What can we do to create a workplace that is more diverse, equitable and inclusive than the one we have today? For the last year, the BDA Diversity Council, led by Monique Erving, has asked this question in an effort to gain a better understanding, as well as educate BDA employees, in an effort to make BDA a more inclusive place to work.
Erving has been with BDA for more than 10 years, leading our Detroit team as a National Account Manager. And as the head of the Diversity Council, she's been instrumental in helping us continue to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce, fostering the creativity and insights needed to make BDA a more responsible corporate citizen.
In addition to her work at BDA, Erving is also a member of the PPAI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. She recently appeared alongside Kathy Cheng, president of supplier Redwood Classics Apparel in Toronto and fellow PPAI DEI Task Force member, in PPB's August issue discussing diverse, inclusive and equitable workplaces, and what holds companies back.
Here is an excerpt of a Q+A from the article:
What are the issues that hold companies back from building more diverse teams?
Kathy Cheng: I would say five things hold them back: lack of a healthy, diverse talent pipeline; lack of ownership of a DEI/supplier diversity strategy; lack of cultural intelligence, specifically cultural awareness, and experiences amongst teams have not been fostered, hence the abilities to see and relate to more perspectives and experiences are diminished; lack of communication (the value and importance of diversity has not been communicated top-down or bottom-up, and collective input, at all levels, is key); and resistance and fear of change.
Monique Erving: There are numerous issues depending on the industry. One of the main reasons is their unwillingness to seek out candidates that are different from their ideal employee.
What are some steps companies can take to begin to move toward diversity within their workforce?
Cheng: Recognize and acknowledge that this is a business strategy. Internally, it's with your staff and externally, it's about your customers and supply-chain partners. Research has proven that diverse and inclusive organizations are more profitable. Adopt clear communication of intent and expectations. Be clear and concise of the intent and expectations around the organization's goals and objectives. If the fear of change or the fear of the unknown is a potential hindrance of diversity concept adoption, organizations can communicate and define goals and objectives for staff. Define your "why." Not understanding why the intentional efforts of diversity can contribute to the resistance to change, so by clearly defining the goals and objectives across the organization may encourage diversity concept adoption. Break your habits. Let's face it. No one really likes to disrupt their habits and routines, so human nature dictates a most likely encounter to resistance. With clear communication of intent and expectations for establishing new routines, that may lend comfort to those who may resist the change, while also empowering those who may embrace the change. Anticipate and acknowledge that change is not going to happen without resistance. When you anticipate the resistance, you will be better prepared to work through it during the implementation of this change process toward a more inclusive and diverse culture. Recognize that what gets measured, gets done. And people want to know what's in it for them. Regardless of position within the organization, the motivation to change will come from recognizing how this change management will and can benefit them personally. It's important to recognize that the learning process not only benefits the organization, but by benefiting the organization, embracing a diverse strategy will positively affect all members of the organization. Finally, establish the key performance indicators for compensation.
Erving: Organizations can start to invest in groups or organizations that are immersed in diverse communities in order to expand their net to capture a more diverse candidate pool.
What challenges should company leaders be prepared to face when working to create diversity within their teams?
Erving: Leaders should be prepared to face numerous roadblocks from employees, business partners and society as a whole. This is due to the fact that inequality in our nation has been driven by deep-rooted, long-term, unfair work practices.
What does equality mean in terms of the workplace and what are some ways to achieve it?
Erving: Equality means to provide the same level of opportunity and pay for the entire workforce.
In your experience, what do companies struggle the most with in terms of creating an inclusive workforce?
Erving: Companies struggle in creating an inclusive workforce because their HR leaders are not inclined or given the directive from the owners to be inclusive. Many of the corporate hiring directives are created to seek out candidates who resemble the owners. Because of these practices, most HR departments have very limited experience in building a diverse workforce.
What is the most important lesson to remember when working toward DEI initiatives in the workplace?
Erving: Always engage with an open mind. Be prepared to uncover the practices that are presented to be fair, but truly are unfair when you pull back the layers.