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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and with me is my co-host Susan White, a national HR consultant. Our topic today is diversity and inclusion. Several different studies in the past five to ten years have reported that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity were more likely to have financial returns above the national industry median. The data suggests that when companies commit themselves to diversity, they are better able to attract top talent, improve employee satisfaction and decision making, and be more customer oriented.
Yeah, I love that. Because there is a business case for being diverse.
Right, right. The urgency and push for diversity and inclusion reflects the demographic shifts in the workforce. As more women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ individuals, veterans, and people with disabilities enter the workforce, organizations are challenged to find new ways to create a more dynamic workspace, one that fosters engagement and innovation and drives performance. I think we hear a lot about diversity, but a – only a little about inclusion. It doesn’t always translate. Inclusion has to be built intentionally. It has long been proven that in order for D and I to be successful, it must be a top to bottom business strategy and not just an HR program or initiative.
I often had people say to me, “Susan, what’s the difference between diversity and inclusion?” And the best response I ever heard was diversity is that everyone’s invited to the party, inclusion is that they’re actually asked to dance when they’re there. Getting them involved.
Yeah. So let’s find out more. Our expert today is Erin Brothers. Erin is the Director of Recruiting and Consulting Services here at Purple Ink. She is also an author of “The JoyPowered® Team,” along with Susan and I, and she serves clients in the diversity and inclusion space through training, inclusion programs, and resources to build culture and engagement. She also serves as Director of Diversity and Inclusion for IndySHRM.
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Erin, thanks for joining us today. How is diversity conversation changing in the workplace today?
Oh, that’s a great question. I love that, because we think about diversity, and diversity is women, diversity is minorities, diversity is the LGBTQ+ community. But diversity is also allies. Diversity is Generation X. Diversity is mentors and sponsors and employee resource groups. So I think we’re thinking about diversity in a more diverse way, not to be generic with the term. But I mean, honestly, everyone wants to be known. Everyone wants for someone at work to say, “I hear you, I see you.” And to know your voice matters is really what everyone wants. So I think really focusing on inclusion from an individual standpoint changes the game and the diversity conversation.
So if we take it to the individual level, how can I be more inclusive in my workplace?
Yeah, I hear that question a lot from clients, both individual leaders as well as clients overall. And the first thing I say is, “we have to talk more about it.” It’s, it’s a scary topic for some people when they think about it from a quota standpoint, or from an optics standpoint, but talking about diversity and inclusion is the first step, because if we don’t intentionally include, then we unintentionally exclude. There’s, there’s an exercise I like to do when we do training, and it’s a name tag exercise. And instead of “Hi my name is,” it says, “Hi, I feel included when,” and you just, it sets the stage for a different kind of conversation and you talk to the person next to you about what makes them feel included. And it just makes a total difference when you when you think about that.
Erin, I’ve been with you when you’ve done that exercise before, and the first time I saw that play out, I, I couldn’t have even made up things that people wrote on their name tag. The variety of answers was unbelievable to me. When when you told me you were doing the exercise, I thought, “Oh, this will be interesting.” When I observed it, I was blown away by, by some of them.
Can you give me a couple of those responses?
Well, I think it just reinforces that everybody wants to be heard. I mean, somebody might say, “I like to be called so-and-so,” or “I feel most included when I’m asked my opinion, or, you know, someone includes me in the group.” And it’s things that you wouldn’t necessarily expect people to say. The last time I did it, someone said, “I feel included when someone asks about my dog.” Their dog is the most important thing to them, and they feel included when someone remembers that they have a dog and asks about them. That makes them feel included.
I think that’s a really good exercise that we could all do in our workplaces, asking people, “When do you feel included here?” And then you could obviously adapt what you’re doing and not, and stop doing some things that aren’t working.
Right. And if, if you’re a diversity champion, it’s really looking around the table and saying, “Who isn’t here?” Right? Who isn’t represented in decision making or in, you know, at – just in those kind of roles, is do we have millennials represented? Do we have people with disabilities represented? Do we have parents of people with disabilities represented? And you know, really, truly being empathetic. I think that that’s a learning point for me kind of in my diversity journey, because many times we think we’re putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, but in reality, we’re just looking at someone through our through our own lens. So to really understand someone, to really be able to say, “Well, I would make this decision,” without having walked a mile in their shoes. It’s really just empacentric. It’s still making our own decision from our own point of view, even though we think that we’re being empathetic. I –
That’s a new word for it.
That’s a great word!
I do like it.
Well, just the parents of disabilities is a good example. I was at a client and had a subject matter expert in who’s an adult with a disability. And the – our other guest was the parent of someone with a disability, and there were so many questions of employees who had kids with disabilities so they didn’t fall into the disabilities community themselves, but they are a part of the disabilities community, and they bonded over all of them having kids with disabilities. One was a mom with two sons who are deaf. One has a kid who’s struggling with an autoimmune disorder. You know, one had a physical disability, so, and it’s just having that support, going, “There’s other parents out here like me that are still trying to figure out this work thing and supporting my kid and doing what I can to, you know, make a difference.” So it’s all over the place. I don’t even think that we can think of all the ways that we can be inclusive. I joined a board last year, Foster Success, they support young adults who’ve been through the foster system, and I learned the term “family privilege.” Was something I’d never even considered, you know, the –
What does that mean?
