Making diversity and inclusion a priority
As a church or faith-based organization, you want to create an environment in which all employees, members, customers and other stakeholders feel valued. When you become a champion for diversity and inclusion, you can progress a long way toward that goal.
But sometimes, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Do you invest a significant portion of your budget in the effort? Do you incorporate diversity best practices into every aspect of your ministry? The answer is not exactly simple: It depends on what your organization’s goals are.
Here’s a primer on the steps you can consider taking to put yourself on the right path.
Listen, learn and engage
Whenever anyone wants to broaden their understanding of a topic, the best first step is to listen. That listening can take the form of a focus group or even just a series of conversations with a variety of people. You need to talk to people of many different races, ethnicities and backgrounds to understand their experiences. There should be a good amount of both men and women in your sample. And don’t forget to seek out differently abled people, who will be able to lend a unique perspective to your efforts.
In addition to listening to diverse individuals, you should also find other organizations — both faith-based and secular — that seem to have found the key to making diversity and inclusion a priority. Who is setting the high bar? Ask them what they have discovered along the way — and learn from them. Then, take all the information you have gathered and engage yourself in adapting it for your congregation or organization.
Determine the personnel you need to help you on your journey
This is largely established by the goals you have set in your organization and how you are able to maneuver your budget to address those goals. Do you want to hire a full-time staff member to help you address diversity and inclusion? Or should you use a consulting organization? Take your time with this decision — it requires careful thought about the focus of your effort.
Establish metrics by which you can measure your success
As Stephen Covey said in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you should begin with the end in mind. You will never know whether the time and money you are spending are worth it if you don’t develop return on investment metrics. In Church Mutual’s five-year plan, we have established tangible, incremental goals that show us how we’re growing. Those goals help us communicate with stakeholders about how well our program is working.
Of course, deciding you are going to establish metrics is the easy part; the challenge is in actually doing it. One idea is to conduct a survey of your employees or members to learn how they feel the organization is doing in specific aspects of diversity and inclusion. Use that data as a starting point, then, after implementing your new programs, conduct a follow-up survey. Another idea is to identify the gaps in your workforce, such as a lack of minorities. Determine reasonable goals for correcting that, then structure your initiatives around those goals.
As you develop specific actions you can take to further your goals, consider dividing and conquering
At Church Mutual, we have five areas in which we are actively working to increase diversity and inclusion:
- Employees — We facilitate speakers and conversations to help our employees feel valued.
- Recruiting — We have relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other entities that help us reach out to diverse talent.
- Customers — We host a Dialogue in Diversity speaker series for our customers and sponsor an advisory group for African American pastors, which allows us greater insight into the needs and challenges of houses of worship serving African Americans.
- Partners — We partner with diverse groups that can bring a unique perspective to our organization.
- Community — We support charitable organizations that represent diversity across the country.
Each of these areas uses different groups to accomplish its purposes. In the same way, you can divide your pool of staff and volunteers to bring diversity into all aspects of your organization.
Have courageous conversations
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a comprehensive, well-executed diversity and inclusion plan. The conversations you have surrounding this topic need to be led by and include faith leaders. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You may discover you have much to learn and much to change — and that’s OK. The journey is just as important as the endgame, perhaps because there is no true endgame. Incorporating diversity and inclusion into your organization is an ever-evolving process, and it takes a willingness to listen and learn.
You can do this. And your organization will be so much better off when you make inclusivity one of your hallmarks.
Bruce E. Carter, Sr. is Assistant Vice President — Diversity & Inclusion at Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I.
Carter, Sr. has an impressive history of domestic and international human capital management experience at Fortune 200 companies. He has held executive roles and managed diversity and inclusion workplace initiatives and corporate-wide Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) programs for 20,000 employees. Carter, Sr. was on the cover and featured in an article of the inaugural issue of In the Black, Denver’s African-American Business Journal. He also was featured in editions of Who’s Who in Black Atlanta, and was profiled in the Eclipse Magazine article, “Texas Executives Achieve Success.”
He has served on the boards of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Dallas and the Campaign Cabinet for the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. His professional organization involvement includes the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR), Human Resources Planning Society (HRPS), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the National Black MBA Association.
He received his bachelor’s degree in African American studies and history and a master’s degree in industrial relations from the University of Minnesota.