Allyship – The key employee engagement differentiator during crisis

Written by Nisha Chandran & Manasa Sai

The benefits of a highly engaged workforce are consistent irrespective of the organization’s industry or geographic location. Research studies have proven that a highly engaged workforce is a great predictor of organizational success. Today, organizations are increasingly using employee engagement surveys to gain feedback and understand what inclusion really means to its people, and what kind of initiatives or practices can create a deep sense of belongingness where employees can thrive. A sense of belongingness is especially crucial for the engagement of employees who are underrepresented at the workplace. To ensure a truly inclusive culture, organizations need to focus on bridging the perceived versus real inclusion gaps between diverse employees within the workplace. One highly effective tool for addressing these gaps is promoting allyship programs.

Allyship culture to increase employee engagement

Allyship is a powerful tool and an important building block for enhancing employee engagement and fostering inclusion at the workplace. Allies are individuals who do not necessarily belong to a minority group, but works proactively to ensure that the voices of everyone in the group are being heard. They often use their own voices in order to support and amplify the voices of others. Everyone has the ability to be an ally – men can be allies to women, able-bodied people can be allies to those with different abilities, economically privileged people can be allies to those who are not, and so on. 

Allies educate themselves on the issues their colleagues face in the workplace and make a conscious effort to gain a deeper understanding of underlying issues. They do not dismiss or get defensive if a person from a lesser privileged group calls them out on something. They recognize that being an ally is a verb, and it involves to take concrete action steps. Creating awareness through open communication allows allies to give actionable support in the workplace.

Here are the many ways in which allyship can enhance employee engagement:

  • Nurtures authenticity and empathy at the workplace

Allies foster inclusion at the workplace by listening earnestly to the concerns of others, by amplifying their voices and advocating for them. They create a culture of openness, transparency and compassion, and educate others on the importance of supporting people. Thus, Allyship promotes empathy, authenticity and psychological safety at the workplace.

  • Builds trust between employees

Often, underrepresented employees may not be comfortable raising challenging issues to avoid spoiling relationships or due to a fear of retaliation. True allies believe in the challenging experiences of marginalized employees, listen to them earnestly and amplify their voices by advocating for them. This fosters long-standing relationships based on trust at the workplace.

  • Inspires behavior change

Workplace allies call out the unacceptable behaviour towards others and speak up about negative behaviors that often take the form of unconscious biases or microaggressions. By using inclusive language, managing one’s own biases, recognizing one’s own privilege and using it to champion people from underrepresented communities, allies inspire behaviour change in others.

Allies serve as change agents and enable organizations truly embed inclusion into the everyday experiences of employees.

Allyship has the potential to advance DEI efforts of organizations by supporting and advocating for those employees who do not feel inclusive. Learning how to be an effective ally through training is an important step to create more allies. Through the various Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), structured training programs can be organized to create more allies.

Positive actions and behaviours of allies create a systemic change and foster a work environment where employees feel confident to ask for the support they need – and be assured that they will get it irrespective of who they are or where they come from. When organizations create such a culture, they succeed by truly engaging with each and every individual. People who feel a deep sense of belonging tend to perform better, are more willing to put in discretionary efforts, are more resilient and are more likely to stay longer.


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