Well, our foster – a lot of our foster youth don’t have a family, like, don’t have the privilege of having someone to cosign their first apartment loan or, you know, help them buy their first car, or help them decide where to go to college. So this organization, steps in and helps them with funding, with support, with resources just to be able to do that. And we have employees in our organizations who are those students, you know, who are those foster young adults that are in those frontline jobs and still figuring out without a parent or two parents how they’re going to meet their education needs, you know, buy a vehicle, get to work, and just do the things that we all have families that help us do.
That makes sense. Like white privilege, family privilege.
Thank you. Yeah. Great.
Yeah, great awareness. So Erin, what can our listeners or business leaders be doing to promote diversity and inclusion in their own organizations?
I love that, and not to sound like a broken record, but talking about it first. I think that just broaching the subject is is huge. Holding training is a first step for a lot of organizations. I do a lot of diversity, inclusion, hidden bias awareness kind of training through Purple Ink, and that can look really different. I mean, there’s organizations that want to focus on anti-harassment or, you know, civility in the workplace, or prevention. A lot of people are now saying, “I want to start with inclusion because I know that my diversity will grow if I’m including everyone in my organization,” which is huge. But just having that first training helps gain some vocabulary on the topic and helps scratch the surface so people can start having real conversations. And then I would encourage people to, you know, hold a focus group, that’s something that we’ve done for clients, and find out what’s important to them. Do we have a bunch of parents of kids with disabilities that might be an employee resource group? Or do we want subject matter experts to come in and help us understand, you know, the issues that our LGBTQ+ community is facing here in our workplace, or how we support our, you know, five generations that are here in our workforce? So the, the, you know, options are endless. We have a client that I go in every other month and hold a book club meeting with their leadership group, and we talk about inclusion topics and we say, “Okay, what does this mean for your department? What does this mean for your group? You know, what about over here in marketing? Does this work for our whole organization, and help add to, to their vocabulary, what it means to be inclusive and how they can, you know, get on that diversity journey?”
Wow, so many great ideas, Erin.
What are some of your client wins in the diversity landscape that you could share with our listeners?
Sure. I, I’m always amazed by the clients that contact us that are looking for training, and it can be, you know, a small business, it can be 100 people or less, it can be someone that I might think is not very diverse, and sometimes I’m surprised even as a trainer, the diversity that I see. But one of my biggest wins is just seeing that light bulb go off, you know, for someone to gain self-awareness, to take something, that unconscious bias and bring it to their conscious and help them make a different decision or have a different conversation with an, an employee or give a chance to someone that they hadn’t thought might be a good fit prior to our training. So those are the things that really kind of get me going. But I love the lifelong learning of diversity and inclusion. So whether that’s a client specifically, we do individual coaching, as well, for leadership and I think that stems really naturally from the inclusion conversation. When you have that relationship, especially one-on-one with a leader or, you know, a manager in an organization, they can share some of those concerns. And a lot of it is we don’t understand each other. We think that we do, and so we’re trying to make those decisions for our employees or with our employees. We don’t ask them enough. And so sometimes it’s just coaching and being able to help, you know, move an, an issue forward or help, you know, mend a relationship are some of the biggest ones that I see.
Nice. Well, Erin, we can certainly hear the passion in your voice around this topic. So you have lots of ideas and lots of thoughts. How could our listeners contact you if they are interested in finding out more and learning how to build a more diverse workforce or including others and having these conversations.
I’d love to talk to you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find my contact information on our website.
Thank you so much for joining us, Erin. It was a pleasure.
Thanks for having me.
JoDee, we have a listener question today. “How do I deal with a CEO who doesn’t believe in the importance of HR initiatives?”
Well, I’m sure that is a factor that many different people can relate to. My initial advice would be not to call them “HR initiatives.”
That’s a good point. Call it a “business initiative.”
Right! Or, I think if we can connect things like we heard from Erin, or the studies that around diversity and inclusion, instead of saying, “we’re going to have a an initiative, an HR initiative around diversity and inclusion,” how about referring to some of those studies that talk about the power of organizations who are more diverse and how that can impact each one of the departments, how it can impact productivity, how can, it can impact recruiting, retention, and so on and so forth. So, I think sometimes as HR professionals, we want to think of them as “HR programs.” And as opposed to, to Susan, what you just referred to them as, “business initiatives.” So don’t come at him, because he might have had bad experiences with things that he thought of as “HR programs” or “HR initiatives.” Come, come at it from a business perspective, as how can we be better business leaders? How can we be – reduce our turnover? How can we be more productive? Whatever the issue might be.
I think that’s smart. The other thing you might think about is if you have a really large people leader that you work with quite a bit, really understands the value of the type of people solutions you’re bringing, sometimes it’s helpful to have someone give a testimonial or be your advocate. So you together go into that CEO, and explain to her why both of you believe this particular next step or investment that we want to make, why it makes such good sense for the organization.
Yeah, great advice.
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