Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in diversity and inclusion practices or a newbie beginning to initiate change in your workplace, the time to do more is now. Society, as a whole, is demanding it.
Workplace diversity extends beyond race or ethnicity, religion, culture or newcomer status to include factors such as geography, language, politics, gender, beliefs, sexual orientation, economic status, abilities, skills and interests.
According to Dr. Jason Wingard, workplace diversity is a “must have.”
In Chattanooga, one company is taking a stand in open support of fostering an environment of diversity and inclusion: Bellhops.
Director of Brand and Communications at Bellhops, Kyle Miller, sat down with Trend to discuss the company's recent decision to join the initiative, Founders for Change, and ideas around the importance of workplace diversity.
Trend: Could you explain what Founders For Change is?
In the tech industry, in particular, diversity is greatly lacking. Therefore, Founders for Change brings together venture-backed founders who are dedicated to improving diversity and inclusion within their companies.
Each Founder or CEO in this movement has made a public commitment to support the Founders for Change initiative:
I believe in a more diverse and inclusive tech industry. I am dedicated to having a diverse team and board, and when I have a choice of investment partners in the future, the diversity of their firms will be an important consideration.
[Bellhops] joined Founder’s for Change to make a public commitment that we are dedicated to improving diversity and inclusion in our company. We want to let everyone know that opportunities of employment are available regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, beliefs, economic status, language, etc., ensuring we are attracting and retaining the most talented people from across the nation.
Trend: Why is diversity and inclusion important to Bellhops?
As a company that is present in 26 different cities across the United States, it is vital that we have a diverse workforce. Diversity brings different points of view, talents and experiences to the table. If you have everybody who thinks the same way and has the same background, you'll inevitably overlook certain issues and ideas. That’s where innovation dies.
It is equally important to create a culture in which everyone feels a sense of inclusion and belonging. Inclusion is necessary to a company’s continued success and growth. If inclusion doesn’t exist in a company, you can forget about building a strong company culture; they go hand-in-hand. And, it doesn’t happen by chance. It requires transparency, education and ongoing, active initiative.
Trend: What strategies have you implemented to respond to diversity and inclusion challenges?
Inclusion must be an action verb. Diversity and inclusion must be actively interwoven into the fabric of company culture so that everyone feels like they belong in the workplace — and that they can succeed there. This effort has to start at the top. It’s all about baby steps. Businesses and leaders should not view this as a simple sprint, but a full marathon. If you own a business and diversity is important to you, a mentality of long-term commitment, not a quick fix, is key.
My advice to other leaders regarding strategy is simple: open and transparent conversations. It can’t just be a few programs; it must be a fundamental part of the corporate framework. Whatever you do in building an inclusive work culture, do it intentionally and honestly, basing it on shared values and a well thought out, integrated plan. Nothing is instant. Learning about people in all their dimensions is a lifelong endeavor.
Trend: What is the most common mistake or misconception in an organization’s thinking about diversity?
Many times when people think of diversity, they automatically think of race and gender, but diversity is not limited to race and gender alone. Diversity extends to gender, beliefs, sexual orientation, economic status, personality and stages of their career.
Also, some fear that a diverse workplace might be more difficult to manage due to the variety of personalities, experience and varying talents. But, that’s the point: to have a variety of opinions. All you have to do is ensure you have an inclusive culture that thrives on innovation and direct communication. If your culture is right, then you’ll see increased creativity and a range of perspectives that result in a high performing team.
Trend: What future plans do you have that relate to this initiative and diversity?
Inclusion and diversity, like fitness or success and happiness, is not something that you arrive at one day and say, ‘Okay, we’re done!’ It’s something that you work at every day; it’s a continual process. Much like any aspect of workplace culture, diversity is fostered through small, yet consistent adjustments in thought and practice. Looking toward the future, we will continue to be dedicated to attracting the best and the brightest.