2020 wasn’t just the year of the pandemic. It was also the year when we finally started having long-overdue conversations about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace. It’s the year that many companies recognized their disregard for this important issue and started doing something about it. But we all still have a long way to go.
Why is it important for LBM dealers to be thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion? By retaining and embracing a diverse workforce, organizations are better able to serve their diverse customers and communities, which leads to increased returns. Businesses with women in leadership positions, for example, see gains as much as 17% over those who do not.
How can LBM dealers work to make their workforce more inclusive of women, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)? On a recent podcast episode, I chatted with diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant Lekeshia Angelique, owner of Lekeshia Angelique Consulting. One of her foundations is to create spaces and places of belonging without the overwhelming worry of saying or doing the wrong thing. Her approach starts with putting empathy back in education to create culturally responsive leaders.
Here are some of her insights:
Why are companies hesitant?
Company leaders are overwhelmed by how much is out there, they’re overwhelmed by seeing news stories of PR nightmares, and they’re hesitant to say the wrong thing. So instead, they say nothing at all.
But saying nothing also says a lot—that you’re not an ally, Lekeshia says.
So at the very least start by making a statement, one that is forward-facing on your website, is prominent in your company messaging, and is sent to employees.
What are the consequences?
The consequences can vary to something as large as an EEOC complaint, a costly lawsuit, or a public PR nightmare to the less tangible costs of unhappy employees and disinterested job applicants.
Starting is essential, Lekeshia says. Waiting until you have a problem and being reactive decreases the chances of recovering from a mistake in the DE&I space.
What else should companies be doing?
- Develop a strategic plan. When you’re ready to immerse yourself in being a company that people really want to come work for, start with some analysis, Lekeshia says.
- Know that it will require courage. It may make you uncomfortable or afraid to say the wrong things. “But don’t back off at that point,” Lekeshia says. “That’s when you’re on the cusp of really opening up your organization to being welcoming and inviting.” People refer their friends to companies they like working for, not to companies they don’t respect.
- Make a space where people can show up as their authentic Does an employee feel they have to hide a picture of their partner because they are afraid the company is not LGBTQ friendly? “No one wants to come to work hiding who they are,” Lekeshia says. “If you can be who you truly are in the workplace, it opens up so much more for your organization to grow and have innovative ideas.”
- Get rid of toxic employees. Allowing a racist (or any other bias) employee to continue without consequence sends a message that those who are different are not “You need to cut those strings and cut them quick,” Lekeshia says. “Because it’s going to cost you 10 times more than whatever you’re paying them to clean up their mess.”
Understand that changing company culture is not an overnight process. But with intentional commitment and conversations, you can start to eliminate the glass ceilings that are holding your company back. Learn more at www.lekeshiaangelique.com.
Rikka Brandon is a leading recruiting and retention expert for the LBM industry. She’s the CEO of BuildingGurus.com and founder of RecruitRetainRock.com where she helps business leaders solve their recruiting and retention challenges.