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Experts say diversity important for workplace

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Indiana Minority Business Magazine, sister publication of the Recorder, will honor public servants, advocates and business leaders who stand for diversity during the 2019 Champions of Diversity Awards Dinner on Jan. 18 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Through their efforts, these individuals repeatedly demonstrate diversity and inclusion, which are essential components of the modern workplace, according to experts.

 “It’s not just that having people who are different in the workplace is a good thing to do,” Ezell Marrs, director of talent acquisition for TRG Talent Solutions and chair of the Diversity Roundtable of Central Indiana, said. “It makes good business sense.”

According to Marrs, companies with diversity programs often have more productive workers and increased profits. Diversity programs not only inject more personal backgrounds and ways of thinking into companies but also make employees feel more valued. Employees who feel valued are more likely to stay at their job and be more productive. 

“The human resources of an organization are the lifeblood of that organization,” Sean Huddleston, chief diversity officer at University of Indianapolis and incoming president of Martin University, said. 

Once businesses implement systems like diversity-minded new hiring processes and training, Marrs and Huddleston said it’s important to review the results. Companies should make sure such systems are working and reaching their goals. 

Marrs said quality programs don’t “just feel good.” They actually have “measured improvement and response.” 

In other words, there should be a strict observable difference. A good example is the efforts of Curtis Wright, CEO of Eskenazi Medical Group, associate director of IU’s medical residency training program and a Champion of Diversity Awards recipient. He has focused on diversity in the medical residency training program so much that now 25 percent of enrollees are from a minority group, which is a significant trackable increase.

However, Huddleston warns against just looking at quantitative diversity statistics. Statistics are important, but they do not reveal how inclusive or equitable a company is. Therefore, Huddleston recommends looking at qualitative data as well.

“You need to make sure you get information directly from people,” Huddleson said. “That can be through surveys, through focus groups, though interviews [or] through individual discussions.” 

For companies interested in diversity programs, Marrs and Huddleston recommend looking at other companies’ examples. For example, Marrs likes a story in which a vice president provided his autistic son a job in Walgreens factory, and the son performed exceptionally well. This led to Walgreens opening up more job opportunities to people with mental disabilities, which fostered higher productivity.

“He was a good worker,” Marrs said. “He didn’t take longer breaks. He took direction well.” 

A local company Marrs and Huddleston praise for diversity is Eli Lilly and Company. Not only does Lilly stress diversity in its hiring and corporate culture, but it also has several suborganizations in the company dedicated to different groups such as LGBT people. Lilly garnered national attention for its commitment to diversity. The company was included in Black Enterprise Magazine’s 50 Best Companies for 2018 and named as the sixth best company for diversity by DiversityInc., an online publication.

Lilly is not the only Indianapolis organization that has adopted diversity programs. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) created a diversity and inclusion think tank. The think tank addresses concerns of diversity and inclusion in the police department such as hiring and maintaining women and minority employees. It consists of community leaders from both inside and outside the police department. The program is still in its genesis, but Huddleston is calling the program “one of the most innovative in the country” because few other police departments in the country feature such a program. IMPD’s commitment to diversity is a large reason why Chief Bryan Roach will be honored at the Champions of Diversity Awards Dinner.


Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.


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