Diversity is critical to the success of your organization

Take a hard look around your organization. Do you have employees from a variety of backgrounds, people with differing opinions and perspectives, or do they mostly look and think like you?
“Inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility are critical,” says Harold Harrison, chief human resources officer at Cleveland Metroparks. “Having people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives in the room elevates the conversation and opens the window onto insights and ideas you may not have otherwise considered. This widened world view can help you reach new heights.”

Smart Business spoke with Harrison about how focusing on diversity can help your organization soar and why inclusion has to start at the top.

What is the impact of having a diverse group of employees involved in decision-making?

It’s important to include the opinions of staff when making decisions that could impact morale, and not just make blanket edicts. It’s easy for leadership to sit in a room and decide on a direction in a vacuum. But to learn and grow as an organization, you have to make sure that you use the right strategies to include perspectives from all different departments and all walks of life.

Establishing a diversity committee allows you always to be thinking about how to create synergy in the room to come to the best decisions. Engaging such a committee on topics related to organizational diversity and inclusion can help move the needle, benefiting not just your workforce but the customers you serve.

People at high levels want to solve problems, and they want to solve them really fast, but sometimes you have to slow things down to get them right. Listen to what people are saying, and take a step back. Put the right people around you, trust in them, tap into their passion and know they have your best interests in mind.

How do you get people to participate and share their views?

When you’re close to something, it can be a challenge to be objective. Gaining an outside perspective can accelerate progress. Engaging a consultant in the process, as a subject matter expert, allows that person to conduct conversations in a way that employees feel more comfortable talking to them than they might to someone internally.

If employees feel they are not being heard and are disengaged, this can have a damaging effect and your brand can suffer. But if you can create a culture of diversity and inclusion, where people feel a connection with the company and pride in their role in it, they become ambassadors for your brand.

How do you engage a diverse group of employees in the goals of an organization?

From the top down, leadership needs to be authentic and transparent in expressing the importance of staff engagement in diversity and inclusion initiatives. Don’t shy away from answering the tough questions. When staff feel they have a voice and are aligned with overall goals, their participation is a catalyst for progress.

Encourage employees to get involved in the creation of the core values, but don’t dictate who can participate in order to get to the answers you want. Done right, it becomes a sought-after committee with high visibility, known for getting things done. If people are passionate about it, even if they have a very narrow view, the next person is passionate about something else, and all that comes together.

Here, we held work sessions and the staff identified core values they felt served as the organization’s North Star, included among them, dignity, respect, and organizational sustainability. Because they believed in those values and had an active role in establishing them as organizational values, they were embraced quickly into the fabric of the organization. As with the development of core values, getting staff involved at the ground level on the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion ensures a level of passion and an enthusiasm for real results.

Continue to engage employees, be open to how the organization can improve and listen to staff about how they feel about diversity and inclusion.

Insights Human Resources is brought to you by Cleveland Metroparks