I recently completed a four-part webinar produced by the National Inclusive Excellence Leadership Academy’s Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation. The training focused on how leaders can manage the COVID-19 public health crisis with support for diversity, equity and inclusion.
One may ask, “What does this have to do with the business community?” I believe everything.
The framework for the webinars was based on limiting unintended consequences to individuals or employees by 1) making culturally relevant decisions; 2) supporting diverse communities; 3) communicating intentionally and inclusively; and 4) digitizing inclusive excellence.
Springfield business and community leaders have stated on several occasions their intentional focus to increase diversity, address inequities, and to become a more inclusive and welcoming community. However, in many cases, business owners and community leaders may not be aware of, or know how to address, the heightened inequities that have been brought to the forefront because of COVID-19. It is important to understand the cross-cultural differences and experiences of individuals.
The Springfield community has four major subgroup populations, with one being larger (those who identify as white) than the other three major subgroups (those who identify as African American or black; Hispanic or Latino; and Asian American). All groups have many intersections, such as male, female, LGBTQ, veterans and those with disabilities.
COVID-19 has exposed nationwide structural inequities, racist practices and xenophobia (the fear or hatred of those who are perceived as foreigners, manifested by suspicion of their activities, a desire to eliminate their presence, or seen as a threat to their national, ethnic or racial identity). Some of these practices have impacts to individuals who work and live in the Springfield area.
Employers may see increased levels of discriminatory behaviors through verbal harassment, shunning or physical assault. Did you know that prior to COVID-19, the United States had an increase in hate crimes to 940 cases reported in 2019 from 784 reported cases five years earlier? According to data cited in the National Inclusive Excellence Leadership Academy webinars, worksites were the main locations for discriminative behaviors.
Rather than wait for incidents that we hear about nationally to happen in our community, there are strategies that business owners and leaders can implement now. Dr. Damon Williams, who created the webinar series, noted the environmental context of a business shapes reality that leads to governing organizational diversity logic and the strategies used to develop tactics to implement strategic diversity goals. This approach gives businesses the opportunity to define and understand their environment, and reconsider and frame how they’ll govern their organizations.
There are so many uncertainties as our community moves forward. However, business and community leaders can use proactive approaches as they reopen businesses to make sure they are not putting people who were already behind further behind.
Now, is a good time to see how businesses can help furloughed employees increase their skills and develop transferable abilities by earning industry-specific certificates or degrees. With so many online classes now, what a great way to help employees increase their job skills by furthering their education.
Francine Pratt is executive director of the Missouri College Access Network and part-time director of Prosper Springfield, a poverty reduction and postsecondary increase initiative led by Community Partnership of the Ozarks and United Way of the Ozarks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raleigh, North Carolina-based Advance Auto Parts opened its first store in Springfield; Natural Grocers made its Springfield debut; and a business owner with experience in the insurance, financial planning and digital marketing fields entered the restaurant industry.
Marc Thornsberry, a Senior Engineer at CJW, says he joined the company after working in the public sphere. He says CJW had a ton of experience working with the community, and putting their customer's and clients.
Sandra Smart, a technology and commercialization specialist, shares helpful advice and cautionary tips about the importance of tracking cash flow for new or established businesses. Smart works with tech entrepreneurs and hosts training workshops through the Missouri SBDC at Missouri State University's efactory.
Michael Smith and Chris Sawyer, COO and CEO of Next Level Solutions respectively, discuss how they keep their remote teams and offices in and out of country on the same page. Next Level Solutions was ranked #1 in the Springfield Business Journal's 2021 Dynamic Dozen.
John Oke-Thomas, architect and co-founder of minorities in business, responds to the accusation that minority businesses are only successful because of the priority they have received in lending. He says that if a business uses a loan well, it shows their worth.
Sandra Smart, a technology and commercialization specialist, shares tips for entrepreneurs who are ready to seek funding. Some of her tips apply broadly; some target technology industry businesses. Smart works with tech entrepreneurs and startups, and hosts training workshops through the Missouri SBDC at Missouri State University's efactory.
Hollie Elliott discusses common misconceptions about locating your business in a small town. She says that there are a lot of benefits that people may not consider.
Drawing on his own experience dynamically evolving his company and business model, Jim Meinsen discusses when and how you might need to draw on new technology. Jim and Debbie Meinsen are co-owners of TCI Graphics in Springfield.
John Oke-Thomas, longtime Springfield architect, discusses his philosophy on architecture. He says that future historians will be focused on the sustainability of our contemporary architecture.
Erin Hedlun, director of marketing and communications at Evangel University, says compassion is an important job skill. Hedlun says it is a component of what makes a leader.
Rachel Barks, owner of Artistree Pottery, talks about the concepting that went behind the aesthetic of the business.