*Originally published on CommercialIntegrator.com
Embracing diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) isn’t just about confronting overt racism. The subtleties may be taking a toll on your employees.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of New Era Technology.
I have many DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) experiences related to my name, Chris Turner.
When someone hears that name, it’s easy not to associate it with someone that is Asian-American. In the past, when I submitted job resumes and subsequently went in for interviews, I could read the surprised reactions on the interviewees’ faces.
Ultimately, there should not be a reaction. A reaction showcases that the interviewees intentionally or unintentionally were putting me in a certain category—one I did not fit.
This is just one example of the hiring process specifically. There are other challenges within a professional career for a person of color or for people with different sexual orientations. Another area includes “climbing the ladder.”
Since I am Asian-American, I’ve had to deal with Asian stereotypes: Asians are meek and very quiet; Asians aren’t going to conform and battle their way up the corporate ladder in what’s considered a “conventional way.”
As a result, qualified Asian-Americans can get passed over.
Prior to my life in the audiovisual industry, I had a job in which the leaders did not think I could succeed—but I wasn’t given a reason why other than, “We don’t think you’re built for it.” I had to prove to them that I could.
Of course, we all have to prove ourselves in some capacity – but there are many obstacles where people of color and women have to prove themselves in ways that I think others do not.
Embracing DEI Makes Good Business Sense
From a business perspective, it simply doesn’t make sense to even unintentionally marginalize employees.
We are coming. This industry can’t be one-dimensional if it wants to serve our customers’ increasingly global market.
If you don’t know how to deal with other cultures and diverse individuals, you will not make advances with your evolving customers.
The integration industry frequently talks about our limited ability to find the talent we need to grow our companies. Well, that’s less of a problem for companies that embrace DEI in their company culture and hiring.
Years ago, I was part of a project where we were asked to help support one of our customer’s international locations.
We found a dedicated partner, and things were going really well until there was a breakdown in communication.
All parties were misinterpreting the meaning and intent of what we were both saying in emails.
Rather than risk losing the partner, the team, led by leadership from our service department, traveled overseas and met with the customer in person.
Each party came away with a better understanding of who we all were and how we could best work together. This was a big step for us in realizing that DEI is important because of the different personalities and cultures increasingly in our everyday lives.
If we can embrace DEI within our own corporate structure, we will do well with customers, too.
Backtracking to the talent development aspect—If your company embraces DEI, you open a completely different talent pool. The integration industry frequently talks about the limited ability to find the talent needed to grow our companies.
This becomes less of a problem for companies that embrace DEI in their company culture and hiring.
Timing is Now
Now is the right time for corporate social responsibility. Yes, it’s a challenging business market as the integration industry recovers and repositions itself to solve customers’ post-pandemic challenges. However, this should not be used as an excuse.
If organizations just keep saying, “Right now we have to focus on revenue,” then it will never be dealt with. This thought process will only encourage losing existing talent and prospective talent.
I believe it is important to make strides to embrace DEI and defining what that means within your organization’s culture. Otherwise, employees will begin to look elsewhere.
Diverse people might say, “They do not understand who I am and what I represent. I’m going somewhere where I am appreciated for who I am.”
I am fortunate that New Era Technology not only understands, but also practices forward-thinking approaches to DEI. As an organization, I think we embrace DEI very well. We have women and people of color in management positions.
Teams are comprised of salespeople, engineers, project managers, field installers, service technicians, onsite technicians, and NOC Support Services, who represent the best of the best not only when it comes to talent but diversity.
New Era has been focused on figuring out how to embrace DEI and make it a part of our company’s culture.
Next Steps for DEI
Increasingly, large companies have a chief diversity officer to keep organization’s in-check when it comes to DEI practices.
While most integration companies likely do not have the resources for this type of position, organizations can consider having a committee within their workforce to look at what can be done better.
This group should be involved in interviewing candidates and providing input on hiring. This committee might recognize cultural inequities, such as company recognition of certain holidays over others and LGBTQ related issues.
The most important thing is not to be afraid to confront these issues. If you gather diverse individuals within your company and have conversations about DEI, that is a significant first step.