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Survey finds commitment to racial justice at work is fading

Sona Khosla, Chief Impact Officer of Benevity, joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down her thoughts on Benevity's recent survey showing how employees believe that coroporate commitment to racial justice is fading.

Video Transcript

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ANDY SERWER: All right. So welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live." We've got about 35 minutes to the closing bell. In the last year, a lot of companies have made commitments and pledges to fight racism, to become more diverse, and to become more inclusive. How are they doing with those promises? Let's bring into the stream Sona Khosla, Chief Impact Officer of Benevity. And you actually surveyed people to find out if they think their companies are achieving the goals that have been set. What did you find?

SONA KHOSLA: Yeah. So we recently surveyed employees to see how they're feeling about how their corporations have delivered on many of the public statements that they've made in the last year. And what we found was that there was an overwhelming amount of employees who really feel that it is the responsibility of corporations to take action on social justice and racial justice and inequity but that only 26% of those employees actually felt that their companies had made significant progress or fulfilled most of those promises, so a pretty big gap there.

And we're also seeing that this gap actually has some real business impact for these companies. So for example, 40% of these employees said that they would be willing to walk away from their organization if they didn't make racial justice a significant priority. And on the flip side, 70% of employees said that they would actually be much more willing to refer their employer if they made it a significant priority. So what we're seeing is commitments were made, employees are feeling a gap, and there's real risk to business with that.

- And Sona, when you mentioned the high number of employees that aren't satisfied with what their companies have done on this issue, what are they looking for their companies to do? Is there anything specific that they noted in this survey?

SONA KHOSLA: Yeah. The one stat that completely floored me as we went through this, and I didn't expect, was that 77% of employees said that they actually expect their employers to facilitate difficult discussions on these topics within the workplace. So gone are the days where you don't talk about politics at work. Actually, it's becoming central. And what we're recognizing is that employees are members of society. They want to talk about societal issues at work.

And employers who don't do that run real risks. It's hard. It requires a lot of vulnerability and different systems and technology and a different role for corporations. But that really is what employees are looking for.

ANDY SERWER: What about north of the border? Benevity is based in Canada, or correct me if I'm wrong. Do you find the same kinds of issues among Canadian companies?

SONA KHOSLA: I think the difference in Canadian culture is that we don't talk about these issues as widely. And our population of Black people is not quite as high as the US. But we have our own forms of it with indigenous people in Canada. So I think when everything happened last year, we definitely started to take a step back and look at, how can we foster much more inclusion, much more discussion around racism? We're not comfortable talking about it. We're very polite. But we needed to create some cultural shifts around our behaviors. But I would say that it went just beyond talking about Black people in Canada. It started to become all-encompassing, including Asian people and indigenous people.

- And we talked to Emmanuel Acho yesterday about the fact that it's so important to have some of these uncomfortable conversations in order to see some of the progress that is needed at this point. When you take a look at some of the progress that has been made-- and something you pointed out in your survey, just the role that technology has played in this for corporations, meeting the social impact commitments and their goals-- can you talk a little bit more about that and how technology has helped with these companies?

SONA KHOSLA: Yeah, definitely. A lot of companies are used to running events or training-- unconscious bias training, for example. But actually, we're finding that companies who can use technology to help their people make attitudinal shifts or behavioral shifts is really starting to get some uptake. So for example, one of our clients, Mortenson-- they're a construction company based in Minneapolis-- created a library of social or positive actions that their people could take in the face of racism-- so for example, helping their people identify great resources, reading "White Fragility," reading about anti-racism, and then rewarding these people for taking these individual actions, so giving them charitable currency that they could then donate to a nonprofit, whether that was a nonprofit fighting injustice and inequity or any other nonprofit of their choice.

But I think the real key message here is that employers are recognizing that their people want to learn through their workplaces. And so companies have an opportunity to be that real trusted source of information and action. And through technology, they can really scale these programs, deliver that learning in an individual way through a mobile app or through their corporate systems and reward people to be able to take action and do good.

ANDY SERWER: All right. Sona Khosla is the chief impact officer at Benevity. Thank you for joining us.