How Do You Make Diversity & Inclusion Part of Your Agency’s Culture?

How do you make diversity and inclusion part of your agency’s culture? We posed that question to Dr. Kendra L. Smith, Director of Community Engagement at the University of Houston’s College of Medicine and author of a research report the International City/County Management Association released earlier this year.

The report highlights local governments that excel at increasing diversity and fostering inclusiveness and offers new findings and recommendations for moving beyond compliance exercises. Although the focus is local government, these points can support any level of government.

1. Reconfigure recruitment and hiring processes to be inclusive

Obstacles that prevent the success of job seekers from underrepresented populations include testing processes, unpaid internships that are unfeasible for lower-income families, and even the language used in the job posting. “If we want true equity and inclusion, this means discarding practices meant to keep people out,” Diane Powers, Director of the Tacoma, Washington Office of Human Rights, said in the report.

2. Drive culture change

All participants in the report noted a culture change in which members of the community feel that they have “a seat at the table,” which affects diversity efforts. In Tacoma, for example, a resolution was passed in December 2017 to support the formation of the Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to allow for better engagement of immigrant and refugee populations.

3. Promote metrics and accountability

Participants noted that metrics are used to observe the outcome and impact of their work, but substantive metrics are lacking.

4. Foster collaboration among offices of diversity, equity, inclusion and HR

Newly created offices of diversity and the longstanding HR department of a local government need to collaborate to drive forward diversity initiatives. One participant said, “It is a collaborative effort. HR has to be on board. If not, our work suffers and hurts [the organization] because we’re not doing as much as we can.

Case study: Breaking Down Cultural Barriers to Improve Access to Health Care

Stella G. Uzogara, Nutritional Epidemiologist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, was recognized by GovLoop for being an advocate for others. Her story shows the level of impact that diversity and inclusion (D&I) can have on a community.

As part of her role as Nutritional Epidemiologist, Uzogara conducted training for the department’s Women, Infants and Children Program staff on cultural competence and sensitivity to the health and food practices of new immigrants from Africa. The trainings led to increased awareness and cultural understanding of African health and nutrition practices that improved staff/client relationships, said Leonard Lee, Director of the Division of Violence and Injury Prevention, who nominated Uzogara for the GovLoop award.

“It led to elimination of barriers to health access for these new immigrants and increased the new immigrant use of state health services and improved their nutrition,” Lee said.

As a Nigerian American, Uzogara said she could relate to her patients and health consumers and took it upon herself to work with them — educating her clients, patients and colleagues. “Because I came from that part of the world, I know their health practices, I know their food practices, I know the taboos they have about food and health, which sometimes clash with life in the modern society like the United States.”

This article is from GovLoop’s recent guide “2020 Outlook: HR Trends to Watch in Government.” Download the full guide here.

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Avatar photo Mark Hensch

Nice article Nicole! This is very thought-provoking. I learned a lot about how to approach diversity and inclusion in the recruiting process.

Stephanie Smith

Thank you for the details how you operate to hire people and I was glad that you break the culture barrier to let them to work together for the office diversity,equity,inclusion and HR