Black Professionals in Human Resources

Black professionals, members of the HRPA (Human Resources Professionals Association) came together last month (in February 2022) during Black History Month to discuss the challenges Black HR professionals face, and the difficulties they encounter in trying to facilitate change within corporate HR structures. 

According to the interview, the biggest challenges HR people are currently facing are issues around mental health, systemic racism and career advancement. Black HR professionals are feeling the effects of fatigue during the pandemic, as pressures increase to create new programs and meet compliance. Additionally, systemic racism has resulted in them being underpaid, overworked, overlooked and taken for granted. They mentioned that they are asked to attract and retain top talent and diverse job applicants, while increasing employee engagement. However, this cannot be done by HR professionals alone. They suggested, for instance, that management and employees must work in partnership with HR to achieve the organization goals, and use benchmarks or metrics that reveal true change. Due to a combination of systemic barriers, microaggressions and work demands, Black HR professionals can burn out because the support to achieve change might not be in place. 

The interview points out that collective trauma is a historical challenge that continually impacts the psyche of Black HR professionals. In workplaces and society overall, Black people have been overlooked rather than encouraged to own their voices, in comparison to other represented groups. Black professionals, even those who advance into senior roles, are often excluded from opportunities other groups are given access to.

In the workplace, Black HR professionals are underrepresented. The support structures necessary to facilitate diversity and inclusion as an actual lived practice rather than a theme are not available in an expansive way. Senior-level sponsorship and support are also less available to Black professionals seeking to advance and gain parity with their counterparts from other groups. Black HR professionals do not have access to the same opportunities and senior-level sponsorship as their non-black colleagues, even when they achieve promotions into more senior roles. 

As employers seek to adapt to the consequences of the pandemic, HR professionals are highlighted during the present moment as key to advocacy and support. However, as the interview points out, Black HR professionals need to also process their own emotions. There are a host of additional pressures Black HR professionals face in being advocates for changing policy. They are expected to fix systemic problems that are not of their own making. These issues require efforts from everyone within the organization. Black HR professionals are tasked with trying to solve these tricky issues while simultaneously code-switching to be able to receive fair treatment, and make others feel comfortable. These challenges hinder the growth and development of Black HR professionals who try to ward off burnout and fatigue from the wide range of issues they negotiate on a daily basis to make change happen. 

This article is part of the campaign Systemic Participation. Funded by Heritage Canada :

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EcoAmbassadeurs is a non-profit organization providing bilingual services in the fields of health, education, entreprenuership and ecology. Our goal is to support the members of our community for their social, economic and civic development.

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