A Supervisor's Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | SOS Podcast

A Supervisor's Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | SOS Podcast

While supervisors seldom develop DE&I strategy, they do shape workplace culture through daily management practices.  In this episode, AEU LEAD Director Joe White offers suggestions for ways supervisors can demonstrate their support for diversity, equity, and inclusion through their actions and behaviors.





The SOS podcast is a production of AEU Lead, an organization redefining how mid and frontline managers are developed.

Joe White:

Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Joe White, and this is the Supervisor Skills Secrets of Success podcast. We've been away for several weeks, and I'm glad to be back with you. In today's episode, we're covering diversity, equity, and inclusion - three keywords of profound importance. We'll be discussing what this term entails, and we'll provide some faults regarding what supervisors need to know about this trending topic. Most importantly, I hope to share information from a perspective you'll find of both benefit and value. That said, let's dive right into it.

In the spirit of gaining alignment on the reference terms, I feel it's important to provide some key definitions from the onset. Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DE&I, refers to an organizational framework intended to provide for the fair treatment and full participation of all workers. In practice, it increases levels of engagement, improves performance outcomes, and allows organizations to tackle operational challenges more effectively. Breaking the term apart and analyzing it further, however, helps provide context and meaning. Diversity reflects the variability of your employees. It includes but isn't limited to, gender, age, and ethnicity. It's important to note today's workforce is more diverse than ever before. Equity refers to policies and practices that result in the fair treatment of all. It involves issues related to fairness in pay, opportunities for advancement, and consistency in worker experiences. Inclusion is about empowering and enabling employees to contribute in meaningful ways. Feeling welcomed, having a voice, being involved, and looking out for one another are all examples of inclusive cultures.

As for the relevance of today's topic, in a recent Survey Monkey study, eight out of 10 workers said it's important for them to work for companies that prioritize DE&I. McKenzie, one of the world's largest consulting firms, discovered a link between DE&I and profitability. Companies with high levels of diversity and inclusion outperform industry peers by 36% in profitability. DE&I also impacts workplace culture, which according to a recent Korn Ferry study, is the single most underrated indicator of a company's future success. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is about doing the right thing. In some cases, it's about reflecting on the rearview mirror, turning off cruise control, and setting an entirely new course of direction moving forward. For others, it's about making subtle shifts to better align with company values and recognizing opportunities to improve the employee's overall experience. Regardless of where you are on the issue, there's likely additional perspectives to be gained and work to be done.

So as a supervisor, what's your role in helping provide for a workplace that consistently demonstrates, through management practices, support for diversity, equity, and inclusion? Here are several recommendations for consideration.


1. Create and maintain a respectful work environment. 

A fundamental tenet of DE&I is treating one another with respect regardless of background, ethnicity, gender, or other distinguishing trait or characteristic. We're all human. As a supervisor, set the standard through your own demonstrated actions and behaviors. Accept nothing less from your employees. Where differences exist, learn to see through the eyes of others. The perspective gained will make you a better leader and will help your organization more effectively compete in the marketplace.


2. Build camaraderie around common interests and shared experiences. 

While differences can divide us, points of connection bring us together. Camaraderie and unity can be achieved by focusing on the things we share in common. Musical interests, sports or sports teams, favorite beverages, children or grandchildren, even pets. The list of topics is seemingly endless. Get to know your employees and look for things you share in common. While it may not be immediately apparent, it's very likely there. You just have to find it.


3. Be consistent. 

 DE&I is built on a principle of fair and equitable treatment of all. Doing the right thing under ideal circumstances is seldom the issue. Doing the right thing consistently when it may not be popular or convenient is where the breakdown most often occurs. This shouldn't be interpreted to imply some intentionally mistreat employees. What it does suggest is that we must consciously focus on doing the right thing and deliberately do so consistently over time. In practice, this lets employees know what to expect and where you stand.


4. Seek input. 

Variety is the spice of life. Inclusive cultures value ideas and suggestions for improvement wherever they may come from. As a supervisor, look for opportunities to seek input from your employees, especially for decisions that can or will impact their jobs. Implement recommendations where you can and offer feedback for those that you can't. More than anything, express value and appreciation for any contributions made, whether acted upon or not. Doing so has a tendency to increase the likelihood of receiving more input the next time around.


5. Encourage participation and involvement. 

To successfully compete in the 21st century, organizations must operate as one and have a unified front in the marketplace. This requires high levels of employee participation and engagement. DE&I is the framework that makes this possible. Supervisors should do everything within their power to encourage employee participation and promote active involvement. By harnessing the collective talents of all, you're in a far better position to meet operational challenges head-on.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is about people. It's about effective leadership, and it's about building high-performing teams. While most supervisors don't set policies defining DE&I strategies, they do have a ground-level impact upon daily practices and workplace culture. Where differences exist, gain perspectives from them. Where you share things in common, build rapport. More than anything, demonstrate value and appreciation to your team when appropriate, and treat everyone with respect.

Thank you for joining us. We value your time with us today and appreciate your continued support as a listener. In our next podcast, we'll be covering goal setting, a topic we often receive questions about. I'll be discussing keys to success in transitioning from a current to a desired future state. The ability to make needed changes is critical to a supervisor's success. I hope you'll join us for this upcoming episode. Should you have any questions or need additional information regarding today's topic, just let us know. Our contact information is provided in the show notes accompanying this episode. That's it for now. Stay safe, and thanks for listening.


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About the Author

As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

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