Ken Bouyer: Success in Inclusiveness

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Kenneth Bouyer-EY

By Brady Rhoades

As EY Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting, Ken Bouyer lives by a motto: “Lift as you climb.” But he has expectations of those he lifts, just as those who helped him had expectations. He poses this question to professionals who are looking to thrive in corporate America.

“How do you define success and what are you willing to ante up in order to achieve that level of success?”

The answer is different for everyone, he said to Black EOE Journal, but if teams pursue their purpose with commitment and a willing to sacrifice, the results can be startling.

“We’re incredibly committed to diversity and inclusion,” Bouyer said of EY, referring to the company’s stellar record of hiring and promoting women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities. “And I get to be an insider on that and get a sense of the investments we make… I get a chance to see it year in and year out.”

“When you think about why diversity and inclusion matter, a big part of it is the diversity of thought and perspective,” he added.

Bouyer had plenty of “lifters” as he labored his way up the steep incline during his early career years in the 1990s (he remembers his hire date at EY on October 1, 1990).

He was a first-generation corporate professional.

“I didn’t know how I should act, what I should do.”

But he had help.

“The mentors and role models I had and being part of that as a young professional: invaluable,” he said.

His biggest lesson?

“Your brand is everything. How do you show up every day in your office? What’s your brand and reputation like?”

He said integrity is foundational to EY’s brand and most great brands across a variety of business models. Ever in lift-and-climb mode, he encourages others to build their brands.

He asks corporate managers an uncomfortable but important question: When you leave the room, what do your employees say about you? What kinds of words are used?

“People have to trust and rely on you, and integrity is a big, big part of that,” he said.

Looking back on his rookie year at EY, he remembers a different corporate culture in America.

“When I first started… there were no programs focused on diversity and inclusiveness,” he said.

He’s proud of how far EY has come in the past 29 years, where they’re going, and what it means for future generations.

“Our talented minorities have an opportunity to be so successful, and anything we can do to help raise awareness around the diversity and inclusiveness issue is going to make us better.”

Bouyer, who lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter, is responsible for developing and implementing a recruiting strategy that focuses on creating a diverse talent pool. Fostering an inclusive culture where all individuals can achieve their full potential is a global priority and a business imperative for EY. The organization strives to reflect the changes in world demographics—taking into account the new mix of cultures and individual characteristics that build its talent pool.

Bouyer also serves on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Minority Initiatives Committee and a number of other boards. He is a recipient of the Federation of Schools of Accountancy “Practitioner Service Award” for his distinguished service to the profession of accounting and accounting education.

Bouyer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York. He is a lifetime member of the National Association of Black Accountants.

Photo Credit: EY

Working from Home? Here Are Some Tips

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Pensive african woman using laptop computer while sitting at home with cup of coffee

Most advice about how to make working from home actually work focuses on the practical: The right office space. The right desk. The ergonomically perfect chair. The right software, the right messaging platform, the right apps…all the “stuff” you need to make remote work actually work.

Yet, ask most people who made the transition to working from home what they struggled with most – and continue to struggle with—and they will list things like staying motivated, managing their time wisely, avoiding distractions and staying on task—none of which has anything to do with “stuff.”

When I first started working from home, I instinctively replicated my old office environment. I bought a big desk. Nice credenza. Conference table. Large filing cabinet. Fancy chair. A cool land-line phone. To paraphrase the eminently quotable Chris Rock, that’s what I was accustomed to.

So, I assumed that’s what I needed.

But none of those things made me efficient, much less effective. I missed the “structure” of the workplace, the natural rhythm of a workday that, even though I was in charge, was still only partly under my control.

So, more often than I like to admit, I sometimes drifted. I was easily distracted. I was easily bored. I missed the structure. I missed the sense of urgency that the presence of other people helps foster.

Then I took a step back and thought about my most productive days. Not just the days I got a lot of things done, but the days I also got a lot of the right things done.

They all had one thing in common: A mission. An outcome, a deliverable—something tangible that created a real sense of purpose.

If you’re struggling to work as effectively from home—or if your employees are struggling to work as effectively from home—shift from focusing on tasks to focusing on outcomes. (Don’t worry; tasks are the foundation of outcomes.)

Before you end your workday, list what you need to get done tomorrow and determine the single most important thing you need to get done tomorrow.

Then, before you step away, set up your workspace (which, if like mine, is simply your computer desktop) so you can hit the ground running the next day. Have the reports you need open. Have the notes you need handy. Make sure the questions you need answered already have answers.

