Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the workplace

Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) continue to be topics of conversation in the workplace, as well as priorities for many of today’s leaders and employees. According to a survey from Benevity, 66% of respondents want to see their employer committing more time and resources to DEI initiatives—and 92% believe organizations have an obligation to help employees become aware of biases in the workplace.

To gain a better understanding of workplace inclusion, we connected with Javier Barrientos, chief diversity officer at Point32Health:

Q: What does it mean to you to have an inclusive work environment?

Javier Barrientos: Inclusion happens where we can belong and help others do the same authentically for who they are. It is also an environment where many colleagues can see difference, understand difference and leverage it to create better outcomes. There are two fundamental ingredients of inclusion. One is authenticity and the other is belonging. Authenticity means that, as an individual, you embrace who you are and all aspects of your identity. The diversity journey starts with each of us accepting our identities and differences and bringing those forward skillfully and courageously. That’s the authenticity part—but then there’s the other dimension, belonging. Just because you’re ready to be authentic, it doesn’t always mean others will let you belong. In an inclusive environment, there is a necessary openness to welcoming people from as many walks of life as possible. For example, if an employee needs to conceal aspects of their sexual orientation or racial, veteran or disability identity in the workplace, their work experience and level of engagement will suffer. Under such conditions, they cannot be or give their best. Conversely, celebrating and creating opportunities for these employees’ backgrounds and lived experiences opens the doors to supporting authenticity and belonging in the workplace.

Q: Why is it important for organizations to have designated diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) teams?

JB: First, there is great power and great potential for innovation in bringing people of different backgrounds together. Studies have shown that companies with a richer mix of gender and race backgrounds within the workforce attain better results, including outperforming their competitors. Companies that focus on diversity are better at decision-making, more innovative, and are able to attract and retain better talent, among other benefits.

Another reason to focus on DEI more formally is that the world is dramatically changing. Minority populations in the US, particularly the Latino population and other racial and ethnic groups, continue to grow. It is a rapidly changing landscape that has implications for our members, how we deliver products and services and how our leaders make the most of this demographic change.

One option would be to ignore it, but if you ignore it, you likely will not be able to succeed, especially in the long run. You won’t be able to hire the best talent since that talent increasingly comes from diverse populations. You’ll have no markets to sell your products and services to because those customers, too, come from diverse populations. And the new generations, like Gen Z and Gen Alpha, will expect diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. If those expectations are not met, great talent will leave your company for more inclusive workplaces. However, if you embrace the rich mix our changing world offers in the workplace and in consumer, supplier and provider spaces, you’ll likely be poised to reap greater rewards.

Q: Do you have any suggestions on where to start for those looking to make their workplace a more inclusive environment?

JB: I look at diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility three-dimensionally: the individual, the interpersonal, and the systematic. Individually, we’re all diverse; we all have unique backgrounds. First, you must achieve honesty and comfort in your own skin with who you are. Then comes the interpersonal part. How do we help others do the same, and how do we interact with those who act, think and look different from us? Putting this into practice is easy, even if it’s grabbing coffee with someone of a background you know the least or joining a colleague resource group (CRG) that exposes you to other lived and professional experiences and drives mutual benefit for all involved. For instance, at Point32Health, we have several CRGs that colleagues can join to feel supported or learn about others within the organization. These experiences will enrich your thinking, which will have a ripple effect within your team and your organization while making colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds feel welcome.

When hiring, consider who still needs to be at the table. How can you enrich the mix of people on the team to get different points of view and better decision-making, more perspective, a different reach or a different community that you haven’t been able to reach before?

And then the third part is looking at the systems and resources you use at your organization. For example, are there policies, processes, practices or procedures that might hinder people from different demographic backgrounds and lived experiences? Considering the accessibility of a physical work environment is crucial. Is the physical layout beneficial for all employees equitably? Are the images displayed throughout the office reflective of all kinds of people? If you’re a manager, are you giving all employees a fair chance to succeed or do you tend to go to the same person because you’re comfortable with them? Is your benefit plan used more by some but not by others?

These are good kinds of questions to be thinking of and speaking about with those around you. Talk to your manager, your HR department or your DEI team if you have suggestions on how to make the workplace more inclusive for yourself or someone else around you.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and health equity are not destinations. They’re journeys. You never arrive, but you need to get started. It doesn’t matter where you start; what matters is that you begin the journey, and you will get better at it over time.

– Javier Barrientos, chief diversity officer at Point32Health

For additional information on Point32Health’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility team, including access to our annual DEIA report:

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