someone’s culture or religion.

HBR suggests using the following framework to acknowledge and correct a microaggression as a manager:

  • Pause: Take time to collect your thoughts.
  • Name and disarm: Explain the microaggression that you noticed. For example, you might say you heard a dangerous stereotype being used.
  • Educate: Rather than shaming the person, use the opportunity to educate the entire group.

4.   Make sure everyone feels heard and has the chance to speak

Allyship and being an inclusive company means allowing everyone to speak and be heard. As a manager, it’s also essential to take notice of people who aren’t participating. It’s possible that someone is staying quiet because they don’t feel they will be heard, especially if they already feel marginalized.

Check in on these employees and see if there’s a specific reason they’re staying quiet. You can also invite them to share their thoughts in a more private setting (for example: In a 1-on-1) so that they feel more comfortable sharing.

5.   Prioritize mental health and take burnout seriously

There’s strong evidence that groups that face discrimination see increased levels of dangerous stress hormones.

It is critical to emphasize mental health and take burnout seriously.

It would be unrealistic to expect your employees from marginalized groups to be able to leave their stress at the door when coming to work. This is why it’s critical to emphasize mental health and take burnout seriously.

Some ways to prioritize mental health include:

  • Creating safe spaces for mental awareness conversations
  • Offering mental health coaching platform to your employees
  • Developing a mental health time off policy
  • Normalizing conversations around mental well-being
  • Adding mental health support benefits to your wellness packages

Taking burnout seriously looks like:

  • Encouraging your employees to log off after hours
  • Making burnout reduction a management issue
  • Allowing for short-notice time off

6.   Use the right words

Words are important, especially when it comes to how people self-identify. Managers should listen keenly to how people pronounce their names, employee pronouns, and what groups your team members identify with.

We know that language around diversity, inclusion, and allyship can be confusing, so we’ve created a glossary of terms to get you started.

Making allyship a priority for your organization

Allyship is essential and will significantly affect how safe and supported your people feel. People who have an ally at work experience reduced stress and feel safer while having a greater sense of belonging.

Remember, your employees want to be allies. Many people simply feel they lack the proper training or education to be a true workplace ally. Implementing any of the above strategies will help your teams support each other and thrive at work.

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