Then sit down and dive in.

And commit to completing everything you need to get done. Allowing yourself to give in to excuses, rationalizations, etc. is a slippery slope—and becomes a habit extremely hard to break.

But will be less of a problem when you get your most important task done right away. Starting your day with a productive bang naturally creates the momentum and motivation you need to move on to whatever is next on the day’s outcome list.

And the next. And the next.

Because completing a task is fine, but achieving an important outcome is satisfying, fulfilling, and motivating.

So never forget: What matters is what you accomplish from wherever you work. Success has nothing to do with your desk, or your chair, or your office space. (Today, my “office” is my backpack and my computer and wherever I feel like sitting.)

Success is all about what you achieve, and achievement always starts with knowing what you want to accomplish. And more importantly, why.

Jeff Haden is a keynote speaker, ghostwriter, LinkedIn Influencer, contributing editor to Inc., and the author of The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win.

Source: Owl Labs

Magic Johnson will provide $100 million to fund loans to minority-owned businesses

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Magic Johnson in a business suit

Magic Johnson may no longer be playing in the NBA, but the Hall of Fame member is still making valuable assists. Johnson announced that EquiTrust Life Insurance Co., of which he owns a majority, is providing $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for minority and women business owners who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

EquiTrust will work with MBE Capital Partners, a lender that specializes in asset-based loans for minority-owned small businesses, to distribute the loans through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The loans are aimed at supporting people of color and women who operate businesses in underserved communities, according to a news release.

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“These are incredible businesses, small businesses, that have been the pillar of our community that also employ a lot of black and brown people in our community,” Johnson said Sunday on MSNBC. “… We wanted to make sure that minority-owned businesses got small business loans through the PPP program.”

Concerns about people of color accessing loans

The partnership was borne out of a concern that women and people of color were having difficulty accessing the loans offered by the Small Business Administration’s emergency coronavirus relief program — part of the federal government’s massive stimulus package.

“Johnson’s EquiTrust is providing critical financial support to underserved communities and businesses that have been traditionally neglected,” EquiTrust and MBE Capital Partners said in a joint news release. “These small and diverse businesses often have difficulty developing strong lending relationships with big banks.”

The goal is to help 100,000 businesses secure resources that will sustain them through the pandemic, MBE Capital CEO Rafael Martinez said on MSNBC.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Meet Brittney Nicole: Navy Veteran Turned Fashion Entrepreneur

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A clothes rack filled with women's coats

Transitioning from military life back into civilian life is a challenge for any veteran. While there are many different approaches in choosing a career, one U.S. Navy Veteran decided that she would approach her career choice by following her passions.

Always having a love for fashion, Brittney Nicole decided to open her own clothing business, Coco’s Wardrobe, upon her retirement from the U.S. Navy.  The New Orleans based boutique designs, manufactures, and sells women’s clothing that is meant to look as good as they feel, blending comfort with style. All of the clothing in Nicole’s shop has a women’s desire to feel confident and comfortable at the forefront of everything that is produced.

In addition, Nicole has also began selling uniquely designed face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet UCLA’s First African American Athletic Director

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Martin Jarmond in a suit speaking at a conference

Martin Jarmond, the first and most recent athletic director at Boston College and the youngest director to ever be in the Power Five Conferences, will be breaking another record with his newest position.

On May 17, it was announced that Martin Jarmond will become the new athletic director of UCLA. This will make Jarmond the first African American man to hold the position in the school’s 101-year history.

Having an extensive background in sports both on the court and in his studies, Jarmond has quickly been able to move up the ladder of sports administration and is speculated to be the perfect fit to help UCLA fix the financial debt of the previous year’s $18.9 million deficit.

Continue on to the L.A. Times’ Website to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: Stephen Senne/Associated Press

United Airlines appoints First African American President

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Brett J. Hart headshot

Chicago based United Airlines announced Brett J. Hart as the company’s President. The number two leadership role being filled by Mr. Hart is part of the company’s leadership succession plan that was announced in early December.

“I am honored and energized as I take on these new responsibilities to lead this incredible team that I am convinced will build United into a thriving industry leader,” Hart said. “The path forward will not be easy, but I am confident that Scott and I will continue our partnership to lead United through the extraordinary challenge posed by COVID-19. United’s bright future is only possible because of the commitment of the most talented airline professionals in the world who serve United and our customers every single day – and I could not be prouder of them.

