To celebrate our differences
The first step in caring for the homeless is to provide a welcoming environment; so the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, recruited a staff as ethnically diverse as its client base.
MITRE Corp. of Bedford and McLean, Va., is on a mission to expand the definition of diversity, offering opportunities for employees to share their cultural backgrounds and build bridges of understanding.
Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham launched a yearlong campaign to educate employees about the history of the company and its emphasis on inclusion.
All three scored high for diversity in the Top Places to Work survey. They are building multicultural organizations, celebrating the diverse backgrounds of their employees and their communities. Colette Phillips, a Boston publicist who specializes in multicultural marketing, said such organizations consider diversity in all its facets: cultural, ethnic, and generational.
Building diverse organizations is “a business imperative,’’ said Phillips. “It’s a transcultural, multi-ethnic marketplace; both domestic and global. Hire people who look like the market that you are going to go after, and get people who know the market.’’
That’s the idea behind nonprofit Boston Health Care’s effort to create a staff that reflects the diversity of the homeless adults and families that use its services, said executive director Robert Taube.
“We engage our staff frequently in discussions about our desire to be a workplace that people from diverse backgrounds feel comfortable in and feel valued in,’’ he said.
Boston Health Care has 400 employees and offers health, mental, dental, and social services to 1,200 clients a year. Fifty-five percent of workers, who include physicians, nurses, and assistants, identify themselves as white; 26 percent are black; 11 percent are Hispanic or Latino; and 7 percent are Asian, with the remaining 1 percent identify themselves as being multiracial.
The agency hired a consultant and created a 12-member, staff-driven committee to support its efforts at diversity and inclusion. It provides workshops and forums meant to foster community in the workplace, allowing staff to interact with one another and learn about each other’s backgrounds.
For example, one speaker discussed the baby boom generation, including the defining events of their lives and the values they grew up with, with the aim of better understanding how to treat patients of that generation.
There have also been similar workshops on millennials, the group of people born between 1975 and 1995, and the transgendered population, “to understand the culture and the issue in our context’’ said Taube. “What we do best is to try and pay attention, and try to keep learning.’’
MITRE Corp., a nonprofit that provides technical expertise for government projects, declared May to be a diversity month. At a fair in the company’s cafeteria, displays celebrated various forms of diversity, international foods were served, and some of its 2,000 Bedford-based employees dressed in the native garb of their country of origin.
“The whole goal of the fair was to talk about diversity in a broad way that goes beyond minorities and women,’’ said Bill Albright, MITRE’s director of quality work life.
MITRE launched a diversity awards program this year to help staff learn about the contributions and backgrounds of fellow employees.
“One of the biggest challenges that we have, even though we are making progress in this regard, is to continue to educate and raise the awareness of employees of how diversity can benefit the outcomes of our work effort,’’ said Albright. “We recognize that we needed to do that and help shape behavior within our culture.’’
Commonwealth Financial’s Living The Legacy Campaign is offering a year’s worth of diversity programs, including one that every month, honors a female employee who is a longtime staffer.
The idea is to tell a story of a staffer who rose through the ranks at the company, and inspire younger workers who may be looking for advice from potential mentors. Of the company’s 12 partners, four are women.
The program has “women looking at other women who have tenure and longevity, to see how other women’s careers had developed and shaped,’’ said Kate Creagh, managing principal of human resources. “We want people to hear their stories.’’
Johnny Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.