Henrico County is committed to providing a workplace where employees feel valued, all voices are heard, and opportunities are extended equally to everyone. With the announcement of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Specialist position, I wanted to share more about my duties and the vision for the role.
The DEI Specialist role was created to highlight and reinforce the Board of Supervisors’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion as guiding principles for our organization. Everyone must understand the terms diversity, equity, and inclusion and their meaning so that we are all using the same language. The Center for Creative Leadership, a worldwide leadership development organization, defines them as:
- Equity-Fair and contextually-appropriate access to the resources and opportunities required for every individual, group, organization, and community to attain their full potential.
- Diversity –Collective blend of characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, and behaviors among individuals, groups, organizations, and communities.
- Inclusion –Full, meaningful, and authentic participation of, and investment in, every individual in a group, organization, or society.
Because diversity, equity, and inclusion are broad, it is important to be intentional about our purpose and efforts. When Deputy County Manager, Monica Smith-Callahan first joined our organization, she introduced three focus areas for the organization that I will be carrying forward in my role: awareness, acknowledgment, and action.
One of the first priorities for this role is to increase awareness about what the County is doing to promote a diverse, equitable, inclusive workplace for all. My role will also look for opportunities where we can grow to remain a model employer for all. Recently, I embarked on a diverse Listening Tour to hear from county leaders about their current DEI efforts, share best practices, and establish partnerships to achieve an inclusive workforce. The Listening Tour has been very instrumental in helping me to better understand the critical, unique needs of our County departments, build trust, and identify a long-term DEI strategy for the organization.
Inclusion and equity efforts should not sit with one person, so it is important to invite the voices and perspectives of our workforce to ensure that everyone feels valued and heard. Last month, I partnered with the Director of Social Services, Ty Parr, to host seven virtual well-being focus groups for County employees to assess their needs and invite their feedback on how we should grow and improve to be more equitable and inclusive. The partnership with Ty Parr has been instrumental in creating a positive experience for employees. We have received positive feedback from several employees, some stating that they felt the focus groups were a safe space to voice their concerns and express themselves.
Acknowledgment and action are also key to building lasting change in any organization and to building an inclusive workforce. The civil unrest and violence across our nation have created an opportunity for the County to pause and be intentional about how we can learn from each other and grow together. The County is being intentional by acknowledging and seeking to understand the systemic issues that are impacting our colleagues and how they show up every day. Race is one example, but it is also critical that we are intentional about focusing on other elements of diversity, equity, and inclusion such as our age, cultural identities, gender identity, and self-expression just to name a few. Examples of ways that my role is currently partnering with the County to acknowledge and act include:
- Establishing a DEI Resources Pageon the Organizational Learning and Talent Development (OLTD) Learning Hub that houses videos, podcasts, articles, and books to support employees and supervisors.
- Collaborating with OLTD and Public Relations to offer virtual classes and videos on DEI topics as a foundation to support employees and supervisors in having organizational conversations on race and inclusion.
- Class offerings and videos from FY20-21 are located on OLTD’s Learning Opportunitiespage, OLTD YouTube Channel, and the DEI resources page.
- Partnering with County leaders to focus on equity, skill-building, and development for employees around inclusion.
As this role continues to evolve, we will continue to look for opportunities to be strategic and intentional around diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are doing this by looking at ways to engage our middle and senior leadership around these topics, identifying metrics to help us measure our progress and effectiveness as an organization, and develop an organizational DEI strategy to position the County for success in advancing DEI initiatives, services, and inclusive practices.
Building upon Henrico’s strong foundation and collaborative spirit, I believe that this role can successfully partner with the organization to serve as a resource and consultant to continue to impact positive change in our organization. This is a defining moment for our County and nation. As a guiding force, I am committed to executing the County Manager’s charge to “tread uncertain waters and blaze new trails” while honoring Henrico’s heart and service for others.