BRAC created the Diversity Star Award with a goal of highlighting exceptional business practices taking place in the Capital Region that leverage the value of diversity in organizations. The award seeks to honor and recognize regional businesses that have championed diversity and inclusion at their businesses or in the community. The winners, Civil Solutions Consulting Group and Republic Services of Baton Rouge, provided some insight on how to better embrace diversity in the business world:
Q: Explain the importance of diversity and inclusion in your organization and in the community.
Eric Dexter, Civil Solutions Consulting Group: Having a diverse staff and inclusive culture gives our team a more complete view of the entire community. Understanding that none of us have a monopoly on experience – our different backgrounds, thoughts, and opinions are an asset when tackling complex projects and tasks. At the end of the day, our goal is to recruit and retain a team that reflects the makeup of the city in which we live and work.
How do you retain a diverse workforce?
Sharon Mann, Republic Services of Baton Rouge: We strive to be an employer of choice by providing world-class benefits and opportunities for internal promotions. Also, we listen to our employees through town hall meetings and employee surveys to ensure we are providing the right tools and resources to retain our workforce.
How do you motivate people to change their inclusion practices after a long history of the same everyday practices?
Dexter: A good start is to show them how effective inclusionary practices that are linked to their overall business strategy can help to strengthen their capacity and increase profitability in their organization.
How do you hold yourself accountable in consistently hiring a diverse workforce?
Mann: We partner with multiple diverse community organizations to post our jobs and gain exposure for opportunities at Republic Services to ensure we have a good pipeline of various candidates. Also, we have a process in place to ensure we have a diverse slate of candidates for all positions before we make a hiring decision.
What are some of the struggles you encountered when originally implementing your inclusion practices? How did you overcome them?
Dexter: Working with older members of the staff has been a struggle at times, particularly when it comes to grasping new technology or applications. And on the other side of the coin, younger team members who are new to the workforce tend to lack the soft skills that our more seasoned workers have. One way we’ve been able to overcome both struggles is by pairing older staff members with a younger one. That way, they can learn from one another in each of the areas in which they are not as strong.
Mann: Republic Services is a large decentralized organization with more than 30,000 employees all over the country, so we have struggled with getting everyone on the same page as to what diversity and inclusion means at Republic Services and for employees individually. However, we are overcoming this by establishing employee resource groups to help cascade the message through face-to-face interaction in group settings.
What tips would you give to local businesses trying to integrate stronger diversity and inclusion practices into their organization?
- Link your diversity and inclusion practices to your overall business strategy. When you are at your team meetings, ask yourself, “Who is not at the table?” and “Why are they not at the table?”
- Make a commitment to educating yourself on how and why diversity and inclusion strengthens your organization as a whole. And whether you think your diversity and inclusion practices are strong or weak, constantly reassess your policies and practices for effectiveness and periodically ask your staff for feedback.
- Make sure your employees represent the community and your customers to the best of their ability.
- Make sure the leadership is committed and taking the necessary steps with communications and behaviors that showcase diversity and inclusion.