How Can Your Company Become More Diverse and Inclusive? 5 Tips to Get Started

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That is the message Marc Burt has for employers looking to create diverse and inclusive workplaces.  Burt – a former vice president of Inclusion and Diversity at Honda North America –  shared his experience and expertise as the keynote speaker at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Maximizing the Value of Diversity event earlier this month.  In addition to Burt, a crowd of more than 125 people heard from topic experts and business leaders who have made diversity and inclusion a priority for their company.

  • Caroline Chan, KPMG
  • Errol Douglas, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • John Somers, Harmac Medical Products
  • Sue Walter, Sodexo

Our speakers echoed a set of common experiences and offered the following places to begin.

1. It must be an “all-in” initiative

Speakers underlined the importance of having the support of the leadership team in your culture improvement efforts, but this work cannot just be driven from the top down. Instead, our panelists stressed the role hiring managers must play in an organization’s efforts by proactively avoiding unconscious bias and discrimination. For the initiative to be successful, it must be a “top-down, bottom-up and middle-out” approach.

2. Find someone who has a passion for it

For a company to be intentional about the initiative is a key step.  As a start, there must a designated person who champions the diversity and inclusion initiative.  Sometimes it’s a person already at the company, other times it’s a new hire.   For example, at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, with some strategic direction and positioning, an employee spearheaded a Diversity and Inclusion initiative.  As a result:

  • over 200 minority high school and college students secure paid internships
  • 26% of new hires in 2016 were people of color
  • 46% of qualifying expenditures in 2016 were awarded to certified MWBE
  • Relationships with community leaders, detractors, and supporters have improved

3. Do an assessment/analysis of who’s in your organization and take a look at your culture

Taking a step back and looking at the culture in your organization will help start the process. Survey your employees, as them questions and generate information from multiple perspectives.  Understanding what the problem is will help you reach the solution.

4. Think of it as a part of your budget

More than just talking about the issue, dedicating resources behind diversity and inclusion efforts can be a financial asset to your bottom line. In many cases, a company can redirect existing resources to support these efforts and, according to our panel, the return on this investment materializes quickly because building an inclusive culture increases retention rates and reduces costs associated with turnover.

5. Establish a safe place for your employees

Creating an environment where employees bring their whole self to work is essential for an inclusive culture. An individual’s sense of belonging within a culture is enhanced by the presence of allies – those who support and advocate for others in all aspects of diversity.

Check back as the Diversity & Inclusion Council continues its work on raising awareness on key issues including the competitive advantage of having a diverse and inclusive workplace, as well as best practice sharing and insight on national trends.

To stay up to date on the work of the Diversity & Inclusion Council, subscribe to our newsletter HERE.

Thank you to our event presenting sponsor: Northwest, supporting sponsors: Erie County Medical Center, Harris Beach, PLLC and Sodexo.


Diversity and Inclusion

Sue Walter, Vice President Finance, Sodexo; Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, President & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Partnership; Marc Burt, Team Leader, Inspired Global Resources | Former VP & Division Manager of the Office of Inclusion & Diversity, Honda; Errol Douglas, Vice President Human Resource Management, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; Laura Smith, Vice President, Buffalo Niagara Partnership; Caroline Chan, Associate Director of HR, KPMG; John Somers, President & CEO, Harmac Medical Products

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