Three-quarters of global employees say racial equity policies are performative and negatively impact engagement and intent to stay in their jobs.

The research from Catalyst also found that 68 percent found their organisation’s Covid-19 policies for the care and safety of their workers was also not genuine.

The report, Words Aren’t Enough: The Risks of Performative Policies, shows that it’s not enough for companies to announce policies or issue statements. Organizations must follow through and take meaningful action


Genuine policies

Genuine policies are defined as policies that are aligned with the stated values of the organisation, motivated by care and concern for employees, and thoughtfully implemented – as opposed to merely performative or insincere.

In practice, these policies considered not genuine include implementing a self-care wellness program to mitigate burnout without doing anything to address unmanageable workloads and “always-on” culture; pledging finds to support racial equity and not following through; or hiring a DEI expert but not addressing the problems they identify.

Employees from marginalized racial and ethnic groups were less likely to view these policies as genuine (23%) than White employees (29%).

Employees from marginalized racial and ethnic groups who felt their organization’s racial equity policies were genuine experienced more inclusion (45%), engagement (61%), feelings of respect and value for their life circumstances (78%), ability to balance life-work demands (80%), and intent to stay in their jobs (57%) compared to those who perceived these policies as not genuine or performative.

Greater empathy from senior leaders was associated with increased perceptions of their organization’s racial equity policies as genuine, leading to increased experiences of inclusion among employees from marginalized race and ethnic groups and increased engagement among women.


How can organisations develop genuine racial equity policies?

The data show that employees are savvy and recognize when company policies are performative—and when that is the conclusion they reach, there are consequences for organizations, including less engagement and intent to stay among employees.

“This report is a wake-up call for CEOs and other senior leaders at a time when employers are still facing high turnover due to the Great Resignation,” said Lorraine Hariton, Catalyst President & CEO. “When faced with the next unprecedented disruption, leaders must be able to address it with empathy and authentic, meaningful actions.”

“We are amid a paradigm shift that compels companies and leaders to take a stand on the defining social and environmental issues of our time,” said report author Van Bommel, who leads Catalyst’s research on women and the future of work. “Empathy is a vital skill—one that can be learned, developed, and strengthened, and when CEOs and other senior leaders are empathic with employees, they are able to address employee priorities in a vision that will bring deep change and success to everyone.”


Editor at HRreview

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview. With a master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.