Diversity and inclusion have always been a part of our organization’s fabric and a key element of our growth and evolution. At the start of 2020, I named diversity as one of our four critical priorities for the year and moving forward—not because it is a new initiative for us, but to intentionally place additional emphasis on this core tenet of our culture.
Recent tragic events have forced us all to confront injustice in our society and have strengthened our resolve to prioritize diversity and inclusion. We recently pledged to create a more diverse and inclusive workspace across race, gender, age, sexual orientation, career experience, educational background and disability. I too pledged to do my part as a leader and have proudly taken the CEO Pledge for Diversity, which places Sikich alongside many other high-performing organizations that are committed to this critical business issue.
But words are not enough. Our company is devoted to taking deliberate action. Too often businesses (including ones in our industry) stay in their comfort zones. And staying comfortable often means hiring people who think like you, come from a similar background as you and, yes, look like you. But businesses sell themselves short when they don’t prioritize diversity in hiring. Without a wide range of voices at the table, an organization’s ideas grow stale. It’s unable to see around the bend and anticipate emerging challenges. And it lacks the creative thinking that comes from people of different backgrounds debating issues and imagining solutions. And while the industry isn’t changing, people are. As an organization, we never viewed steps to inclusion as simply a compliance or corporate obligation, but rather continue to view it as an opportunity and essential component of our culture and future.
I absolutely believe you have to be intentional about making any substantial change, because it does not happen on its own. Unfortunately, much of the discourse around diversity centers only on race. While racial diversity is essential, it’s simplistic to view diversity through an entirely racial lens. And it’s often counterproductive, making people fixate on an individual’s skin color instead of one’s unique talents and ideas. So, instead of focusing on the racial makeup of our workforces, we should push ourselves to seek diversity of thought and experience. When we do that, we’ll end up with diversity across the board (including racial, religious, socioeconomic and more).
You can imagine someone from a small, rural town and a person who grew up in Manhattan had vastly different upbringings and, therefore, experiences. If we were to put it to the test and present these two example candidates with the same work assignment, their ideas would differ greatly—offering what every leader wants when approaching a difficult challenge or when trying to outsmart the competition: perspective. Diversity of thought is built upon diversity in culture, background, life experiences, race and more. The problem today is many leaders are still trying to check a box. Instead, we need to consider how different people make an organization dynamically unique.
We cannot be a successful business without diversity. Here are the steps we, as an organization, are taking to further prioritize inclusion, equality and diversity in our workplace:
Establishing a Diversity Council: To initiate this council, we are seeking leaders at all levels to step up and contribute to our efforts to foster diversity. This council will meet to plan awareness and education initiatives.
Working with Organizations That Value Diversity: In collaboration with the newly formed Diversity Council, we will examine our suppliers, philanthropic and volunteer programs, vendors and more to ensure we interact with a diverse set of organizations that place value on inclusion and closely align with our own ethics.
Requiring Annual Awareness Training: In an effort to raise awareness of diversity and increase the dialogue around the topic at our company, we are implementing required annual inclusion training for our executive team, as well as the entire organization.
Broadening Our Recruiting Reach: We’re revamping our recruiting processes to make sure we tap diverse candidate pools and employ neutral perspectives when making hiring decisions.
Observing MLK Jr. Day & Aligning with Regional Inclusion Initiatives: Moving forward, we will take the day off to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an annual holiday. In Milwaukee, we have recently joined the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Region of Choice program. In northeast Ohio, we’ve joined the Greater Cleveland Partnership Equity and Inclusion Initiative. These initiatives focus on increasing workplace diversity and closing racial disparities in hiring.
We’re currently facing multiple adversities we must overcome if we want to move forward successfully – in business, in our industry and around the globe. At Sikich, we are striving to increase inclusion through identifying talent with diversity of thought. By not focusing on reaching a quota for hiring minority candidates, we can expand our reach far beyond the competition to organically attract and retain employees of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and culture. And we’re not stopping there. We’re looking introspectively at our current team members, leaders, partnerships and initiatives to ensure we all remain steadfast and committed to nurturing a culture of equality and developing a diverse workplace.
Our pledge only scratches the surface of the steps we’ll take to enhance the diversity of our organization. Right now, we’re taking a hard look at ourselves to ensure we nurture a culture of equality and continue to develop a diverse workforce. By staying out of our comfort zone, we’ll become more diverse, dynamic and innovative. The choice is ours. The choice is yours, too.