Hailing from the southside of Chicago Brett J. Hart was educated at the University of Michigan and received a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Chicago Law School. Hart is the first African American to become President of United Airlines in the airline’s 94-year history.

Hart was a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. Before that, he served as a special assistant to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C. Later he would go on to work for the Sara Lee Corporation as the executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, where he directed global legal operations. Hart joined United Airlines in 2010. Over his 10-year career with United Hart has taken on significant responsibilities within the company. Hart has previously worked as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for the company. In 2015 he stepped in and served as interim CEO for six months while the then CEO Munoz recovered from a heart transplant.

As President of United, Hart will continue to lead the company’s public advocacy strategy, including the Government Affairs, Corporate Communications, Legal and Community Engagement teams. He will also continue to oversee business-critical functions like the Corporate Real Estate team and manage United’s industry-leading environmental sustainability efforts. His responsibilities will expand to include managing the Human Resources and Labor Relations teams.

Hart taking this position comes as he, along with other executives, are waiving their salaries for a time as the company struggles financially. Like others in the airline industry, United is trying to deal with the losses from Covid-19.

Continue on to Chicago Defender to read the complete article.

How Sean Combs is Supporting and Protecting Small Businesses

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Sean Combs "Diddy" headshot

On April 23, Sean Combs, previously known as “Diddy” in the music industry, released his newest project, Our Fair Share, which aims to help minority-owned businesses obtain the materials needed to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

A benefit that primarily goes to businesses that have the proper “connections,” Combs wants to ensure the small businesses that we love and depend on have the same opportunities as the bigger corporations.
“COVID-19 is devastating our communities, and without access to stimulus funding, we risk losing critical businesses that create jobs and help build opportunities and wealth in our communities,” said Combs. “I created Our Fair Share to help entrepreneurs play on an even playing field and give them a chance to survive with the hope to thrive.”

To do this, Combs’ new program has teamed up with National Bankers Association, a group that represents minority-owned financial institutions. Through Our Fair Share, the National Bank Association can connect their clients to financial technology companies that will be able to provide the PPP materials and loans needed.

To learn more about Our Fair Share, its origin, and its purposes, click here for the full press release.

3 Things You Need To Know About A May Job Search

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Professional Black Man Standing Outside the Office

It’s impossible to predict what the job market will have in store over the next few months. Even as economic data continues to trend downward, it is hard to guess in what ways hiring demand for the rest of the year will be shaped by widespread reopening of the economy and the requirement to put in place new public health measures.

If you need or have a strong desire to get a new job, you’ll want to start getting ready for a multitude of scenarios. While the job market is slow at the moment, it could ramp up faster than you expect or in industries you aren’t yet targeting.

It’s fair to prepare yourself for a longer job search than you would have experienced this time last year, but don’t give up on your efforts. Before you launch or continue your job search, here’s what you need to know to help you face this month’s unique challenges and find new opportunities.

1. You’ll benefit if you stay on top of hiring trends

No matter how bleak hiring data may appear at the moment, many companies will still have new, interesting and unexpected jobs that need to be filled this year.

Right now, companies are still trying to figure out how they will operate in this new environment once social distancing guidelines lessen or are removed. What they can’t foresee is how much customer demand they will have, how consumer behavior and personal values may have permanently changed and what they will need to do to make their business more resilient in the future. All of these factors will create significant changes to their corporate strategy, exposing leadership gaps and creating new talent needs.

As hard as it is to imagine right now, the business world will get back to operating at full capacity but likely in a very different form. Some companies will experience a long-lasting or permanent shrinking of their business while others will find ways to quickly innovate and expand. This process of resetting the corporate landscape will take some time and it hasn’t fully begun yet. Many leaders are still trying to deal with their most immediate problems which are largely centered around managing their cash flow.

You’ll have a head start and huge competitive advantage if you pay close attention to the news over the next few months and prepare to target the new and unexpected jobs that will soon be needed. If you don’t make it a regular habit to follow sites that focus on business-related content or watch business-only news channels such as CNBC, this is the time that you need to start. Consider this research a major part of your job-searching tasks.

Admittedly, there is no guarantee that you will be qualified for the jobs that emerge or that they will be in the right geographic location for you. But you can’t even begin to assess the fit, work to match your skills to the new needs or consider remote working options if you aren’t even aware that these new jobs exist.

Start this month by building the habit of monitoring the business world more closely than you normally would and be on the lookout for emerging hiring trends.

