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DEI in the New Normal

The world will certainly be a different place after 2020.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and a racial justice movement sweeping the nation and beyond, people everywhere are reexamining how they live, act, and work. It's up to us whether that new world is for the better. One key way we could do that is by building diversity, equity and inclusion into the foundation of our workplaces—especially when workers eventually return to the office.

Groups Today talked about what to expect with speaker and educator Norm Hull, who said workplaces that have gone remote will have a lot to reckon with when people return to the office, as conversations around these difficult—and at times controversial—topics are bound to take place. COVID-19 and political unrest have affected everyone differently, and people have strong opinions. If you're a leader, it's up to you to help direct the conversation.

"It isn't going to be easy, no matter what," said Norm, who prefers using his first name. "Ultimately, you have to tell your people where you want to end up and what you're trying to create. And how you get there is going to be the challenge. But if we all agree, this is where we want to get to, then we can suggest different ways and be a participant."

While there may be temptation to point fingers at other companies or colleagues who have made mistakes during this time, the best thing you can do to actually help is look inward. "Everyone wants the world to be better, but we're part of that world," Norm said.

"The place we can start and have the most effect immediately is where we are right now."

That means looking at your own company and evaluating its diversity. If everyone looks the same, fixing that problem doesn't mean waiting until a spot opens up and hoping people of color apply—it means making connections now, so your network includes people who don't look like you.

Try new restaurants. Go to a different part of town. Get involved.

And, Norm says, if people seem a bit wary of your intentions at first, don't take it personally; they've just been burnt before. Once you make a genuine connection, you'll have a new way to see the world.

Of course, one of the best ways to expand horizons is through travel. If you're a travel operator, you have an opportunity now to help educate clients. Your new itineraries could include African American history museums, or spots where significant protests were held, or places focusing on Indigenous culture and history.

It's up to you to differentiate yourself, in the office and out.

"There are plenty of places in our country where some stuff took place here that you never knew, but let me tell you how important it was to this group of people," Norm said. "Travel operators have a chance to be the living textbooks of our history. And not just the history that's in the books, but the history that didn't make the cut, but still was impactful."

Written by Josh Veal, Contributing Writer for Groups Today.

This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of Groups Today.


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