2019 New Year’s Resolution: Embrace Inclusion and Diversity in Your Community

By: Nelson W. Burns, CEO, Coleman Professoinal Services

During the holidays in those few quiet moments where reflection is possible, I thought about the importance of diversity and inclusion in friendships, businesses and communities. Today’s blog will cover some simple and not-so-simple ideas based on research gathered from Harvard Business Review, Cognizant, and a break-through study of sixth-graders from UCLA and the University of Groningen. I’ll also share with you some of the ways Coleman Professional Services can help and my own observations about inclusions.

What We Can Learn from Sixth Graders

In a study of 536 Latino and 396 African American sixth graders from 66 classrooms in ten American urban areas, it was found that friendships were formed across gender and color. Students felt less lonely, less vulnerable and safer in school as compared to non-diverse classrooms. The study concluded that cross-ethnic friendships partly explained the link between diversity and vulnerability.

According to the teachers and observers, the more diverse the classroom, the more compassionate the classroom.  Upon reflection, this makes tremendous sense and we should look for ways to build upon it in our businesses and communities.

Strategies We Can Use in Our Organizations

Harvard Business Review had an article on Two Types of Diversity Training That Really Work.  It concluded that while there is no “single perfect solution to creating diverse and inclusive organizations” there are two training techniques that consistently yield positive results even over time.

Training

Definition

Action

Perspective Taking

Raising people’s awareness and helping them see the world through the eyes of someone from a different race, gender, age, etc.

There are many exercises available. One is to write about the challenges a marginalized minority might face. Discussing it in a group reinforces the understanding.

Goal Setting

When used in diversity and inclusion training, specific, measurable and challenging (yet attainable) goals related to diversity in the workplace are established

An example is to set a goal to politely challenge inappropriate comments about marginalized groups when overhearing them.

These exercises brought outcomes such as showing more compassion and support for marginalized minorities, including people with mental illness.

Things We Can Do In Our Communities - Additional Ideas from Cognizant

  • Set up classes, live and online, that address skill gaps.
    They have pledged to train 12,000 women in digital skills.
    What training are your employees’ lacking? How can you address those trainings in coming year? What will be the outcome?
  • Create outlets for innovation.
    Entrepreneurial ideas are spawned from individuals with different backgrounds and life experiences. Create or participate in an accelerator program. Here are two in our neck of the woods:
    • Bounce Innovation Hub in Akron
    • Youngstown Business Incubator in downtown Youngstown
    • Use video meetings.
      Abandon conference calls and move to group Facetime, Zoom or Skype interactions to build better relationships.
    • Build a local community presence.
      We offer an extensive volunteer program here at Coleman and encourage you to get involved. We welcome individuals from all walks of life and have found that when people come together for a cause, they develop deeper connections with neighbors or co-workers.
    • Address biases head-on.
      Cognizant dispels myths about hiring older workers, working moms, and uses technology to tackle hiring biases.

We have an employment services division that works with individuals that have:

  • Mental or physical disabilities
  • Mental or physical health limitations
  • Drug and/or alcohol dependencies
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Disabilities related to military service
  • Auditory or visual impairments

            We welcome employers to learn more about how we can match our pool of employees with their needs.

My Thoughts

As the holiday decorations are put away and we are planning the year ahead, I hope we all will take a moment to remember the lessons of compassion from the sixth graders in the first study.  Let’s include individuals who are different from us and engage them on all levels. A simple conversation with your neighbor, sharing a meal with an international student or volunteering at a call center, are all small ways to show you are engaged with those who may need it – in 2019 and beyond.