Record numbers of employees are planning to retire while our city and state continues to get more and more diverse. Is Madison ready for the next generation? Are our companies, agencies, and organizations moving towards a more inclusive culture?
These are some of the issues that will be talked about as local professionals of all ages, races, and ethnicities converge on the Monona Terrace Convention Center May 20 for the Urban League of Greater Madison’s 3rd annual Workplace Diversity & Leadership Summit and Awards Luncheon.
The Workplace Diversity Summit is an event that continues to grow and evolve as the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) brings together leaders in the business, education, nonprofit, and government arenas to explore local, state, and national best practices and learn how to foster diversity, spur innovation, and experience growth.
“The theme of the summit has evolved through the years,” says Mark Richardson, ULGM Vice President of Strategic Partnerships. “Year one was a half-day event and that was about awareness. Year two was about making the business case for diversity. We’ve probably got one of the older workforces in the nation quickly pushing towards retirement and the folks culturally and ethnically that are leaving the workforce don’t necessarily mirror the folks that are coming into the workforce. What are we doing to prepare our organizations, our region, and our city for that change? The theme has evolved from those two years to the next phase.”
“It’s really about how diversity drives innovation that drives growth,” adds Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff, ULGM Vice President of Workforce Development. “A big part of this year’s summit we wanted to focus on looking locally but also looking globally and understanding how diversity fits into that.”
Richardson and Hargrove-Kreighoff have been working hard to plan the annual summit that will feature Dr. Steve Robbins who will be doing the keynote speech in the morning and wrapping things up later in the day. Robbins is a powerful speaker who has been called on to inspire, educate, and prepare the workplaces of organizations like Pepsico, Kraft Foods, McDonald's, Disney, Nordstrom, Boeing, Toyota, Honda, Wells Fargo, Mayo Clinic, NASA, the National Security Agency, US Navy, Microsoft, Chevron, and numerous others.
“One of the things that is really cool about him is that he infuses this component of brain science into it — talking about open-mindness, brain science, and brain energy,” Hargrove-Kreighoff says. “The biggest part of his message will be that diversity starts with open-mindedness.”
Dr. Robbins’ unique concept of “Unintentional Intolerance” has captured wide acclaim from numerous audiences and organizations across the United States. It’s an approach that does not blame or point fingers, but challenges individuals and organizations to be more open-minded, mindful, and intentional about inclusion and valuing people for their unique gifts, abilities, and experiences.
“[Robbins] is talking about complicated issues, but he has the ability to put things so people can understand,” Richardson says. “He makes a very complicated subject very simple to understand. In doing so, he gets everybody to drop their defenses. He breaks things down in a way that people can consciously think about ways that they’ve been behaving.”
“One of the things that is really interesting about Steve is that he talks about folks and their experiences and really how that shapes your perspectives,” Hargrove-Krieghoff adds. “So, as an African American woman moving through space and time, I have my own experiences which shape how I perceive the world. But, somebody that is a white male or white female or an Asian woman might have a completely different experience and a different perspective. So, I enter into the world expecting people to see things the same way that I do and they don’t. Robbins has a really nice way of opening that up for us and seeing things in a different perspective.”
Robbins background in communication, socio-psychology, and cognitive neuroscience drive his work with individuals and organizations — the core of the work is about understanding human behavior in a world full of human differences.
“The first time I saw Robbins speak, it was transformational for me,” Hargrove-Krieghoff says. “I think anyone and everyone will walk away with something that’s new and something that they hadn’t thought about.”
This year’s annual Workplace Diversity & Leadership Summit will also feature panelists and presenters talking about diversity in the global sense and local people, organizations, and agencies conversing about their own best practices. Morning breakout sessions will tackle various issues around workplace diversity and inclusion. Target Corporation will lead a session called “Diversity is good for business” while Oscar Mayer and St. Mary’s Hospital will share how they have operationalized key parts of Robbins’s approach to diversity and inclusion. The afternoon breakout sessions will tackle tough topics like “Recruiting a diverse workforce locally” and “Creating equitable and inclusive organizations.”
“Part of it is bringing experts who have done this, do this, and help others do this…. It’s about banging out new models on how to do business and highlighting those folks who do it,” Richardson says. “It all started after the first summit when we had senior-level leadership come to us and say, ‘You know what? We’re not great at this workplace diversity thing, but we want you to tell us how we can be better?”
