More employers than ever before are becoming aware of the ways a diverse workplace can benefit the bottom line. Employers with a diverse team find that ideas and solutions can be fuller and richer, not to mention more plentiful when they come from a wide range of perspectives and experiences. It’s also good for both businesses and communities when area residents see themselves reflected in the employees of nearby businesses.
According to an August 2017 article on GlassDoor.com, the hospitality giant Hilton is a company where diversity is part of the equation. Hilton employs 350,000 people at almost 5,000 locations in 104 different countries. The article went on to quote Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta: “To put it in a real simple way, we’re a business of people serving people. Period, end of story. If we ever lose sight of that, it’s a
In other words, Hilton recognized how important it is that its employee base mirrors its customers. A small to medium company is a microcosm of global companies like Hilton, and their customers are a microcosm of the world. So, even small to midsize businesses benefit from the creation of inclusive and equitable workplaces, and that’s just one of the areas where Tedi R. Parsons, president of The Professionals Forum, is changing things up for the better in Michigan.
In 2016, Parsons created the Michigan Disability Empowerment Council (MiDEC) to ensure all people with disabilities have access to equitable and gainful employment. Then he conceived the Diversity Ambassador Program and realized that one man, no matter how energetic, can wear just so many hats. That realization led to Parsons merging MiDEC’s work with The Professionals Forum – and the result is a more streamlined, better equipped organization primed to introduce a number of new programs in 2018-2019.
“The Diversity Ambassador Program will be marketed to small and midsize businesses that normally cannot afford a full-time diversity practitioner,” Parsons said. “Through the Diversity Ambassador Program, employers send a staff member for training on creating and implementing an effective diversity plan that works best for their organization.”
Even though most employers want to do the right thing, seeing the business case helps.
“More than 20 percent of today’s U.S. workforce reflects a person with a disability. That represents a largely underutilized resource for employers,” Parsons explained. “Many people with disabilities are underemployed or unemployed. Having more attention on the disability community and our shrinking labor pool has created a climate where employers are taking a serious look at hiring and retaining persons with disabilities.”
Through efforts such as the Diversity Ambassador Program, Parsons and his community partners teach organizations myriad skills, including how to recruit, hire and retain candidates with disabilities and strengthen inclusive language skills. The material also covers reasonable accommodations, provides a better understanding of the barriers people with disabilities encounter in the workplace and shows employers how to integrate employees with disabilities into the workplace culture.
“We also cover the Americans with Disabilities Act; human resources best practices; and how to extend inclusive language to staff, vendors and clients. So, a program like this doesn’t just build better relationships with potential employees, it builds bridges with other employees, businesses, vendors and clients,” said Parsons.
Another benefit of companies becoming more inclusive is that employees who had kept disabilities hidden sometimes open up about that part of their lives, which makes the workplace even more welcoming. Parsons isn’t shy about pointing out that it’s not enough for businesses to offer a paycheck and benefits package the way it once was.
“Today’s job seekers are looking for opportunities at companies because they offer a fair and equitable salary, good benefits, a great physical and creative space for actual work, and a diversified workforce,” he said. “They want to work at a company where they are valued, not only for their work, but for their differences as well. More than ever, successful organizations know that they need an educated and diverse workforce, recognizing that this impacts their overall bottom line. Additionally, top economic leaders say that the world’s highest-skilled talent are looking for places to call home where the decision-makers and innovators live, work and play. This ‘place’ has a strong mass transit system, affordable housing, diverse communities and many eminent cultural assets, including a community that is welcoming and affirming.”
The Diversity Ambassadors Program is a four-part series with the first session starting in mid-January 2019.
To learn more about how The Professionals Forum can benefit you, go to theprosforum.com or email Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org.