How to Have A Diverse and Inclusive Work Environment with Veronica Appleton

In today's ‘work from home, home is work' environment, it is more important than ever to ensure we find ways to communicate and engage with employees in an inclusive way. I had the opportunity to interview Veronica Appleton for HerCsuite™ Radio. Veronica is Vice President for Talent, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for an advertising agency within the Omnicom group. She is an author, scholar practitioner and teaches at DePaul University and Northwestern University.

In this interview on HerCsuite™ Radio, Veronica shares her expertise on managing talent, how to understand their needs, their wants, how they can grow, develop and can create a community in the organizations where they work, even while working virtually from their homes. Here is the discussion on how to create a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Q: One of the hardest things for everyone today is not having one-on-one conversations in person. What have you found in both your roles of being in the academic world and at work to bridge the gap of not being able to communicate in person?

A: From my own personal perspective, people really enjoy the connectivity that you have with someone in person. It's all the nonverbal cues that you may see while talking to someone. The very personable interaction has been missing and today, there's a screen in front of us.

We need to look at how we champion belonging and being in a community, which I believe is still a work in progress for many organizations. The one thing that is very constant, is the need for the personal touch. Students, employees and people in general want it. A way to mitigate that, is to set up at least a one-on-one once a week with someone that you may know, and also someone you don't know. Reach out, hop on the phone. Many people are thinking of very creative ways to engage and build community, which shows their talents.

Q: I am so glad you mentioned being creative-it is something we are doing at HerCsuite™ with immersive events. Engaging people in unique ways is important and there is a staggering number of people leaving their jobs. What have you experienced with the Great Resignation?

A: The Great Resignation is a very healthy and progressive moment for people in general and also a work in progress for many organizations. It gives companies an opportunity to get creative in how they retain their employees. Major corporations have said, ‘we're going to be gearing up to go back into the office, how do we reinvigorate our people?'

If people aren't growing and they've been working in their homes for a little over a year and a half, I expect that the numbers would be really high on resignations and acceptances. They talk about resignations, but they don't talk about the acceptance rate. Accepting a new role is a big deal in someone's life. Companies may be losing people, but they're gaining so much more in return. They're gaining the people that have decided to stay.

Q: Women struggle sometimes with the belief that their employer knows the value of their work. What would you say to someone who decided to stay at their job and wants to leverage the moment?

A: When you wait for people to recognize you, you'll be waiting a long time. When you wait for people to pay you what you deserve, you'll be waiting a long time. Send a note to your manager and ask for what you want. If your manager doesn't give you what you want, you need to figure out a plan for the next three months of what you want and desire.

When a recruiter reaches out, often people say no right away. Instead, take the interview. Interviewing is a muscle and you if you haven't interviewed in awhile, you probably need to flex your muscle. Of course, you want to put loyalty and trust into where you work, but you also need to have trust and loyalty to yourself.

Q: You and I were on a panel together discussing Employee Resource Groups (ERG)s for Women's Equality Day. What would you say to someone who wants to engage more in ERGs at their company?

A: There are many ways to get involved. You don't always have to go to your HR or your talent teams. You can directly join a group by looking at your intranet within your organization that lists all of the contact details. Check all the social media accounts, see who the key players are associated with the employee resource groups, and reach out to them personally. Share that you are looking for something to do in their group.

Q: We've talked about inclusion from the employee's perspective, what can organizations do to be more diverse and inclusive? It would also pay dividends on retention as well.

A: I've studied communication for 15 years and it is one of the single most important things on this planet. Being able to communicate and communicating inclusively, whether that's verbal or nonverbal, there are many ways to do that. It could be a leader that has been struggling to have a conversation with some of their folks on their team and not exactly knowing how to connect.

In your one-on-ones ask personal questions: How's your family. How are you doing? It is not that you're prying or digging to use it against your team in the future, that's never a thought. It's more about getting closer to understand what their true needs are.

Work is home and home is work and the needs are very different. You could have a father or a mother that needs additional time to go pick up their kids in the afternoon. Alert the team and let them know ‘we're going to be making some adjustments, anyone that needs some more space in the afternoon, please just let me know'. I think that's how a leader could champion their team.

Leaning in, in many ways, is really getting to know that person and knowing how to help them in the way that they need to be helped and champion them the way that they need to be championed. – Veronica Appleton

Q: Veronica, thank you so much for this interview today! If people want to learn more about you, where should they go?

A: People can find me at Veronica

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Natalie Benamou
Founder, CEO 
Herpower2 Lead | HerCsuite™ Platform | HerCsuite™ Radio Podcast Host 

Natalie founded Herpower2 Lead to create products that empower women to make lasting impacts today and into the future. She takes a ‘serve first’ approach to life and has applied this principle throughout her career, serving in leadership positions in business as well as non-profit organizations.

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