Fostering JEDI is more than adding a few employees from other ethnicities, cultures, genders, or ages. It involves inviting those who are different from the majority at your business to have a voice, be heard, and feel valued. Even you are not currently hiring new employees, you can stimulate JEDI in the workplace through a variety of strategies. Presented in part one will be ways to foster diversity and equity.
Fostering Diversity: Who Are Your Employees?
Today’s workplace often is diverse in ways you might not realize. Businesses today employ a variety of workers who display some type of diversity. Besides race and gender, which is the most common form of diversity most people think of, there is generational, geography, language and accent, cultural identity and background, socioeconomic background, upbringing, physical and mental ability/disability, neurodiversity and mental health, behavior and attitude, religion and spirituality, gender identity and assigned/preferred gender, sexual orientation, education, personality and thinking style, military status, parental status, relationship status, life and work experience, and moral compass and worldview. All of these qualities form the background of a human being and should be valued for what they can bring into the day-to-day working of your business. Get to know your workforce.
Some companies may employ five different generations since older workers are either delaying retirement or coming back into the workforce. The Traditionalists (born before 1946), the Baby Boomers (1946-9164), Generation X (1965-1980), the Millennials (1981-2000), and Generation Z (those born after 2000). The Traditionalists and Boomers lived before the technology boom. That doesn’t mean they aren’t tech-savvy. What it does mean is they are very adaptable as they weathered the swift changes in daily technology. Generation X grew up learning the new tech while the Millennials and Generation Z seem born with technology in their hands. Though these younger generations may be enamored by the latest tech and can quickly figure it out, they may not be able to adapt to situations where tech doesn’t fit prominently into the picture. Employees from each of these generations have valid views of the world and can bring unique perspectives and skills to the workplace.
Build Diverse Teams
Consider bringing in different viewpoints when you build work teams for specific projects. Look at age and background, as well as gender. Every person who is not like you has a different point of view that could benefit team strategy building. For example, a person who is familiar with the depressed neighborhood where you have chosen to locate your next office or store may have suggestions about how to attract local residents to your new location or offer ideas about what not to do in this neighborhood because those actions might keep customers away. Different backgrounds, ages, and genders often provide fresh insights into a problem, providing new strategies or uses for a product or service. Don’t resort to putting only young tech hotshots at your company on a sales or R&D team. Some of your older employees may be able to offer perspectives about what they think are new ideas. Those young employees may find out that though the tech is new, some tried-and-true sales or marketing techniques still are the best solutions. Each perspective represents a segment of the population that might benefit from your product or service. Therefore, every employee’s strengths should be valued and used, as appropriate, in the workplace.
Diversity in Management
Though you may create a diverse workforce in your company, if management doesn’t represent that same diversity, your goal of diversity will fall short. The top decision-makers and supervisors in your business should also represent a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. This is crucial since these managers will be the ones making sure JEDI policies are crafted and enforced, and they are responsible for making sure everyone at the business (including customers) feels safe
Diversity Outside of the Workplace
Fostering diversity isn’t limited to what goes on within your company’s walls. Extend diversity outside of your business by finding, customers, clients, suppliers, and vendors from underrepresented areas. Vendors and suppliers from woman-owned or other minority-owned businesses could provide just what your company needs. This not only benefits those vendors but can stimulate more business as your company becomes known for its corporate social responsibility. Contact local trade organizations or publications that promote these new start-ups.
Look at ways to create an equity-centered design in your organization. Most organizations develop policies and new initiatives from management down since these individuals have to power to create change within a company. The problem here is that management isn’t an all-knowing, hopefully, benevolent entity. It is human. Because it is, it can produce flawed policies that result in more harm or appear to be unable to be enforced. By including employees in developing JEDI policies or other policies, workers will feel empowered. This could be accomplished through large open meetings to hear issues and suggestions surrounding JEDI policies. Then a committee of diverse individuals could meet with management to fully participate in problem-solving and to develop new strategies.
One big issue with equity is wages. Make sure there is transparency about specific wage grades and how they may be tied to job performance and title. It might be useful to include a wage range with each job description. Transparency in policies is also essential.
Make sure all new job openings are posted and that accommodations will be made for those who have limitations in the hiring process.
Ensure that the process for rewards, promotions, or plum assignments is fair and explained. There could be an environment where employees are offered equitable opportunities and that they have a fair chance to earn a reward.
Meetings should have opportunities for employees to speak up. There should be a process in place to contest any unfair treatment.
Workplace education programs can be in place to educate all employees about JEDI practices. Other education programs could also offer ways in which employees can obtain their GEDI, an associate’s degree or trade certificate, or even a bachelor’s or master’s degree. These programs could be tuition waivers or discounts and/or time off for school. In addition, continuous safety and skill training can also benefit workers and your company.
Create a Company Equity Officer or JEDI Officer
Though it is always wise to go directly to your employees to find the pulse of JEDI in your business, having a designated person whose primary responsibility is JEDI can save you money in the long run and help create a happier workforce.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit, May 25, 2002, Crown Plaza Atlanta-Norcross
SAGE study on diversity in Atlanta businesses
SAGE white paper on diversity and inclusion
Bennett Thrasher’s view of diversity, equity, and inclusion (Their resource groups are empowering and diverse.)