It’s important to talk about diversity out in the open—and make sure our differences are recognized and represented in the workforce.
For some companies and individuals, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) can be an uncomfortable topic. It’s viewed as an issue that can cause division, lead to difficult conversations, or instill fear about doing or saying the wrong thing.
Over the past few years, media coverage has only intensified this notion.
In reality, however, DEI is about the opposite: being human, building trust, and prioritizing humility.
No matter what you feel about the concept of DEI, advises Chris Turner, a managed solutions account executive for New Era Technology, think of it this way: What’s wrong with talking about differences out in the open—and making sure those differences are recognized and represented in the workforce?
If nothing else, jumping over that initial hurdle and being willing to discuss DEI is good for business. Many integrators are becoming global companies. From a business standpoint alone, refusing to recognize the humanity behind diversity, equity, and inclusion will put your company at a disadvantage.
If you want to follow the money, then you need to talk about DEI. Many sources reveal that diverse teams outperform others in terms of operations and finances. “When you pigeonhole the kinds of people you work for and work with, then you also pigeonhole your business,” says Turner, “which makes it difficult to expand your footprint and resources.”
Not sure where to start to make some improvements? Small differences can build a solid foundation with the employees you already have. We sat down with Turner, who’s a passionate DEI advocate in our industry and also a member of the NSCA DEI Action Council.
Build a Team to Focus on Diversity
Assemble a group of volunteers who are willing to meet every other week or once a month for 30 to 60 minutes to discuss DEI issues and challenges. In the beginning, it can be as simple as discussing a question like: “How can we make our workplace better for everyone?”
Recognize Holiday Preferences
Some organizations require employees to use paid vacation time if they want a break for holidays like Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Instead, consider letting your employees recognize the holidays that are important to them—without having to use PTO. Allowing employees to acknowledge the holidays they choose to celebrate can make a big difference.
Announce Your Support for DEI
Whether it’s International Women’s Day, National Guide Dog Month, Haitian Heritage Month, or Autism Awareness Month, make it a point to recognize and acknowledge your company’s commitment to working with and supporting people who identify with these groups. This can be done through internal celebrations, posts on LinkedIn, or even messages from your company president.
Let Leaders Lead the Right Initiatives
A commitment to DEI must start at the top, but that doesn’t mean the president or owner must focus on DEI all day, every day. Instead, it means that they openly broadcast the fact that the company is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Identify someone to serve as a DEI representative or officer, whether it’s a person in leadership or from human resources,” says Turner. “This also helps reflect your company’s commitment to the issue.”
Speak Up When Necessary
It may be an overused term, but if you notice an opportunity, then say something. Do you see the chance to improve your workplace? Have you identified something that might make the work environment better for someone? Tell leadership or your DEI representative—and make it known that you want to do something about it.
Accessibility to your facilities and your systems matters. “Do what you can to remove barriers that prevent employees with physical or mental disabilities from doing what other employees are able to do,” advises Turner. This can include things like:
- Offering assistive listening devices for meetings
- Providing ramps at all entrances, including the front door
- Creating safe drop-off and collection points for people who may be using taxis or other services to get to and from work
- Signage that’s clear and easy to read
How to Make DEI Count
You don’t have to discuss DEI constantly in order to be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Instead, it’s a matter of recognizing that everyone is welcome, everyone’s voice matters, and everyone has the opportunity to succeed in their role.
“I’m a perfect example of why that matters,” says Turner. “In the past, when I’ve submitted résumés and gone in for interviews, I’ve experienced from interviewees as they realize that ‘Chris Turner’ is Asian-American. But this experience also gives me an opportunity to speak to the industry and help integrators open their eyes to the benefits of being just a little more thoughtful about how they approach their business—and their people.”