2. Your networking will be more effective when it’s done slowly

Unfortunately, there are few new ideas on how to best conduct a job search. You’ve likely heard it again and again, but networking is still the most efficient use of a job seeker’s time.

This month, work to reactivate and strengthen your network through personal outreach and check-ins. While you should focus on networking daily, resist the urge to mass email your résumé or have transactional discussions. Difficult times and prolonged social distancing have left many people craving a sense of community, which creates the perfect environment for genuine networking.

Instead of jumping right to your desire to be on the radar for job leads or blasting out copy and pasted emails about your background, try a slower and more methodical approach. Invest time in writing better emails and catching up without a specific ask at the end of your message. These tactics are much more effective in the long run. When the market warms up again, these efforts will have been beneficial in deepening your connections, so that the more direct inquiries you send later will be better received.

The key to developing a stronger relationship is to focus first on the connection with the individual and not on your job search. Be sure to remind people that you care about them beyond your professional needs. This will help them care enough to keep you top of mind when new opportunities inevitably start developing.

3. Once started, your hiring process may move faster than usual

In a booming job market, one of the hardest things about conducting a search is never knowing when a job lead is worth your effort. Many of the jobs you’d see online were outdated or low priorities for the recruiters and hiring managers. Other openings were for jobs that the company hadn’t thought through very well and weren’t sure what they actually wanted or needed in the position. Even in a hot market, it was a frustrating experience to find motivated hiring managers, and job processes often went on longer than necessary.

If there’s any good news about conducting a job search during hard economic times, it’s that almost every job lead you see or hear about is indeed a well-formed position and a priority at the company. If it wasn’t, it would not be open right now.

Jobs that open in the next few months will be created out of necessity—something urgent needs to be built or fixed in the business or someone important resigned—and need to be filled as soon as possible. This can work in your favor if you stay diligent about monitoring job openings throughout the otherwise slow month ahead and are ready to engage your network to find a contact for these searches immediately.

Keep in mind that these jobs will be filled quickly and competition will be fierce. Due to the large number of applicants that are recently unemployed, it will be harder than ever to simply get noticed without a personal contact. This is yet another reason why networking should be your top priority all month long.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Proof that Diversity and Inclusion Must Continue Now more than Ever

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Diverse Equality Gender Innovation Management Concept

Publishers Note: These last few weeks have been anything but normal. Many, including DiversityComm, have taken to working from home, and it’s difficult to not worry about the future. As the days go on, I’ve been facing the reality that life in COVID-19 has become a new normal of sorts and the possibility of a recession isn’t completely off the table.

Having been in the business for over thirty years and the complications that came with the 2008 and 2011 recessions as well as the events of September 11, 2001, I have learned that diversity and inclusion are and continue to be the keys to keeping business moving. Studies show that racially diverse companies are 35% more likely to see an increase in financial returns in comparison with their competitors while companies that have a more cultural and ethical variation in their boards are 43% more likely to experience a higher income. Groups of diverse thinkers of three or more members have also tested to be more successful than an individual 87% of the time.

All of this being said, how does this work? And how do these diverse connections keep business working?

  • Have Empathy
    1. COVID-19 is hard on everyone, but other groups of people will be experiencing this in a different way than others. Check in on your clients and employees on how they are doing during this time. Listen to what they say and educate yourself on how this situation is affecting their lives. People want to work with people who truly care about who they are and understand them on a real, human level. When they feel like they are genuinely being heard and cared for, they will remember your willingness to help and want to strengthen their connection with you. The same goes for employees. When employees feel they are being cared for, they are encouraged to increase work efficiency and less likely to contribute to the turnover rate.
  • Re-Focus Your Goals
    1. As the world seems to be on “pause” lately, this is the perfect opportunity to plan for the future. What projects and aspects can you invest in now to setup your business for a higher success rate in the future? Once you refocus your goals and have a plan for what projects you want to carry out, then you can start building a team of qualified individuals. You will want a team of people that have expertise in a variety of areas so that every aspect of the project will go above and beyond the call of duty. If your team consists of a group that all have the same background, culture and life experience, the chances that something will be left out will increase. Will your project be accessible? Does it meet the standards in every area? A diverse group can ensure that all these questions are handled.
  • Learn and Grow
    1. It’s easy to look at your past experience, available data and old traditions as a template for how to run your business. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is critical that we continue to learn and grow with the times. We are in a digital age and there are so many opportunities that can be seized through it. Though a digital form of business was almost nonexistent several decades ago, the willingness to keep up with the times is key for a business in today’s age to succeed.  Listening to a variety of opinions from varying backgrounds and experiences will not only show you how to more effectively work your business, but will increase creativity and innovation in the workplace. The more educated we become, the more expanded our ideas and strategies will become.

