Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace means diversity of thought. And diversity of thought is good for business.
Monica Gould has built her career around this core belief. She has worked in DEI for 27 years, long before it was a “thing,” as founder and president of Strategic Consulting Partners in Mechanicsburg.
“It’s a thought process,” she said. “It’s really embracing the concept that we’re all different.”
Components of DEI include the more obvious race, religion and gender and the less obvious education level, geographic area, generation and class.
“The biggest misconception about DEI is that it’s all about race,” Gould said. “In my practice, challenges between generations are probably greater in some cases than other challenges we have experienced.”
Another DEI stereotype involves drive-by diversity training as an organizational cure-all, allowing a company to check it off its to-do list. That approach does not change culture, a requirement for real transformation.
And while Strategic Consulting Partners does provide training, it also offers work culture assessment, develops strategies and measures results.
“Everybody feels it’s all about training,” Gould said. “It has to be more than training. You can’t change people with one-off events.”
At Carlisle Construction Materials (CCM), executives, managers and plant employees have been working with Strategic Consulting Partners for about a year. Thus far, employees have given enthusiastic feedback, according to the company.
“They were so excited about the interaction that they had, questions they could ask the experts,” said Jodi Wadel, manager of talent development.
The questions included the difference between race and ethnicity, she said. She added that providing a safe environment where employees can feel comfortable asking questions is a key to success.
Gould said that people are much more interested in having mature and robust conversations around gender, race and generational understandings today, versus 20 years ago.
“They tiptoed around the issues, but now people are wanting to hear it, and then wanting to embrace it and want to… learn,” Gould said. “And that’s really why we’re here, to help people, to take them on that journey.”
Part of that journey includes understanding biases, that we all have them, even in the most mundane areas of our lives.
Gould gave the example of someone avoiding traveling on a particular street because their experience has always been that it’s heavily traveled. That same person may unexpectedly find themselves on that street and realize the traffic isn’t that bad anymore.
“It becomes unconscious, it becomes part of our psyche—part of our modus operandi, and we don’t even realize it’s wrong,” Gould said. “We didn’t realize that we were floating in our thinking because we had nothing else to change that viewpoint.”
CCM is having a similar experience around the concept of bias.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘I have biases, and I have to be aware of those biases, and I’m gonna start working on those. I recognize them,’” Wadel said.
Gould experienced overt bias and inequity in her working life before Strategic Consulting Partners, and this, she said, is part of the reason she created her own company.
“I had to go through 10 extra hoops of any of my counterparts,” she said. “I was paid less, and I knew it, and they acknowledged it. They would say to me, ‘OK, you’re not the primary breadwinner. You’re not the man of the house.’”
Lack of DEI causes companies to lose good people, Gould said. By looking at retention of employees by demographics, employers can determine if they have a problem. Why is this important? Because turnover is expensive.
“It takes six months to a year for an employee to be fully productive in their role,” Gould said. “So, if you think about it, you’re turning these people over, you’re retraining them. You’re taking steps back as an organization if it drives down your overall team productivity.”
DEI information and training also help an organization become more efficient and innovative, she said. DEI allows for different perspectives not only to be included but seriously examined. Even a group that may seem homogeneous has many differences.
“We all see the same thing, but all of you have different experiences from growing up,” said Susan Wallace, vice president of human resources at CCM. “You come from different parts of the world. You have different educational backgrounds, you have different work experiences and different family experiences.”
Those perspectives help the organization see the world through a variety of lenses.
“And they’re important because those different perspectives are mirroring those perspective of our customers,” Wallace said.
DEI work directs employees to see that those differing perspectives are valuable.
“Diversity of thought brings innovation, brings new ideas, new concepts,” Gould said. “If people have different perspectives, different upbringing, different education, you bring all those parties together and guess what? You’ve got some great new innovation and great ideas.”
Organizations will not only lose out on innovation and ideas if biases prevent them from being heard, but they also will not attract the best talent.
Gould pointed out that organizations with a reputation for a hostile culture and lack of DEI could be relegated to accepting those who are willing to apply, rather than the cream of the crop.
DEI focuses on what diverse people, in gender, race, age, physical abilities and the like have to contribute and their unique competencies.
“Basically, it’s about getting to know people, and it’s respect,” Gould said.
For more information on Strategic Consulting Partners, visit www.yourstrategicconsultant.com
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