The workforce of today has high expectations of their employers when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. In fact, in a recent study from Ernst & Young, 92% of 3,000 workers surveyed said company culture, which includes DE&I initiatives, influences their intent to stay with their current employer.
Employers have been recognizing this need as well as their social responsibilities to improve representation and sense of belonging within their workforce. It’s why roles like mine are necessary.
Despite culture and social impact being priorities for many employees, some still struggle to understand their roles in workplace culture. People often ask me, as director of DE&I at Bullhorn, how they can make a difference within the company. My answer: authentic engagement,
Engagement can come in many forms — an employee can act as a mentor or mentee; they can participate in and promote employee resource groups. But perhaps the most impactful thing an employee can do is use their voice in intentional and powerful ways. If you carry perspectives and experiences that are vastly different from those around you, you have to leverage opportunities to teach and learn. If you’re not from an underrepresented group or don’t consider yourself diverse, your unique experiences also matter. As an individual contributor, the worst thing you can assume is that your voice is not needed. It is.
Your voice contributes to the organization’s creativity and competitiveness so that products and services are created with customer and community in mind.
Your voice helps broaden your leader’s perspective and ability to foster an inclusive work environment.
Your voice garners credibility for your personal brand and drives your career growth.
Working with others, there will always be moments of opportunity where you can broaden someone else’s perspective. Here’s an example from my career journey.
About 10 years ago, our team was asked to upload headshots to our Outlook email. As the weeks went by, everyone added pictures to their emails except me. Finally in a conversation with my manager, I explained that I didn’t feel comfortable using my picture because I didn’t want people to start treating me differently once they could see my face over email. She was appalled. It never occurred to her that racial discrimination was something I was concerned about. We had a tough conversation that day, but I felt seen and heard, and she developed a deeper level of empathy and understanding for my lived experiences.
I was not ready to share my experiences with racism on day one of joining that team. The trust was built over time. My manager had a very open communication style and fostered a fun team environment. We had daytime office activities like potlucks, volunteer events and gift exchanges. We watched Prince William and Kate’s wedding during a team tea party. Eventually, the fun team environment led to a feeling of safety. That feeling of safety allowed me to have a very serious conversation with my manager about race.
Our employee vision at Bullhorn is for every employee to have a sense of belonging, a voice that is heard and a clear path to success. Sense of belonging comes from a foundation of trust and safety. In our remote-first culture, we still prioritize fun experiences of team building. Our in-person summer and holiday outings and global virtual meetups give our employees the added opportunity to “be human” away from work responsibilities. Our mentor programs and employee resources groups are additional avenues for employees to have their voices heard and their career paths supported.
Even if you’re not a manager, you can and should contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion through your own voice. Once there is an established foundation of trust, you should feel empowered to share your experiences, advocate for others, speak up when something isn’t right, offer your opinion on a product or process, engage the quietest person in the room, challenge the current environment and so on. A diverse perspective can enlighten a room and add value to your brand and career journey. Lean in and take advantage of the opportunities that arise. Your contribution could be an unforgettable moment in your development and in the journeys of those around you.