The times are changing and uncertain, but when we focus on our team, employees, clients, partners, and connections while keeping an open mind to the changing times, we will succeed and we will get through this. We find strength in diversity and inclusion.

The Minority Business Development Agency Announces New Inner City Innovation Hub Grant Competition

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mbda

The U.S. Department of Commerce and Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) recently announced the award of two competitive grants for the launch and operation of the Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation HUBs.

MBDA intends to award $2.8M over two years to support and fuel economic innovation of minority-owned start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in inner cities and urban areas in any U.S. state or U.S. territory with high concentrations of minority populations and minority business enterprises

“The Trump Administration is doing its part to support economic growth by providing access to capital in communities with the greatest needs,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We are tremendously proud of the Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation Hub initiative to spur entrepreneurship in inner cities and economically distressed neighborhoods.”

The minority population of the United States is 129 million, or 38 percent of the total U.S. population. Although 38 percent of the population in the U.S. is minority, only 19 percent of businesses are minority-owned.[1] In inner cities, 76 percent of the population is minority, but only 23% of all inner city businesses are minority-owned.[2]

“Minority-owned businesses are increasingly representing the core of economic activity in the major metropolitan areas, so it is critically important we provide them with the resources and funding they need to grow and stay competitive in the global economy,” said Henry Childs II, MBDA National Director.  “MBDA is trying to create critical ecosystems for minority-owned businesses in major metropolitan areas by supporting existing organizations and leveraging private sector capital at the local level.”

MBDA is seeking proposals that support research and technology transfer, digital innovation, use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and entrepreneurship in support of minority-owned start-ups and entrepreneurs with innovative products or services.

Applications are due May 15, 2020. More information can be found on at grants.gov or https://www.mbda.gov/page/grants-and-loans. A pre-application teleconference will be conducted April 29, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET to provide background information and answer questions about the program and application process. Details are on .mbda.gov.

About the MBDA: 

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (www.mbda.gov) is the only federal agency solely dedicated to fostering the growth and global competitiveness of U.S. minority business enterprises.  MBDA programs are focused on economic empowerment and leading minority business enterprises through business transformation. For 50 years, MBDA has helped minority-owned firms get access to capital, contracts, build scale and capacity, and expand into new markets.

The More Diverse the Management, the Higher the Profits

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A group of diverse employees looking and writing on a whiteboard

By Stacey A. Gordon

A financial study of 1,000 large companies by McKinsey & Co. found that the more diverse the management, the higher the profits, compared with companies composed of less diversity.

Companies in the top 25 percent with the most ethnic executives outperformed other firms with profits 33 percent higher than those in the bottom 25 percent with fewer ethnic workers. Firms more inclusive of women in management showed 21 percent more revenue than those with fewer women in executive roles.

Corporate hiring and training in the field of Unconscious Bias and Diversity and Inclusion is on the rise. Before Virgin America was purchased by Alaska Airlines, they offered my LinkedIn Learning course on Unconscious Bias in their in-flight entertainment to spread awareness of workplace diversity—which can be a difficult subject to talk about at work.

Approximately 96 percent of men enjoy executive positions where they unconsciously promote other men. Given even a slight 1 percent bias in favor of males, research shown in the Unconscious Bias course determines that promoting men over and over due to unconscious bias can leave women and minorities losing out approximately 60 percent via promotions over 20 years. This costs companies not only money, multicultural expertise, and outlook in our global economy, but also compels experienced female employees to opt out when they learn how certain companies select candidates. The Unconscious Bias course opens our minds to how we filter out the biases we’ve grown up with and the complicity of the treatment we see happening in the workplace.

So how do we succeed in hiring a more diverse workforce, while ensuring employees feel like they belong in the environment?

The first step is to be aware of language. As an example, I participated in a Diversity and Inclusion Summit where one of the speakers, a CEO of a large insurance company, was asked how she ensures the company’s recruiters employ hiring practices that result in diverse candidates. She stated there was no need to do anything differently because experienced and skilled candidates will apply and make their way through the system—because those hiring look solely at skills—not race or ethnicity. Yet, the fact that there are so few black, Latino or LGBT employees at her company is not due to a lack of skill. The meritocracy argument has been proven time and time again to be a feeble excuse for maintaining the status quo. Unconscious bias creeps into our review process as well as our decision-making by giving us the impression we’re being fair, when really, we are making assumptions. Assuming a candidate deliberately omitted information rather than simply forgot is one way our language betrays us. As an alternative, to “It’s unfortunate that you lied,” try, “This probably was an oversight.”

