by Julie Tuggle-Nguyen
For most Human Resources professionals, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives have moved far beyond simply a compliance issue. Today these initiatives are a business imperative. They are not only the right thing to do, but they also make good business sense.
The make-up of the workforce is changing dramatically. The U.S. population is much more multi-racial and diverse. Not only are demographics shifting, but the emerging generation of employees is changing, too. They are driven by purpose. They want to work somewhere where they believe in the mission, believe in the purpose, and believe that what they say and do matters. DE&I is an important part of this equation.
The St. Louis region is multi-ethnic and racially and socioeconomically diverse. If we want to engage our customers, common sense tells us that the people that are working within those communities, the people doing the work, the people fronting our organizations, need to reflect the community. Our customers are asking for it, and if they don’t see it, they may just walk down the road to the next shop.
DE&I must become part of the internal business equation. It is not just a matter of going out and hiring people with diverse backgrounds. We need to create environments where they can prosper and grow. This might include formal mentoring and leadership programs and exposure to top managers who look like them. Or it could be a Buddy program where you can give options and opportunities to folks who say, “I would really like to have a chance to connect and build a network with these people.” It provides an opportunity for engagement at multiple levels with multiple groups of people.
We need to create spaces so our diverse workforce can show up as their authentic selves. We have to create a framework and a workplace that’s accepting and comfortable. As an employer, this is where what you say and what you do matters: your employees see it, touch it, feel it every day. When they walk in the door, you want them to give their whole selves because you have provided an environment where they feel safe to be exactly who they are.
At Midwest BankCentre, the commitment to diversity starts at the top of the organization. It shapes the perspectives that drive all the possibilities, opportunities, and decisions we make. We have one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse, legal Board of Directors among Missouri banks. Our 18-memberBoard of Directors is 50% diverse by ethnicity and gender, including our Chairman and CEO and three other members of the Black community, as well as Hispanic, Bosnian, and Asian members. Women make up 17% of the Board. Our executive team is equally diverse with 66% diversity overall, including four females and two African Americans holding key leadership positions for the organization.
To build a unified team of diverse individuals, we have the DICE Committee (Diversity, Inclusion, Culture and Engagement). The program has executive level sponsorship, senior level leadership, and employee volunteers who are shaping and creating the programs. In employee-led activities, team members learn about each other, about the richness of the various cultures, and the realities of different lived experiences. DE&I initiatives are also incorporated into leadership goals , measurements, and evaluations.
As a Human Resources leader in your organization, it is your responsibility to ensure that your DE&I initiatives align with your organization’s stated policies and benefit programs. No doubt they include anti-harassment and diversity policies.? But do you have programs, benefits and policies that support the diversity within your organization? These organizational underpinnings set expectations and speak volumes about your culture.
Julie Tuggle-Nguyen is EVP of Human Resources, Midwest BankCentre.