Diversity in the workplace

Granite State employers hire, retain workers through inclusion efforts

Creating a diverse and more inclusive workplace can lead to constructive discussions and better outcomes, according to professionals prioritizing resources toward that effort. We reached out to New Hampshire professionals to learn more about how to best work toward diversity in the workforce, and how we all benefit from it.

Our experts:

Jermaine Moore, Director, State Council Liaison, Diversity Workforce Coalition. diversityworkforce.org

Tina M. Sharby, Chief Human Resources Officer, Easterseals NH. easterseals.com/nh

Leah Brokhoff, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, BAE Systems, Electronic Systems. baesystems.com

David Pease, Senior Vice President, Director – Talent, Diversity & Inclusion, Bangor Savings Bank. bangor.com

Q. What can companies do to recruit people of color, LGBTQ or other underrepresented groups to relocate to New Hampshire?

Moore: “Attracting BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color], LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer] people, and other underrepresented groups can begin right now, right where you are. Steps to consider include taking an organization-wide assessment of the culture at your company and reviewing/developing your organization’s commitment to achieving racial justice and LGBTQ equality. Understand that BIPOC and LGBTQ candidates do their own assessment about whether there is equal opportunity for advancement by looking at the senior leadership/board of directors of your organization. They will look at how your company ranks on national standard benchmarks (e.g., Human Rights Campaign CEI Index) and explore its reputation/presence in their community. Is there a strong brand attraction based on the product? People will ask others what it’s actually like to work at the organization and trust word-of-mouth and community-based perceptions. Be the organization that BIPOC, LGBTQ and others want to invest their energy and talent!”

Sharby: “There are several things that organizations can do to increase diversity in their recruitment efforts. The first thing I would suggest is that the organization take a close look at their recruitment campaigns to ensure that the language speaks to a broad range of potential candidates. Highlight efforts that your organization is making to be more inclusive, encourage employees with diverse backgrounds to refer members of their network, and identify potential barriers for entry and work towards eliminating them.”

Brokhoff: “A diverse workplace is essential for companies who are looking to attract and retain employees.  Companies that strive to create a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment are more appealing, seen as socially responsible and have better brand reputation. Recruiting efforts – such as partnering with national diversity outreach organizations, veterans organizations, highlighting diversity on your website and in your job descriptions, teaching recruiters and hiring partners how to avoid biases, offering internships and rotational leadership development programs for early career individuals to experience your company and everything New Hampshire has to offer – are great ways to build a diverse talent pipeline. In addition, during the interview process, it’s important to engage with candidates from multiple demographics and backgrounds and introduce a diverse interview panel. This process allows a company to highlight opportunities, answer candidate questions and combat unconscious bias.”

Pease: “First, they need to have employees and managers representing these groups and put in a real, ongoing effort to promote and meet candidates from these communities. It takes a continuing, strong commitment because results don’t come overnight. Second, build partnerships: Partnerships with colleges, community organizations, education companies, like-minded employers and individual, and workforce development and diversity initiatives throughout the state. One company can recruit someone to move to New Hampshire, but it takes a whole community (the state) to retain a diverse family and make them feel like they are welcome and really belong here! Third, communicate, be visible, support and be resilient in your efforts. Fourth, teach all of your employees and partners to be talent scouts.”

Q. What initiatives has your organization implemented to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Sharby: “Easterseals launched a children’s residential training program specifically tailored for immigrants and refugees for whom English is a second language. Facing a workforce shortage, we created an entry-level program to help fill critically needed staffing vacancies. The vocational training program took place over the course of seven weeks, at 40 hours a week, in which all the participants were paid for their time and attendance. Participants were hired as Easterseals employees starting with the first day of their training, making them eligible for employee benefits, paid time off and tuition reimbursement. The training was split into two components. The first component concentrated on building English language skills, paying particular attention to organizational culture. The second component focused on learning the competencies needed to be successful on the job. We continue to offer English classes and provide development opportunities so that all of our employees can advance into other roles within the organization.”

Brokhoff: “BAE Systems has implemented a comprehensive strategy that addresses the diversity of our workforce and promotes an inclusive working environment where differences are valued as a source of strength. BAE Systems has a senior leadership-level working group dedicated to advancing diversity, inclusion and cultural competencies across our organization. Each facility in New Hampshire has a diversity and inclusion council comprised of passionate volunteers who engage and educate employees and foster a culture where people are welcomed, valued, respected and heard. Managers hold D&I focused, two-way dialogues to engage with their employees, grow awareness of the variety of perspectives and backgrounds, and create a culture of trust and respect. In addition, BAE Systems has eight national Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster awareness, respect and inclusion across the organization. The ERGs promote collaboration, provide a forum for expanded understanding across diversity dimensions, contribute to professional development and offer opportunities to engage in philanthropic outreach activities.”