The second step in gaining greater awareness is to stop assuming that hiring women and hiring professionals of color check the same box. If every time the word “diversity” is mentioned at your company, you are actually talking about “women,” then it’s time to broaden your outlook.

When I was a manager at a Fortune 100 financial services company, I was the only black female manager on the entire west coast, and only one of three black managers. I dreaded participating in the management retreats because the only time anyone would listen to me was when I spoke about the Women in Financial Services annual event. No one seemed to care that my management style resulted in the recruitment and retention of one of the most diverse and profitable teams in our division. I wanted to be recognized for my successful contribution to the company’s bottom line, not simply because I was spearheading a women’s event. Our voices need to be heard, and we want to be noticed for our contributions, not merely for the box we check at a company gathering or on an EEOC report.

Third, don’t be the organization that makes statements like “I don’t want to lower the bar.” It’s insulting and racist by definition. What can be inferred from this statement is that the person hiring does not want to deviate from the current organizational structure or process because “It has worked so far.”

The bonus phrase, “We just want a good fit” is just as disastrous. It can be replaced with “We can’t find any qualified [Black, Latino, Asian, female, LGBT, disabled or veteran] applicants.” But the result is the same. No change.

Why change at all? To avoid the blunders we see repeated around the globe, to reap the financial benefits of diverse workforce and to create an inclusive organization that isn’t lowering the bar, but raising standards of behavior for everyone, leadership included.

We all want to work somewhere that makes us feel that we belong. If you’d like your company to be one of those workplaces, maybe it’s time to review your policies, your goals and your behavior toward current and future employees. By stopping to reflect on how you can think and act differently, you will be well on your way to cultivating a more diverse workforce.

African Roots is a Big Part of the Roots Java Coffee Company

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Three bags of Root Coffee sitting in a bowl with balls made of twine

African Bean Company is the first nationally certified, African-American-owned coffee supply company providing national distribution. The company’s coffee is branded Roots Java Coffee.

From small communities on the Mississippi Delta to Brownstones in Harlem, African Americans have historically been devoted coffee consumers—helping to drive this multi-billion-dollar industry. African Bean Company, founded in 2010 by Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, is making history as he and his partner, Clifton L. Taulbert (President & CEO) ensure that African Americans are now on the owner/supply side of the industry.

The company’s rich tasting coffees are the result of beans grown by independent Rwandan farmers in the fertile, high mountain region of the country. These farmers, many of whom survived the horrific genocide, are now transforming their lives and their country by growing and harvesting the most sought-after coffee beans in the world.

Taulbert, who heads the operations of this national company, always smiles when asked about their market receptivity. “It’s not easy to tackle a market that is dominated by major international corporations with little or no room for a start-up company to play,” Taulbert said. “However, African Bean Company is here for the long haul. Using entrepreneurial tactics and plain ol’ hard work, they are making their way into homes (Online) with their signature 12 oz. bags of Ground and Whole Bean, along with their cases of filter and fractional packs for hospitals, country clubs, restaurants, and academic institutions commercially delivered across America. The premium brand’s smooth taste is rapidly becoming a highly sought-after item for holidays and special occasion gift giving and corporate gifts by loyal customers worldwide.”

Taulbert spoke to Black EOE Journal about his journey and his advice for black entrepreneurs:

“While growing up on the Mississippi Delta, embracing Entrepreneurial Thinking (ET) was a necessity if one were to move beyond the cotton fields that sought to define our lives. I was fortunate in that ET became part of my life early on—though simply called gumption—through the life lessons I learned at the Glen Allan Ice House, which was owned by my Uncle Cleve. Watching him chart this ownership path for himself was not lost on me. I wanted what I saw. As a young man who was part of the last migration North, gumption came North with me and eventually to Oklahoma. And to that extent allowed my company to be part of the Oklahoma team that introduced the then unknown Stairmaster Exercise System to the world.