Interesting ideas and innovative ways to collaborate have been created from previous diversity and leadership summits. For instance, the Featured Employer Job Seminar was a result of companies coming to the summit admitting that they had a hard time recruiting candidates of a diverse nature — even for entry level positions.
“Our Featured Employer Series was born out of a past summit. It is where we opened up our place to companies for a 4-5-hour period and we recruited individuals and reached out to our networks to find people for your place of employment,” Richardson says. “We have the networks, the space, the credibility, and the relationships. We have local companies that now come to us to help them recruit and fill staffing positions.”
Target, American Girl, Alliant Energy, and the Madison Metropolitan School District have all taken advantage of this idea that came out of a past Workplace Diversity & Leadership Summit. In that way, ULGM tries to build on each event and keep working on new, innovative ideas. “You figure out what is needed, you cut through the red tape, and you do it,” Richardson says. “You promote those companies as innovators and then you get other people to do it.”
Last year, the Urban League had 400 people registered for this event. This year, Richardson says, they would love to hit 500. “One thing we know for sure is that whoever attends will have a very thought-provoking and interesting day that will help their organization,” Richardson says.
“Networking is a big part of the day, too,” he adds. “The learning is one thing. Having the relationships to leverage the learning and make it work is critical to getting any traction in any organization. If you don’t have the relationships built and the networks don’t intersect then you continue to bounce off each other and get nowhere as far as progress.”
The day will conclude with a networking happy hour where people will get a chance to make those vital connections and to keep the conversation going beyond just one day.
“It’s about being in an environment where you can see other professionals that look like you, but it’s also about seeing and meeting other professionals who don’t look like you, “ Hargrove-Krieghoff says. “Unfortunately for Madison, although we are pretty diverse, you would not know that at first glance [in the workforce]. So, to be able to have this kind of summit and to bring all these different kinds of people together really is an example of the kind of diversity that we have.”
“We’re talking about an issue that if you take it in the micro, it’s about diversity in the workplace and how and why it’s a good thing,” Richardson adds. “The macro issue is that [there are] areas and cities that operate like that and are attracting talent, attracting dollars and venture capital and are retaining students that come to a college ... it’s the creative economy. We’re moving away from straight manufacturing. We’re moving away from the types of jobs in Wisconsin that we used to have and because of the computer and the Internet and all things arts-related, the creative economy — also known as the knowledge economy — demands diversity of thought. If you want to attract and retain your talent and you want to grow your city and your region, you need to operate in a fashion that attracts people.”
Richardson says that the diversity goes beyond just color or gender or age. “We’re talking about diversity of thought,” Richardson says. “We’re talking about all kinds of diversity. You’re going to have a better chance at better and different solutions to any problem if you have diverse thought.
“Young people who are coming up can live where they want, because you can work remotely,” Richardson continues. “So, is [Madison] a place I want to live? The bigger issue is do we value everybody? Is this an attractive place to call home? Do I want to establish my roots here? Or do I want to go to Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, etc. We don’t want to continue to lose folks to Minneapolis or Chicago. We want talented folks who will be an asset to our community to be here and to stay here.”
In just three years, the Annual Workplace Diversity & Leadership Summit and Awards Luncheon has become one of Wisconsin’s premiere gathering focused on preparing organizations for a more diverse workforce.
“The summit is important because more and more people are realizing that their customer doesn’t look like them,” Hargrove-Krieghoff adds. “We are there already. We’re there as a community, but our organizations are not there yet in terms of being able to service them in a way that is culturally competent.”
“It’s about valuing everybody and harnessing the energy of everybody that is here to drive this region,” Richardson adds. “We’re not going to get there as a community overnight, but we hope that the event produces greater interest and greater engagement in solving some of our organizational challenges around workforce diversity. I hope that this event spurs organizations and individuals to be proactive about having the conversations and that, eventually, we’d like to work ourselves out of having to host something like this. [We’d like to reach] a point where the community is where it needs to be as it relates to diversity and cultural competence and really understanding and embracing all of the differences that every community member brings. That really is the ultimate goal.”
The Urban League of Greater Madison will host the 2013 Workplace Diversity & Leadership Summit and Awards Luncheon Monday, May 20, 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.
For more information visit www.ulgm.org/summit2013 or call Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff at (608)729-1208.