5 Insights to Increase Diversity and Inclusion on Your EHS&S Team
The opportunity of cultivating a workspace in which all employees are invited to fully participate, regardless of gender, race, age or length of employment, remains one of the most important goals of this generation.
In a time when the responsibilities of the EHS&S function are expanding and leaders must work collaboratively with other business functions, activating all resources can give teams a true advantage. Additionally, building diversity and inclusion into the DNA of your EHS&S function can enhance long-term talent management goals. Here are five insights from interviews with EHS&S leaders who have deployed highly successful diversity and inclusion programs.
1. Engage employees in the business case for change
The most common theme among all the interviews was engagement, and the importance of engaging your team. In fact, many felt the first step to achieving diversity and inclusion is giving your EHS&S team members ownership in diversity and inclusion initiatives. Employees need to feel like their voices matter, and that their voices shape their work environment.
2. Adapt to the changing needs of your employees
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to accommodating employee needs. Diversity and inclusion can mean helping employees with specific scheduling-related challenges. According to Randy Martinez, Director of Strategic Diversity Management at CVS Health, common tools like flex schedules can help create an inclusive environment. But he also pointed out that there is no substitute for taking the time to get to know your employees and addressing key issues of importance to them.
3. Emphasize that diversity and inclusion benefit everyone
Sandy Nessing, Managing Director of Corporate Sustainability at American Electric Power (AEP), emphasizes the importance of valuing diversity and inclusion among all employees. While there are many initiatives at AEP, one effort emphasized this broad concept: every employee is offered a floating holiday that falls outside the corporate calendar so that employees of all backgrounds would benefit from flexible holiday scheduling.
4. Facilitate employee connections to encourage cultural learning from one another
Networking groups can play an important role in making all people feel welcome in the workplace. Shannon Roberts, Senior Manager of Climate Change and Sustainability Services at EY, pointed out the added benefit these groups play in fostering learning among employees from different backgrounds: “What’s cool is that each group has two open events each year and we all get invited to them, so we can go learn about the culture.”
5: Embrace difference and focus on the destination
For EHS&S managers who are called upon to be change-makers and influencers across silos, being able to acknowledge each person’s perspective upfront can be a vital tool. This first involves accepting that employees from different backgrounds likely take different paths to the same solution. According to Randy Martinez, it’s about “awareness that we are all working for the same thing — we just approach it differently. And a good manager helps manage those differences within the organization and manages them to those goals.”
If you’re looking to build diversity and inclusion into your EHS&S function, NAEM’s research report, Why Diversity and Inclusion is a Winning Strategy for EHS&S Teams, is available to download at naem.org/diversity-inclusion.