Years later, my involvement with Stairmaster caught the attention of Dr. Fitz Hill, who convinced me if I could sell Stairmasters that no one wanted, surely, I could sell coffee. The rest is history; we became partners, and I became the president and CEO of African Bean Company LLC. Just as with Stairmaster, I knew nothing about coffee, but I learned at the Ice House that learning more is living life.

African Bean Company is a great story of unselfish leadership and the diversification of the coffee supply chain. This business has taught me more than imagined. The journey is long between the Beans of Rwanda and your cup of Java. Aligned with an incredible international supply chain—our beans are sourced from the country of Rwanda. Our company is self-funded, which has its restrictions, but we are creative and innovative. Uncle Cleve had to be…owning the only Ice House in a strictly segregated community. I packed his mindset in my small suitcase more than 40 years ago, and it continues to serve me well.

One of our entrepreneurial stories is having the opportunity to provide our coffee on a regular basis to Virgin Islanders for their growing retail coffee businesses. And not to forget BMW, who chooses to use our coffee each year at their North American Headquarters when they host their national supply diversity conference. Our Roots Java brand has become their brew of choice. One of our well-kept secrets is that we value hard work and keep our word to our growing customer base. We are moving out of the start-up phase with great hope for the future.

My advice to entrepreneurs about succeeding in their businesses and in life are five strategic tips that we share globally:

  1. Embrace inquisitiveness
  2. Accelerate your imagination
  3. Question your present reality
  4. Choose the right mindset
  5. 5. Ensure the presence of RAI in all you do: Respect, Affirmation & Inclusion

My greatest dream will be the day when no one is surprised that we exist.

I want every young African American to fully understand that they are endowed with the qualities that are essential for global success. Uncle Cleve could only go so far…but he left me the blueprint to go further. In 2010, Uncle Cleve became a book that is now on nearly every continent and was the subject of my talk at an international innovation conference held in the Assembly Hall of the United Nations. The book to clearly understand that the impossible is possible is, Who Owns the Ice House? Read the story while drinking your cup of Roots Java Coffee…the taste unforgettable.”

Source: Black PR Wire

Diversity as a Competitive Advantage

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A collage of multi-colored crayons

By Jawn Lam, Ed.D. and Le Anne Harper

You may have heard this adage: “Problems can’t be solved by using the same kind of thinking that created them.” When we apply this principle to organizational workforce planning, it means a perpetual stream of fresh perspectives is an absolute must if businesses want to stay agile in a dynamic market. Accordingly, talent management strategies should proactively seek diverse perspectives. This concept intuitively feels right, however, it isn’t always easily accomplished. Let’s take a deeper dive into the business case for diversity to understand why attracting and inspiring new perspectives is a true competitive advantage in a competitive marketplace.

Contention Can Be a Good Thing
A study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Stanford showed that heterogeneous groups generate more ideas than their homogeneous counterparts do. But the upside doesn’t stop there. Creativity is only one advantage of a diverse team. The researchers found the two types of groups tackled problems differently, not only with the number of proposed ideas for final implementation but also in their approach to the initial analysis process.

Sure, a group of like-minded individuals can work more economically and produce deliverables more quickly than a motley crew can. When you and your colleagues are synchronized in your work style and thinking patterns, it’s easier to distribute workloads and trust the outcome will be as you expect. Familiarity has benefits. It reduces stress and puts everyone at ease. But there’s a tradeoff to that amiability.

Among groups of like-minded individuals, the study identified the following common behavioral pattern. When someone has an idea (on how to approach the analysis or solve the problem), everyone else quickly agrees. No one else questions. There is little, if any, contention. And if there is no contention, there can be no synthesis. And without the synthesis of thoughts, there will only ever be one perspective. Innovation cannot grow in that type of infertile ground.

Authentic Innovation
Collaborating with people who have similar values, priorities, and perspectives will reduce cognitive friction in our workflow. It’s much easier to interface with an agreeable clique. There are appropriate times for those types of monolithic groups. When speed and efficiency are of paramount importance, such as times of crisis, you want a well-trained team that operates like a deployed special forces unit.

Typically, the introduction of new members into a group jostles the dynamic, making working in a diverse group more cognitively expensive. The costs come in the form of the lag and debate that emerge as interpretations and interests are tested and argued as a result of this divergent thinking. The natural reaction to the dissonance felt in polarized settings is to raise shields and adopt a stance of self-preservation. However, over time, the interactions will find a steady state as long as we take a step back from the intensity of emotionally uncomfortable scenarios. We can then reap the benefits of heterogeneous groups: robust ideation, more authentic social connection, and innovation.

