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Tips for Implementing a Diverse Workplace From a Black HR Executive

5 min read
Business

I've worked in Human Resources for nearly a decade, and throughout all of my roles, I've passionately incorporated diversity initiatives to help make companies more inclusive.

Recently, many businesses have made public pledges around diversity in the wake of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. Statements are one small step in the right direction but much more needs to be done.

Over the last 18 months, I've implemented a diversity and inclusion program at Mustache, a Brooklyn-based content agency, where I was brought in to help make systematic changes. Here are what I believe are the necessary elements to make real change at an organization.

When tackling issues related to lack of diversity, companies need to divert away from being competitive and focus on coming together to make fundamental changes in their fields.

A Strong Foundation

Proactive trust is a priority; seemingly one of the most essential aspects of any diversity program is that other leaders at the company trust the diversity executives they hire. Without trust and room for exploration, it's very hard for diverse leaders to apply the practices that they feel are important for change.

It's up to you as a diverse leader to identify and execute obtainable target goals with strategic initiatives. In the same breath, it's up to your fellow company leaders to give you the proper bandwidth, budget, and other forms of support to make these changes a reality.

As leaders, we also need to understand the pace of change. As we know, change doesn't happen overnight. It's a balance of moving slow and thoughtfully while also being rapid and apparent. Fundamental changes to core business structures are going to take time. These initiatives need to be well thought out to create long-term change.

However, with what's happening in our current environment, brands and companies need to react quickly and take a stance. In situations like this, you have to move swiftly and do something early on that clearly states what direction your company is headed. It's okay to feel uncomfortable or as though you're being a little too assertive at the beginning of any diversity and inclusion implementation. This type of drive is needed to accelerate getting programs and initiatives off the ground that actually make a change.

Create Opportunities

Creating opportunities for people of color is a crucial component of any diversity and inclusion program. What many leaders fail to realize is that it's not only about creating opportunities within their own company but throughout the industry as a whole.

For example, earlier this year, my company put together a networking event to address the lack of diversity in the advertising industry. We made it a priority to develop an experience that would create opportunities for people of color, not just at Mustache, but with other agencies that share our values. When tackling issues related to lack of diversity, companies need to divert away from being competitive and focus on coming together to make fundamental changes in their fields.

Without trust and room for exploration, it's very hard for diverse leaders to apply the practices that they feel are important for change.

In addition to networking events, it's important to assess every element of your business to better understand where diversity can be infused. Here are some questions to consider: Are our internship programs incorporating diverse practices? Are we utilizing LinkedIn to make diverse connections and give recommendations and referrals? Are we supporting businesses and vendors owned by people of color for our events (happy hours, lunch and learns, conferences, etc.)? Are we creating an environment that welcomes open communication?

You can also create educational opportunities at your company to ensure that everyone is well-versed on diversity internally. Don't shy away from discomfort; it's crucial to have conversations that may be uncomfortable but will ultimately lead to change. Consider Zoom calls with small groups at a time, one-on-one meetings with employees, or even starting a book club and holding discussion sessions to talk through important matters that relate to race.

It also helps to identify change-makers throughout the company to support making systematic changes. Championing a couple of employees to help others better understand diversity, create a sense of empathy, and further educate on all levels will give you a strong foundation to build with.

Tie Your Diversity Efforts to Business Metrics

There is truly a business advantage to having a diverse staff. As a leader of diversity, you should have a good understanding of how your efforts tie into the key business metrics at the company.

As many companies recover from COVID-19, budgets will be reviewed more critically than ever before. You have to be prepared to fight for budget allocation for your diversity and inclusion efforts. An effective way to do this is to prove how successful they've been —and will continue to be — for the business overall. Working in the advertising industry, I have strong proof points to lean on.

For example, when we work with creatives of all backgrounds, our team ultimately produces work that isn't tone-deaf, that reaches multiple audiences, and that champions diversity and inclusivity. Diversity in the advertising world is critical and can make or break a successful campaign. It is directly connected to business growth and success.

I challenge you to find the connections in your respective industries and be prepared to present your case on why diversity is aligned with business goals and objectives.

Takeaway

Whether you're just getting started or amplifying your current efforts, I want to share some things we're implementing at Mustache to give you an idea of what your company can do in light of recent events:

  • Internal education and training for our staff to better understand systems of white supremacy and implicit bias
  • Evolving our hiring practices (including freelancers, production personnel and casting) to ensure greater diversity at all levels
  • Partnerships with external mentorship programs that help those most in need of representation
  • Pro Bono services for BIPOC-owned small businesses and/or organizations in support of dismantling systemic oppression

I challenge you to find the connections in your respective industries and be prepared to present your case on why diversity is aligned with business goals and objectives.

Find what works for your company and run with it. Now is the time to make a change and there's no reason you can't get started today.

This article was originally published June 12, 2020.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.