Photo by Jéan Béller

What We Learned From George Floyd’s Death

A couple of months ago, we hit the one-year mark since George Floyd’s death. The response and social unrest conversations reached a fever pitch last year, although racial inequality, police brutality, and race-related injustice are nothing new. However, many leaders and organizations took the opportunity to enact change. Good.

We are seeing positive strides in many organizations. They are adding diversity and inclusion officers, reprioritizing racial equity, and are doing a better job of listening. But what does this all really mean? It’s a question that shouldn’t be ignored.

Difficult Conversations

An article recently spoke to me: A Year After George Floyd, What Have Business Leaders Learned? written by Dan Bigman, editor and chief content officer of Chief Executive Group, publishers of Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member,,, and

In his piece, he tapped a phenomenal resource to break down how George Floyd’s death can serve as a lesson for the workplace. As a social scientist and Harvard professor, Dr. Robert Livingston spent 20 years at influential companies like AirBnB, Microsoft, Under Armour, etc. While there, he made a point to show leadership teams how to turn difficult conversations about race into productive instances of real change. Earlier this year, he published The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations (Penguin Random House, 2021).

Livingston shared a model for social change that I hadn’t heard of before, called PRESS.

“The P stands for problem awareness,” Bigman says in his interview with Corporate Board Member. “The R is root cause analysis. E is empathy or concern. Do you care? The first S is strategy. And the second S is sacrifice.”

He explains that many leaders are apt to jump straight to strategy, but they overlook some important diagnostic steps. The collective response to George Floyd helped open our eyes. It gave us problem awareness.

Key Takeaways

It reminded us (and taught some) that systemic racism isn’t anything new. It is alive and we should look at its roots. Where did it begin? What have we accepted as the status quo? Then we can–and should–care that this is today’s reality. Only then can we build strategies in our organizations that matter, which may include some level of sacrifice.

I have thought about this at length. George Floyd’s death and the resulting human response. Not the original response to the video itself, but the larger drive to enact change. The change can be felt by individuals, families, workplaces, schools, and society. True shifts in behavior modeled by leaders who understand that their role and actions matter.

Livingston spoke about the emotional life of an organization. At TalentCulture, we speak about this quite often. Any person who opts to ignore the soul–the people, and all that comes with them–is missing the boat.

However, let’s be honest about this. Even some of the most people-first organizations have still not found the secret to unanimous equity across all populations. It isn’t easy. It takes education, research, resources, time, money, and sacrifice. But it’s worth it.


What is your organization doing as a direct result of what we learned from George Floyd’s death? I’d love to hear real-life examples about what you’ve done. I’m also interested in the impact made and perhaps some early outcomes you’ve observed. Reach out to me at

#WorkTrends: The Importance of Second Chances

Our guest on #WorkTrends this week is Michelle Cirocco, the Chief Responsibility Officer of the sales and marketing technology firm Televerde. She is responsible for extending Televerde’s business model to disempowered populations. We discussed criminal reform and its impact on the workforce, eliminating bias in the hiring process, and how organizations can connect with, and potentially hire, individuals with criminal records.  

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you never miss an episode. 

[2:33] We were founded 25 years ago based on the idea that by providing women in prison with jobs, training, and education while they were incarcerated 
[7:42] There’s 70 million people in our country that have a criminal record
[09:49] There is a big movement for organizations to take a pledge. It’s called the Getting Talent Back to Work pledge, and it’s a very simple, easy thing for anybody who is involved in talent acquisition to do. 

Today, we’re talking to Televerde’s Michelle Cirocco about how we can extend diversity and inclusion to everyone. Michelle Cirocco is the Chief Responsibility Officer of Televerde, a business-to-business marketing and sales outsourcing firm. This is Michelle’s story.

An Unusual Business Model 

To an outsider, Televerde sounds like a typical business-to-business demand generation firm. They provide sales and marketing support for small businesses to some of the largest technology firms in the world. What sets Televerde apart is its approach to staffing. Televerde’s leaders founded the organization the idea of giving incarcerated women with jobs, training, and education. At the end of their sentence, Televerde helps the women reacclimate by employing them at their organization or helping them find work through a job placement program. 

A Second Chance 

Twenty years ago, after she served six years in prison, Televerde hired Michelle. She was their fortieth employee. Televerde has worked with more than 3,000 incarcerated women over their twenty-five years in business. In their Phoenix, Arizona, corporate headquarters, forty percent of the employees started their career while incarcerated. Televerde offers these women a chance at a career without facing bias because of their past.  