Pease: “Bangor Savings Bank completed a diversity study internally and externally, asking employees and other employers and organizations how to optimize diversity and inclusion efforts. We identified the bank’s strengths and areas for development. Some of the initial work was to create an employee diversity team, complete an equity compensation study, and begin activities and discussions on several topics. The bank included diversity as a specific strategic initiative in our drive to become an employer of choice and to create a more innovative culture. Then a diversity officer was named to begin the diversity and inclusion enhanced journey. One of the first initiatives was Green Dot — a bystander training for all 1,000-plus employees. This was four-hour training to empower all employers tools and strategies to ensure a safe and inclusive work environment for employees and customers. In response to Black Lives Matter this year, Bangor Savings Bank has publicly promoted a Racial Equity Statement, held employee discussions to talk about the the race situation in the U.S. and how the Bank can best provide support, by donating money to New Hampshire organizations improving social justice; creating an internal resource center of books, videos and activities; providing bias/prejudice training for all employees and specialized training for managers; and working on next steps of how to enhance D&I efforts.”

Q. How can a workplace ease the cultural challenges that face minority groups as they come to work in New Hampshire?

Moore: “A workplace — to be equitable and inclusive — needs to directly identify, understand and address the barriers that BIPOC and LGBTQ people experience. The barriers will differ by industry, location, size of organization, tenure and demographics of the organization. Best practice organizations prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion as a strategy and achieve significant progress.”

Sharby: “Take the initiative to understand the various cultures, find out what languages are spoken, how holidays are celebrated, and by advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Brokhoff: “Transitioning to a new job, while exciting, automatically comes with the challenges of learning a new organization and integrating into a new team. When you compound that with the prospect of exploring a new community and finding an entirely new social network, this can be especially daunting for minority groups. If we’re getting it right, the workplace can be a place where the new employee feels welcomed and is instantly connected to the community.

Workplaces can help acclimate their new employees by:

• Creating an ambassador program in which a team member serves as an informal guide while an employee onboards and becomes adjusted to the organization.

• Introducing Employee Resource Groups during orientation as an opportunity for membership and an immediate entry point to networks that either align with an individual’s experience or are of interest, providing access to colleagues across the entire company.

• Providing support that ensures employees can access that sense of community and belonging both inside and outside of the organization. This is pivotal to both attraction of new employees and retention of current employees.

• Having regular interaction with their manager, their colleagues and other employees outside their teams. This interaction (virtual or in person) helps an employee feel welcomed and included in their new role, their new company and their new community.

“When we approach people with real curiosity about each other’s perspectives, develop understanding about varying cultural identities and lived experiences, and respond with empathy and support in overcoming barriers or challenges, then we can claim a culture where everyone can bring their best selves to work, and to New Hampshire.”

Pease: “Treat everyone with absolute respect and dignity. Make them feel welcome. Make them feel safe. Allow them to be authentic. Noted diversity advocate Vernā Myers puts it, ‘Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.’ I don’t think this is enough. We need to remember there are many kinds of music and many kinds of dancing. To me, if diversity is the party invite and inclusion is being asked to dance — authenticity is allowing me to pick the music that will allow me to find the beat within my soul to dance freely like no one is watching, while belonging is everyone cheering me on to dance to my own beat. Providing training, career development, accelerated learning opportunities and a mentor will ensure that once diverse candidates are hired — they will be given visibility and allowed a voice to advance within an organization.”

Q. What are the primary benefits of a more diverse workplace?

Moore: “An organization that is able to recruit and retain a diverse workforce has likely created a culture where there is trust, creating opportunity for everyone to bring their diverse, lived experiences and related meanings to the challenges and opportunities of the industry/company. When there is high trust, the workforce is more likely to give and receive helpful feedback; constituents learn from each other and develop the types of relationships that support, collaborate and innovate.”

Sharby: “Perhaps the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, says it best: ‘A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions and outcomes for everyone.’”

Brokhoff: “The benefits of a more diverse workplace are endless. When businesses focus on building diverse teams and include people from different backgrounds, identities, experiences and perspectives it leads to:

• Greater range of ideas and approaches

• Innovative solutions that gives your company a competitive edge

• Increased customer satisfaction

• Enhanced employee engagement resulting in retention

• Boosts your brands reputation

• Be seen as an employer of choice

• Stronger financial performance and sustainability for the future.”

Pease: “Bangor Savings Bank’s promise is ‘You Matter More’ to our employees, customers and the communities we work and serve. First, diversity must be represented in our employee base to reflect our customer, prospective customers and the communities we serve. Having a diverse workforce allows us to recruit and retain top talent in New Hampshire and from other states and countries. For us, diverse experiences, points of view and understanding will create a culture of innovation to be responsive today and for years to come.

When we ensure employees feel valued, they will enhance their performance — and with supportive coaching, you inspire them to achieve optimal professional potential. This employee optimization will positively impact your customers, which in turn will engage a community. When each citizen is proud to live and work here, and feel like they belong and are accepted for being their unique self, New Hampshire will keep its current workforce and students and be a destination for other top, diverse talent across the U.S. and the world.”

Categories: Business Advice