Diversity and Inclusion – where to start

Have you taken the #CEOAction pledge?

As a nation, we’ve made great strides in racial equality since Martin Luther King Jr. stated his dream to live in a nation where his children would not be judged by the color of their skin.  However, that said, we still have a lot of work to reach true inclusion.   The topics of diversity and inclusion have reached necessary prominence in the world today. We encourage you to get educated and be committed to these essential efforts.

As you probably know, implementing diversity and inclusion into your organization’s philosophy is wonderful and necessary.  However, don’t assume its simple.  There are at least 2 areas that need to be addressed to turn your philosophy into a reality.  You must take action and you must train.

Take Action if you Want to be an Organization of Diversity and Inclusion


Training your employees is essential to an inclusive workplace.

Recognizing that diversity and inclusion are key to your organization’s future is essential, but you can’t stop there.  The recognition needs to turn into action.  That action needs to permeate the entire organization.  This is not simply a function of human resources.  Leadership must lead the charge.

We feel strongly that the CEO must lead this initiative if it’s going to be successful.  If you are a CEO, or have close relationships with the leaders of organizations, you’ll want to know about The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion.  It is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in our organizations. Their goal is to “rally the business community together to take measurable action in advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

We encourage you to join this community of intentional leaders by signing the #CEOAction pledge. The organization offers encouragement, resources and real-life testimonials of fellow CEOs. The CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion website is a great place to start when you’re serious about being intentional.

Questions to Start You Thinking About the Action You Can be Taking

If you are convinced your theories of diversity and inclusion need to move to action, here are some questions to consider.

  • Where do we source our candidates when we are filling a role?  Are there more diverse talent pools available?
  • Are we tracking the diversity of our workforce to ensure we are improving in this area?
  • Is our organization investing in the underrepresented student groups in our community to prepare them for a successful career?
  • Does our leadership team support diversity and inclusion through their words and actions?
  • Do we have a leadership development program that provides necessary training for all people groups?
  • Do we have any Employee Resource Groups to allow individuals to join together based on common interests, backgrounds or demographic factors such as gender, race, or ethnicity?

Train if you want an Organization of Diversity and Inclusion

Being intentional about hiring a diverse workforce will provide you with the great benefit of various worldviews, cultural norms, mindsets and backgrounds.  This is a great win for your organization…assuming all that diversity can get along.  That’s why training is absolutely necessary.

All of us carry around unconscious biases that can be significant obstacles in achieving inclusion in the workplace.  Unconscious biases are the stereotypes, both positive and negative, that affect our behavior. These stereotypes are so much a part of our psyche that we don’t realize they are there.  Workshops and training can help reveal these biases for the betterment of all.

We also need to know how to communicate respectfully with each other.  Some team members may need to learn to filter their words. Other employees may be afraid of offending others, so they say nothing at all, unintentionally alienating the very people they don’t want to offend.  Training can equip everyone to bring all the great diversity together for the common goal of doing  great things as a team.

Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion Training

Training yourself and your team members can lead to these benefits:

  • Open and honest communication to help manage differences
  • An atmosphere of respect throughout the entire organization
  • A mindset of diversity and inclusion that holds one another accountable to this initiative
  • Development of more inclusive teams which are proven to be more innovative
  • A greater awareness of our differences and the beauty within that
  • An awareness of your own, subconscious, biases that affect your decisions
  • Practical tips to help everyone work with people with differing backgrounds

As a leader, you must lead the charge to act and be trained.  On days when it seems diversity and inclusion are too big to tackle, remember anther quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

I’m fully aware of my own inadequacies on this topic.  I may think I ‘get it’ only to find out I’m still seeing everything from a very biased perspective.  Taking intentional steps to educate myself on diversity and inclusion is exciting, but I’m sure it will challenge a lot of my thinking.  I’m encouraged to remember that this is a process.  As I continue to learn more about my unconscious biases and humbly accept that I need people from all backgrounds to speak into my life, I’m certain it will make my life richer.

Centennial is committed to doing our part to advance this effort. We are passionate about building winning teams and the best teams are inclusive.

Here are a few articles that I found helpful in further understanding these topics:

Diversity and inclusion: The reality gap
Inclusion and the Benefits of Diversity in the Workforce
And the website mentioned earlier: The CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion

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