Photo courtesy of: Greg Land

Championing Inclusion Through Internal Partnerships and Collaboration

August 16, 2021  |  Amanda Anderson

This article was written by Amanda Anderson, Project Manager for B&D, and Jessica Kelley, SHRM-SCP, PHR, B&D’s former Senior Director of Talent and Inclusion.

 

The concepts of diversity and inclusion have been engrained in the fabric of some companies for many years, while other companies are just awakening to the importance of their value.  Brailsford & Dunlavey, Inc. (B&D) has been at the forefront of championing change.  Ultimately, diversity and inclusion can mean something different to each of us.  In our first-hand experience, the achievement of these goals starts with collaboration and partnerships across your firm and beyond.  To achieve an environment that is truly inclusive for all, every staff member must be not only invested in it but willing to double down on it.  HR and firm leadership can certainly lead the charge, but employee engagement will be the key to success.

How do you ensure that employees will invest in diversity and inclusion?  It starts with the recruitment process.  Candidates learn about company culture, values, and commitment to inclusion through scanning the company website and having conversations with HR and other team members.  Reading a statement from the company’s owners regarding their commitment to diversity and inclusion can have real impact on a candidate’s decision making.  In addition, what do the faces look like in the employee section?  If they all look the same, then perhaps diversity is a work in progress or low company priority.

Ultimately, providing clarity up front about the type of environment that a company embraces goes a long way.  At B&D, we ask direct questions related to a candidate’s commitment to inclusive behaviors during the screening process.  Once an employee is hired, we continue to incorporate the message of inclusivity and the importance of every employee’s investment in building and maintaining an inclusive culture.

 

RISE-ing to the Occasion

In 2015, B&D formed a Diversity Council with the goal of addressing recruitment and retention of diverse staff. Over the years, the Diversity Council evolved into the Inclusion Committee and eventually was re-named the RISE (Respect, Inclusion, Safe Space, Equity) Committee.  The RISE committee meets regularly to have intentional conversations about advancing inclusion at B&D.  These meetings are all encompassing and typically include one or both owners.  We want to ensure that an inclusive workplace is achievable for all employees regardless of whether they report to a B&D office or a client site.  The committee’s purpose is to identify barriers that exist within B&D and establish a community of consciousness that ultimately eliminates those barriers.

 

Tips for Successfully Engaging Employees in Championing Inclusion

  1. Employee Resource Groups or ERGs offer safe spaces for collaboration and establishment of connections with members and allies. B&D’s first ERGs evolved naturally out of employee participation in the Inclusion Committee.  Our first ERG was the LGBT+ ERG, which is now the Pride ERG.  It was important for members of the LGBT+ community to have a safe space to exchange thoughts, concerns, experiences, and ideas.  This group helped to raise awareness around company policies and job descriptions.  Through partnering with the RISE Committee and HR, policies and job descriptions were updated to reflect neutral pronouns.   Additionally, our dress code was revised to be non-gender specific.

Today, B&D has four active ERGS – Pride ERG, Parent ERG, Black ERG, and Women’s ERG.  These groups meet regularly to address important topics impacting their communities.  In addition to providing a safe space for their members, the ERGS utilize Slack channels and firmwide “Spotlight” meetings to engage, educate, and partner with allies.

Are you thinking about forming an ERG at your company?  Start by partnering with HR leaders who can provide guidance on best practices.  Consider surveying staff to gauge interest in participation.  Next, work with initial members to draft a mission statement that you can present to company owners for review, feedback, and approval.  Executive buy-in is crucial for ERG progress.  Successful ERGS will empower employees, provide a safe space, accelerate personal growth, and ultimately be a key factor in employee engagement and retention.

 

  1. Providing fun and engaging firmwide activities, as an alternative to the standard training environment, can encourage individuals to challenge and expand their knowledge base. Brailsford & Dunlavey’s RISE Committee recently organized a diversity and inclusion-themed Jeopardy trivia event featuring categories related to company resources, company statistics, cultural and historical facts, employee resource groups, and educational films intended to spread awareness.

 

The program’s intent was to provide a safe place to learn, spotlight available resources, and engage as a team with trivia questions trending from easier to more challenging as the “dollar amount” increased. Overall, the event received positive responses from participants with interest voiced to engage in similar activities in the future. This idea is simple to replicate in an age where PowerPoint templates and other resources are readily accessible online. To further encourage participation, consider highlighting a local, minority, and/or family-owned business by investing in a gift card for the winning contestant.  Supporting minority/women/LGBT+ owned businesses in the local community is another important step in the commitment to inclusion.

 

  1. One of the RISE Committee’s early initiatives was to identify methods for educating staff on implicit bias. The group’s members read the book Everyday Bias by Howard Ross together and later introduced it to the rest of the firm.  Small group discussions around the book were also held. This book is a quick, insightful read that highlights the biases that exist in all of us.  Howard Ross states, “Awareness is an interesting thing because it is hard to measure and calibrate.  Still, it may be the most fundamental stage in the evolution toward consciousness.” Everyday Bias is now mandatory reading for all staff and each new employee receives a copy.

 

 

  1. Brailsford & Dunlavey’s RISE Committee is in the process of developing a language guide with the intent to examine further the history or unknown stigma behind certain industry phrases. The primary focus is to provoke thoughtfulness and raise awareness around the evolution of these common terms and phrases to provide a platform for discussion and growth. As inclusion makes its rightful strides in a company, it is important to evaluate its presence within the company’s industry as well. This discussion begins with you, by speaking up, listening, and ensuring all team members have a safe space to for their voices to be heard. B&D’s language guide is still in development and is set to be released internally later this year. We are in the process of soliciting employee feedback and input for the content of the guide.

 

In the realm of diversity and inclusion, why is the emphasis on engagement so important to a company’s success? Why the focus on personal responsibility? The answers are simple. Imagine an environment where the idea of merit is comfortably recognized as equally earned and deserved. A universally felt sense of empowerment will drive a culture of trusted team members contributing their best and feeling the opportunity to achieve their professional goals are within reach. What could this sense of investment, pride, and confidence do for an individual, or more broadly – a unified group of individuals, in the reflection of company success and financial performance when equal opportunity is not just spoken but felt?

In studies led by McKinsey and Company, findings demonstrate the direct relationship between diversity in the workplace and financial performance. The first report released in 2015, “Why Diversity Matters,” placed an emphasis on the direct correlation between company-wide diversity and business profitability. Later studies, “Delivering Through Diversity” released in 2018 and “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters” released in 2020, draw further conclusions with a specific focus on the financial impacts of diversity within different levels of an organization. Each study only became stronger and more impactful as further research expanded its data set.

Source: Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters – 2020

What does this all mean at the end of the day? If a company is successful in its role of championing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, then its team members are more likely to be highly invested, engaged, and contributing. Starting with collaboration is key. Provide a safe space for discussions, engage your teams, raise awareness, and educate. Every company has a responsibility to provide this type of environment and only serves to benefit from it. RISE up to the challenge and ensure that diversity and inclusion are a sustainable part of your company’s culture.

Interested in learning more about Brailsford & Dunlavey’s culture and career opportunities? Connect with us to start the conversation: https://www.bdconnect.com/careers/

 

 

Citations

 

"The leadership and information from B&D, and the clarity with which they provide it, brings added credibility to the process and ensures that a range of university stakeholders, including senior leadership and our board, are fully informed for – and confident in – their required decision making.”

B.J. Crain, Former Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration
Texas Woman’s University

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