By Lori Shonley, Human Resources manager
On Aug. 19, 2020, City Manager Scott Chadwick, announced an initiative to develop an organization whose culture reinforces the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. These important terms mean the following:
Diversity - the collective mixture of differences and similarities that includes, for example, individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences and behaviors (Society for Human Resource Management).
Equity – working actively to challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination. Committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and non-discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, or veteran status (University of Michigan).
Inclusion – the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization's success (Society for Human Resource Management).
Since the time of the city manager’s announcement, the Human Resources Department has worked with consultant, Dr. Sharon Adams, a well-regarded expert in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, to establish a comprehensive and robust Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program.
First, employees were invited to participate in “listening circles” where employees could engage and dialogue with small groups around diversity, equity and inclusion. The goal of listening circles was to develop understanding and appreciation for one another’s beliefs and perspectives.
An anonymous survey was also conducted for employees to provide input on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The goal of the survey was to obtain candid feedback and learn more about employee’s perspectives and experiences. Responses were analyzed by Dr. Adams who provided a summary report which included areas of opportunity for the city to focus on improving and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion. Recommendations include offering opportunities for employees to connect and feel a sense of belonging, soliciting employee input in decision making, and decreasing the stigma of voicing a contrary opinion. Other suggestions include adopting diversity, equity and inclusion as organization values, reinforcing these values in communications and highlighting stories of diversity, equity and inclusion.
With Dr. Adam’s guidance, Human Resources solicited applications from employees interested in serving on the city’s inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.
To ensure a fair selection process, we used a two-phased approach that involved replacing applicant names and other identifying information with numbers making it a blind process for raters, and evaluating the application content based on established criteria. Then, each applicant’s department, position and bargaining group were added to the list, so we could balance the committee based on these factors and ensure broad representation of varying city groups.
The committee was announced on Feb. 5, 2021. They held their introductory meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Dr. Sharon began working with the committee to set up its charter on March 17, 2021. Currently, the committee meets on a bi-weekly basis for 90 minutes. They continue to work on their charter and establish goals and proposed timelines. The City Manager met with committee members on April 26, 2021, to discuss expectations and how the committee will measure its success. The committee is part of a larger focus citywide on considering issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in everything we do. The committee will raise awareness of and make recommendations to improve and celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization.
We look forward to sharing more about our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiative as it progresses and see these issues as fundamental to our goal of being the best run local government, period.