When millennials took the baton from the baby boomers last year as the largest generation in the workforce, they also quickly stepped into their role also as the most diverse generation in US history.
At 75 million strong, 44% of millennials are minorities, according to a Brookings Institution report issued last year, and they’re busy shaping the workplace to how they want it. Along with snazzy offices and flexible work schedules, the young generation is also marking diversity and inclusion on their #workwishlists.
Companies that are intentionally diverse and inclusive, says Cheri Ausberry—chair of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s diversity and inclusion committee, and director of community development for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center—help bolster the local economy to make international connections.
“It affects the economy,” Ausberry says. “We do need to be open and global in how we provide services to consumers.”
Business Report recently asked Stephanie Benedetti, vice president of Lighthouse Louisiana, and Roderic F. Teamer, director of diversity programs and business development for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, to share how their companies are creating appropriate diverse and inclusive working environments. Both companies recently won BRAC’s Diversity Star Award.
Here’s what they had to say:
To equip employees to have appropriate conversations, Blue Cross and Blue Shield holds a nearly five-hour awareness class with all staff members. The training also teaches employees about the company’s definition of diversity and inclusion, and introduces them to concepts the insurance behemoth believes makes a stronger workforce. Ultimately, the training encourages employees to build better relationships. “Better relationships make for a more effective team,” Teamer says.
Lighthouse Louisiana also provides training to its employees, touching on topics such as disability sensitivity, overcoming stereotypes and marketing reasonable accommodations.
2. BE DELIBERATE, INTENTIONAL WITH HIRES
Lighthouse Louisiana is intentional in hiring a diverse workforce, says Benedetti, not just in terms of disabilities or race, but also in terms of gender, culture and nationality. Blue Cross and Blue Shield focuses on deliberately gathering a diverse pool of applicants for management positions. The more diverse applicants there are, Teamer says, the higher chance a diverse applicant is hired.
3. MAKE A PLAN
As a nonprofit with a mission to empower people with disabilities through services, employment and advocacy, diversity is sewn into the very fabric of Lighthouse Louisiana. As a company that wasn’t founded on those principles, Blue Cross and Blue Shield had to take intentional steps to implement initiatives that would work for the health insurance provider. The company launched a three-year strategic plan as a way to focus the company’s efforts on diversity and inclusion, as well as engage each level of the organization in the conversation. Once you have a plan in place, Teamer says, you can start working different components.
4. HAVE CONVERSATIONS
It’s important for employees to feel comfortable having an open dialogue with their company leaders to address diversity issues. For instance, at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, there are employee resource groups that discuss issues that may only affect a single group, such as veterans, women, African Americans, LGBTQ+, parents and emerging leaders. Lighthouse Louisiana strives to be explicit with its goals, sharing progress and benchmarks with staff through town hall-style meetings and an internal newsletter. “Don’t be afraid to try new things, and go back to the drawing board when they don’t work,” Benedetti says. “Get feedback from others in your organization and outside and try a new strategy.”