The Conversation Around Diversity and Inclusion

According to Michelle, “We face what’s going to be one of the biggest talent gaps ever in the history of the world.” The number of available jobs outnumbers the workforce by more than one million people. So, organizations need to consider new options to fill the talent gaps.  

Untapped Resources 

Michelle says more than 70 million people in the United States have a criminal record. Criminal records indicates a conviction of some type of a misdemeanor or a felony. A criminal record might immediately remove a candidate from the recruitment process. If organizations want to fill empty jobs, they need to rethink the way they hire. As Baby Boomers retire, the talent pool shrinks and recruiters have fewer viable candidates. 

Give Qualified Candidates a Chance

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) created a toolkit of resources and research for HR professionals. SHRM launched the Getting Talent Back to Work Pledge. Organizations that take this promise say they will give all qualified candidates a chance at employment. 

The first step to eliminating bias, Michelle says, is to “ban the box.” The concept is simple. Recruiters do not ask potential employees if they have been convicted of a felony until later in the hiring process. That way, individuals can make it through the first round of recruitment without being immediately disqualified.  

I think you’ll be fascinated my Michelle’s take on diversity, inclusion, and this untapped workforce. 

Resources Mentioned in this #WorkTrends Episode

Michelle Cirocco on Linkedin and Twitter
SHRM’s Getting Talent Back to Work pledge

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

#WorkTrends: Your D&I Journey

These days, many organizations are on a journey to become more diverse and inclusive. But how can we as individuals go on our own journey — and help our organizations too?

Those are big questions, but thankfully we’ve got some big thinkers here to help us work through them. This week on #WorkTrends we’re joined by Damon Klotz, Culture Amp’s work culture evangelist, and Steven Huang, the head of D&I at Culture Amp. Together they provided a D&I road map that all of us can follow.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

What You Need to Know to Start Your D&I Journey

Are you a little nervous to dip your toes into the D&I waters? You’re not alone, Huang says. “A lot of people, particularly leaders, are scared to start their D&I journey, and I can completely understand why,” he says. “It is a really difficult topic, and unfortunately I can’t comfort you and tell you that it’s going to be easy or simple.”

But what’s most important, Huang says, is that you get started as soon as you can, because the world is changing — 2019 will be the first year in history that over 50% of the children born in the U.S. will be non-white, he says. The conversations around D&I will only grow more important as this trend continues — and they’ll also help your organization get a better competitive advantage.

Beginning your personal D&I journey also requires you to look inward. “One of the core topics that has really opened my eyes and helped me see the world differently is the idea of intersectionality,” Klotz says. “It’s thinking about the effects of multiple forms of discrimination and how they combine and overlap.”

So how can you embrace an intersectional mindset to help you build a better workplace? Klotz says it’s all about thinking intentionally. Think tactically about how you can improve the employee experience for all groups within your organization, he says. Also, be conscious of the privilege your position puts you in. And if you’re feeling like the odds are stacked against you, don’t. “I always go back to the African proverb [that says] if you think you’re too small to have an impact on the world, spend a night with a mosquito,” Klotz says. “We can be that glimmer and hope and change if we are conscious.”

How Smaller Companies Can Tackle D&I

A lot of tech companies discuss D&I a lot, and for good reason — their locations along the coasts mean they’re going to naturally attract a more diverse workforce. But what about smaller companies or companies that aren’t in areas that are as diverse? What can they do to create a more diverse and inclusive environment?

Huang says first that companies shouldn’t compare themselves with others. Instead, he says, companies should aspire to be “the best version of yourself.” To help your organization achieve this, Huang recommends using a D&I survey. “It gives all of your employees a chance to answer questions about how they’re feeling about the state of D&I in your organization,” he says. Culture Amp has used these internally, and it has begun to give the surveys away for free. “It’s been used by hundreds of companies,” Huang says.

Klotz echoes Huang’s points, and adds that companies need to go a step beyond benchmarks when thinking about their own D&I efforts. Companies also need to consider another question: “What are the changes you can make inside of your company that are actually going to improve the experience that you’re giving to your employees every single day?” This will help you create more customized solutions for issues that arise, so that your organizational culture will be everything you want it to be.


Resources Mentioned in This Episode