Career Advancement and the Pandemic

“If 2020 was a career, it would look like a gaping hole,” said leadership author and keynote speaker Julie Winkle Giulioni this September. The pandemic, she explained, caused many companies to place employee development and advancement on hold indefinitely. That and growing community activism demands for diversity and equality in the workplace could come to an even greater head, unless companies recognize and address both issues.

Some progress

Awareness of these issues has already been evidenced and addressed by a couple of firms. In September, advertising agency David & Goliath named Tiffany Persons to the newly-created position of Director of Empathy. Her role will be to recruit underrepresented talent from the Black community as one way of confronting systemic racism. She’s also charged with leading workshops to promote empathy. The announcement came on the heels of Citigroup, which had earlier announced the appointment of Jane Fraser as the first female president of a major Wall Street Bank. 

What else might companies interested in advancing equality and diversity do? Giulioni coined this acronym, “GRACE,” as one possible solution.


As companies struggle to bring stability to the workplace, Giulioni suggests that leaders discard old questions having to do with where employees see themselves in five years and what they want to be. Instead, she suggests that discussions switch to growth-focused conversations. Questions aimed at how employees are growing or what they wish to learn, along with how they wish to contribute now and the kind of work they wish to be doing, she says, make it easier to reach agreement.


Relationships are more critical than ever before, says Giulioni, and will help to build trust and strengthen the employee-leader relationship. She added that simple questions that go to what an employee wants to do more or less of, what they wish they had more time for and what’s most interesting about their current work can enrich the relationship.


Past articles have focused on the need to be agile and flexible in today’s environment. Giulioni suggests that even quarterly, six, and twelve-month employee development plans are too long to be relevant now. She suggested that companies focus on even shorter timelines and realistic goals. 


Giulioni argues that originality and fresh thinking are needed today to leverage what leaders and their employees have before them. She mentions identifying mentoring and coaching opportunities within the company as a couple of immediate possibilities.


The “e” at the end of GRACE completes the acronym. Giulioni suggests that leaders take a serious internal look at the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of the company’s current system. Who’s being developed and who’s not? She urges that companies serious about diversity and equality seek and implement better ways to not only identify conscious and unconscious bias at work, but also how to address it.

Rather than being held back by the pandemic, these suggestions are intended to help accelerate progress in career development, particularly among minority employees. The payoff in the long haul can be very productive and fulfilling.

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