Diversity is a hot topic and has been for the last several years. Articles that are typically in circulation are usually diversity recruitment, metrics, triumphs and failures.
How to engage with diverse millennials.
What are the best diversity conferences for 2018.
How to build a diverse team.
How to leverage diversity within your organization.
Everything is about buy-in, right?
Have you ever thought about what your diverse men and women think? Have you ever asked them how the diversity strategy impacts them? Your answer is probably no. Most of the time when diverse groups are included, it is about plugging into their network for referrals. Besides preparing people for their next promotion, has your organization done something to enhance their self growth? Professional development and growth does not just happen in the four walls of your organization. It also happens in our communities.
Diversity conferences are more than just recruitment opportunities. It is an opportunity for diverse employees to connect with others they identify with. Having the opportunity to learn and grow by networking outside of the organization is rewarding. There are certain situations that only an Asian female or Hispanic male may encounter. Professional development seminars for Black women led by Black women speaks volume. It is important to show your diverse population understands that there is a diversity strategy in place, but also display that the organization cares about creating opportunities in and outside of the organization to gain additional growth.
Attending the National Sales Network conference in 2015 was the first time I had ever been in a large setting of Black sales professionals. Black sales professionals that are Vice Presidents, Entrepreneurs, Executive Directors and so on. It was the first time where I was able to see myself as an executive. Listening to panels of men and women of color ignited me. It was the key that I was missing within my professional growth.
Not only did I get to experience a melting pot of diversity throughout this conference, I was also able to connect and meet 9 other men and women within my organization that I had no idea even existed. At the time I was based in Atlanta. I was able to meet diverse team members from Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina and so on.
At that very moment the company expanded my reach internally. I then had partners in different regions that I could lean on for support. This is something I did not have before. I had already developed some great connections internally, but a lot of those connections were individuals who did not look like me. I now had a group of people who I could identify with.
I began to feel that I work for an organization that truly supports me and they care about my growth in and outside of the workplace. The company is not just asking me about my network or asking me how it feels to be Black in the organization. They are investing in my development, by putting me in situations that will not only benefit me as an internal employee but it will help my development as a diverse employee which is a different experience.
Fast forward to August 8, 2018. I brought 16 Black men and women to the 2018 National Sales Network Conference in New Orleans. These men and women spanned from Roanoke, VA to Albuquerque, NM. Some are in diverse offices, some are the only one. The feeling that I had watching these 16 people meet, learn and grow from each other in just three days was remarkable. They were sharing their story, best practices, achievements and failures.
This group now has an additional support system outside of the cities they work in. They have expanded their reach internally and began to make connections in the business field. This is important to us, and by us I mean minorities. When we spend hours, days, weeks, months and years working in a place we want to feel supported, valued and also empowered. Sometimes it takes outside factors to create that sense of belonging, but it is something that is significant to personal and career growth.
Employers could feel uneasy sending teams to a conference where there is no actual work to be done. This environment could captivate them to seek out what other opportunities are available or another company’s diversity strategy. Maybe they will take a few laps around the diversity career fair. Indirectly spark up a conversation over lunch with a hiring or recruiting manager. These thoughts are valid, but it should not hinder you from wanting to send your diverse team members to environments such as the National Sales Network or National Urban League.
In fact, the opposite typically happens. Employees are more engaged when they return to work. They are discovering ways to educate their teams on their conference experience. Mentor new hires. Help make recommendations for future conference attendees. Most importantly production tends to increase. They now feel supported by the company. Valued. An important piece of the puzzle.
Leaderships teams no longer have to worry about creating buy in from their diverse men and women. By shifting from focusing on what the company can benefit from to “I am listening and supporting you” changes everything. Referrals will naturally come. Attrition will lower. Experiences will be different. Partnerships will be deeper.
It does not start or stop with conferences. It is important that others understand the purpose, value and impact of such events. The last thing any employer wants is people saying “That is the Black conference”. Education and awareness is the number one priority when implementing this into your organizations environment.
Below are some notable Diversity conferences to consider:
- National Sales Network Professional Conference
- National Urban League
- National Association for Asian American Professionals
- National Association for Latino Professionals for America
- Grace Hopper
- National Black MBA Conference