There is a misconception that new members are the fountain of fresh perspectives for a stale group, but the researchers discovered this is not always the case. Still, while new members may not be the sole source of novel ideas, they are often the catalyst that unlocks everyone else’s stagnant creative juices.

The Collective vs. The Individual
Knowing this, let’s embrace the value of our differences and exploit their advantages for our collective benefit rather than conforming to existing corporate norms. Magic happens when we all accept that there is not a single person in the organization (no matter how smart or how high in the org chart) who has a monopoly on truth or genius. Once we accept that no one individual will ever be as good as the collective “us”, then we can level up our organizational capabilities.

Companies that want to win the race aren’t leaving this to chance. They’re engaging external experts to facilitate diversity transformations, including educating the C-suite and gaining buy-in, training and empowering line managers and their HR partners to drive cultural change. In our in-house work building D&I programs in corporate America and external consulting, we’ve seen companies make deep and meaningful commitments to diversity and inclusion that extend well beyond legal compliance and positive PR. Some companies are creating D&I programs from scratch and others are creating headcount to ensure company-wide, ongoing diversity inculcation.

Many of our clients realize the practical value of this diversity work and engage us strategically to advance their internal efforts. In recent years, entertainment companies have come under fire for inaccurate casting choices (aka whitewashing) and stereotypical, derogatory depictions of various minority groups. They leveraged our expertise to identify and introduce them to diverse creative professionals from under-represented talent pools who could add authentic first-person legitimacy to their narratives. In less than 3 months we found more than one hundred film, television, and digital creatives who represented new possibilities for one studio client—LGBTQ, female, LatinX, and African American perspectives. With a bold, but simple, commitment, an exclusive hiring legacy was disrupted, horizons were broadened, and the studio’s trajectory changed for the better.

Tangible Benefits
This studio’s leadership recognized that far beyond diversity being just a “politically correct” value to embrace, this was an investment in tangible revenue opportunities. According to the MPAA’s 2018 report, per capita movie attendance in 2017 was highest among Latinx and Asian audiences. At the time, the highest-grossing superhero movie ever was Black Panther; this record-setting film, with a predominantly black cast, cost approximately $200 million to make and grossed more than $1.3 billion to date. Further validating the viewing audience’s appetite for diverse perspectives, Frozen II, Disney’s animated sequel featuring two female leads, has grossed more than $1.2B in the months since its release.

Well trained leaders and industry experts know how to draw out the mixed experiences of each individual on the team to everyone’s advantage. Helping each person understand where everyone else is coming from requires more time and patience, but the ROI is well worth it. Companies are finally capitalizing on the profound financial and business benefits offered by well-managed diversity efforts.

Leveraging Your Diversity
Left unmanaged, differences in education level, economic status, gender, race, cultural background, upbringing, personal value systems, and a variety of other factors can become reasons for division or excuses to maintain the status quo. However, with the right internal framework, organizational awareness, and leadership support, those diversity dimensions can instead become compelling competitive advantages that lead to greater organizational performance.
If you’re ready to take a closer look at how effectively you’re leveraging diversity as a competitive advantage, here are some questions for you to consider:
● Legal compliance is the price of admission for companies to stay in the game. What does  your company do above and beyond what’s mandatory to enable and inspire new ideas  and drive innovation?
● If you assess each business unit in your organization, how balanced and varied is the mix  of perspectives? What can you do to shape your line manager’s practices, beliefs, and  comfort levels around diversity to ensure maximum performance and contribution of  everyone on the team?
● How well-equipped are your leaders to identify, attract, and retain diverse and under- represented talent?
● Do your brand and marketing efforts convey a commitment to inclusive hiring?
● What existing internal resources, external advisors, and best practices can you leverage to  evolve your company’s diversity efforts and ensure long-term viability and competitive  advantage?

Jawn Lam is an organizational effectiveness consultant with expertise in change management and leadership development who helps companies strengthen their vulnerable corporate governance policies. His professional passion is helping leaders navigate enterprise politics, obtain legitimate authority, and sustain organizational influence which he does as Principal Strategist at DurableLeadership.com.

Le Anne Harper leads the Diversity & Inclusion practice at Katalyst Group, a talent advisory firm that finds unicorns and purple squirrels for industry-leading companies like The Gap, Samsung, Nike, and Sony. She is a talent consultant and diversity evangelist who has spent 20 years helping companies transform and thrive by recruiting and cultivating the world’s best talent.

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