Creating an Inclusive Work Environment: How to be Heard

By Jane Rath, Vice President

New Editions has been recognized with three awards for our diversity and inclusion. As a government contractor specializing in health, disability and vulnerable populations, we work side-by-side with our government partners to create a more inclusive environment – through information technology and systems that are accessible, programs that are inclusive, training managers and supporting programs that promote independence, community integration and inclusivity. In April, the Federal Employees with Disabilities (FEDs) President asked me to speak at the 2015 New Perspectives National Training Program about how we achieve our success. I looked at our numbers for this event:

Because we actively recruit and hire diverse employees:

  • 23% have self-identified as having a disability – spanning mobility, sensory, cognitive and hidden disabilities
  • 27% identify themselves as being a minority
  • 27% are age 55 and over

At New Editions, inclusivity is not a series of initiatives and events but the core of who we are and what we do every day.  While other companies may need to focus on these issues at meetings, through interest groups, and other activities and events, New Editions has moved beyond that by establishing a corporate environment that models the results we all expect from such initiatives.  At New Editions it isn’t about doing the “big” things, it is about doing the right things. I attribute our success to three steps:

1. Establishing a Vision

A vision can be a mandate, a directive, a direction. Ideally, it starts at the highest level of leadership to permeate the entire organization but it can start within your own division/group. For us it is embodied in the following statement:

New Editions looks like every company in America should look, with its workforce representing the rich diversity in our country – made up of different races, religions, ages, cultures and disabilities.

Made by our President, Shelia Newman, this quote is stenciled on our conference room – a reminder to all of us and our guests that we should be inclusive.

2. Implementing the Leadership Vision

Implementing the vision starts at the top and flows down through each of us. Creating a workplace that values each individual’s role, skills and contributions. Creating an environment that cultivates and empowers individuals to do their best. We each have a responsibility – a role in the process.  We must fulfill the mandates – one step at a time, one encounter at a time, one opportunity at a time.

3.  Ensuring the Mandate is Applicable to All

Affinity groups are great and serve a wonderful purpose – bringing a perspective to the organization, providing a source for training and education. But sometimes it is important to cross groups and join forces.

Our goal is to increase the collective creativity and innovation of our organization by harnessing the power of diversity. 

It just takes each of us doing our part….

Having conversations one person at a time…introducing new hires strategically across the organization – getting others to recognize that it isn’t compromising skills and standards but accommodating people by providing the tools and resources they need to get the job done.   

Sometimes it just takes one person, getting it started. Dr. Seuss books focus on ecology, individuality, fighting for what you believe in. One of my favorites is Horton Hears a Who. You remember it. It starts with little Cindy Lou – who only Horton could hear. Others thought Horton was hearing things…they were going to destroy Whoville – a vulnerable, at-risk population. But Horton is quite the advocate and Cindy Lou is a fighter. So, what do they do? They bring everyone together – so they can be heard. And what do they say? We are here! We are here!

Diverse, inclusive workplaces harness the skills and capabilities of all of us and together we can better be heard, become more successful and make a difference!