STARTUP

The 3 Takeaways Every Employer Should Get From Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe Speech

Embracing diversity goes well beyond HR policies and hiring practices.

Share on
BY Dan Maycock - 10 Jan 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Meryl Streep has been blowing up the internet today with her powerful acceptance speech last night calling out hate speech, respect for people less privileged, and the importance of the arts.

What struck such a powerful note though, isn't necessarily her feelings about the incoming presidential administration, or marginalized groups but rather the focus on everyone representing a part in what makes up diversity. Or as she put it "But who are we and, you know, what is Hollywood, anyway? It's just a bunch of people from other places."

This was the theme for most of her talk, and is something that's critical to understand when it comes to operating a business, developing innovation, or working to succeed in a crowded marketplace.

The number of "transplants" or employees in a city that come from a different place than when they were has been growing over the years, as people become more mobile in both where they live and where they work. Everyone represents then, diversity in some regard, but some companies are better than others about embracing that.

Given that, there's three lessons that employers can understand coming out of Meryl Streep's speech that is critical to better understanding the role of diversity and creating a strong corporate culture that can enhance innovation, employee satisfaction, and overall company performance.

Everyone adds something unique to the mix, beyond the job description

"So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners and if we kick them all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts."

Often when it comes to hiring, and developing job descriptions, you build roles based on hierarchies so the work can be supervised and people can show up knowing what they're supposed to be doing.

However, it's often the case that people are much more than their job description and if you don't make room in your company for what people can contribute then you're missing out on amazing opportunities.

I once did consulting work for a company that was struggling to get their brand off the ground with outdoor enthusiasts vs more casual outdoor customers. The employees that worked for the company all fell into that hardcore outdoor category, but weren't being looked at as potential brand ambassadors, because that wasn't their 9 to 5 job. By creating an employee brand ambassador program, the company didn't have to hire an expensive outside firm but instead did giveaways and promotions that had a far better return and increased the strong ties of employees to the company.

Everything you do is permission for others to do the same

"..this instinct to humiliate when it's modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody's life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing."

I've been to several events over the years, where the leadership of a company is saying or doing something and the younger employees are watching and listening to everything they say and do. I've seen this repeated multiple times, in several different environments, where employees further down the pecking order take their cues from higher ups whether or not those leaders intended to use their behavior as the model for others to follow.

As a leader of a company, you set the attitudes and tempo for the rest of the company whether you realize it or not. If you go out to drinks, employees that join you will pay attention to how much you drink and how you behave. If you stand up and give a speech, employees will pay attention to what you say. How you interact with and talk about someone of the opposite sex, or different racial group, will get honed in quickly.

We often don't realize as leaders, just how much impact we can have in things we do or say we may not even be thinking much about. For every offhanded comment, or unintended action is someone saying "well, that's the kind of company I work for I guess". Your behavior sets the tone and culture of the company, so act the way you want employees to act to build the culture you want to work in, and have others work for.

Encourage open accountability and transparency

"We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage."

What can quickly hamper company culture, and kill innovation is too many closed door conversations that lead to culture silos or company cliques. The press is important in our country because it adds a layer of accountability to keep everyone honest. Your company doesn't need it's own internal newspaper, but there's something you can do to encourage openness. Creating forums and venues where employees can be open and honest about what they see, and how they feel, can help weed problems out before they fester into bigger issues.

Companies have tested various methods from private emails, to third party HR advocates. What you use will depend on things like the size of the company and where you're located. However, making it a top down focus to encourage everyone to have a voice and speak up without fear of reprimand is the first step in establishing in people's minds that it's ok to talk about what they're seeing or hearing. From there, it's a matter of establishing systems to allow for this openness to occur, which can trickle down into everything from the types of leaders you promote to the way meetings are conducted.

Some aspects of a company of course need to stay private, but encouraging a general culture of openness can go a long way in helping build a strong corporate culture and avoids bigger issues festering out of control.