Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Workplace Possibilities

Rosina McNeil-Cusik, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist III, City of Colorado Springs

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.

The City of Colorado Springs has been actively working in the field of equity, diversity and inclusion for many years, and recently, like many other cities, has made a commitment to continue to enhance its efforts in the field. Under the current leadership of Mayor John Suthers and Chief of Staff Jeff Greene, the City of Colorado Springs has not only made equity, diversity and inclusion a priority for the organization, but it has also made it an integrated business practice. Many people may think it is the responsibility of human resources to carry out the efforts of equity, diversity and inclusion. In our organization, we like to remember that equity, diversity and inclusion cannot exclusively be a human resources program. It’s really imperative to "include all employees, all departments." (Pun very much intended.) To have a true equity, diversity and inclusion program, it must span beyond human resources and recruitment practices, though those are also extremely important. It must intentionally be embedded in departments, for example communications and how they look at collateral or our social media presence. Another example would be procurement and how they integrate equity, diversity and inclusion practices with regard to city contracts and the vendors we work with. To have true equity, diversity and inclusion in a workplace, it must be operationalized top to bottom, left to right. Our goal is to have equity, diversity and inclusion be top of mind for all employees and have it become part of the work they do every day. We want our employees to continually ask how to be more equitable, diverse and inclusive, and then follow through to meet these efforts.

So where do you start? The equity journey is not linear. It has peaks and valleys, and sometimes a bridge or three in between. A good place to consider starting is with leadership. It is important to have the buy-in of leadership for many of reasons.

First, influence.

Equity, diversity and inclusion involves a lot of change and change can be challenging for many employees. So having leadership’s backing can help influence the rest of the staff and the direction you want to take equity, diversity and inclusion.

Second, strategy.

Leadership has a great pulse on the strategy of the organization from both a long-term and a short-term perspective. Incorporating equity, diversity and inclusion into your organizational strategy is a great way to ensure it is a priority for everyone. Not only is the City of Colorado Springs able to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion into its strategy, we take it one step further and incorporate it into our performance management. Every city employee is required to meet an equity, diversity and inclusion competency as part of their annual performance goals. Employees can meet this goal through several avenues, such as education, allyship, behavior, awareness, or professional development opportunities. Regardless, equity, diversity and inclusion is something the entire city employee population must be a part of to be deemed successful.

To help our employees reach this goal, the City of Colorado Springs has worked to provide enhanced equity, diversity and inclusion education and exposure. We began by creating an equity, diversity and inclusion internal branding image that is included on all equity, diversity and inclusion materials. From there we started to populate an employee resource webpage that is updated each month to help employees find ways to celebrate various differences, but more importantly celebrate similarities. We also have worked to make numerous vendor trainings available to employees that focus on topics such as bias, inclusion, and gender identity. In addition to the vendor trainings, we are currently in the process of developing our own in-house trainings to cover subjects such as equity, diversity and inclusion principles, microaggressions, allyship and more. We hope to use these various inclusive initiatives to not only recruit diverse talent, but also to retain employees for years to come. We understand our best resources are our human resources, and diversity is nothing without retention. Nevertheless, our recruitment team has continued to work diligently on equity, diversity and inclusion and hiring diverse talent through various means. Some of the ways include incorporating EDI questions into interviews, ensuring hiring managers involve a diverse hiring panel during the selection process and continuing to partner with various nationwide and community agencies and non-profits to post job vacancies.

So where do we go from here?

What is great, and also daunting, about equity, diversity and inclusion is that it is endless. However, with our commitment to a culture that values our employees' unique individual qualities and fosters an inclusive environment where people want to be, as much as equity, diversity and inclusion is endless, so are the possibilities.

Rosina McNeil-Cusik, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist III, City of Colorado Springs.  Article reprinted with permission from the April 2021 issue of Colorado Municipalities.