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Strive For DEI



Facilities managers can lead in implementing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at their companies.


By Jeremiah Igess


Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts have become a focal point for businesses for decades, with increasing momentum in the last few years — including within the facilities management industry. This aim to increase workplace diversity takes many forms from employee recruitment and retention to business acquisition — all of which help establish a positive company reputation.


ConnexFM is a champion of DEI efforts, hosting numerous education sessions at its conferences to help members better define diversity and inclusion in the facilities management sector. But the real challenge for FMs begins once they leave the event, with the onus now on them to assist efforts at their own companies. The most-asked question after these sessions inevitably is: How can I take what I learned here and be a steward of DEI efforts back home?


DEI Brings Benefits


Before exploring how to implement a DEI program in your own workplace, it’s important to understand the potential benefits that diversity brings the FM industry.

Ciara Lilly, Diversified Maintenance
Ciara Lilly, Diversified Maintenance

Ciara Lilly, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Diversified Maintenance, said that a company focusing on DEI would attract a specific type of employee — an absolute must for the facilities industry needing fresh faces and ideas. “Within facilities management, we're all thinking about how we can make this industry more glorious and attractive to those that are entering the workforce now,” she said. “And with that, many studies suggest that diversity and inclusion — specifically how diverse and inclusive our workplaces are — rank high on the scale of importance for those seeking opportunity.”

Sherry Darden, DEI Expert and Speaker
Sherry Darden, DEI Expert and Speaker

Sherry Darden, a DEI Expert and Speaker, agreed with Lilly’s assessment. “Having an inclusive environment is making sure that you provide everyone what I like to call ‘experiential expertise,’” she said. This inclusive environment helps a company foster innovation, deeper collaboration and creativity that will help the business drive value and enhance productivity.


Statistics show that companies that focus on DEI produce better results. A Research and Markets report indicated that teams that value and promote inclusivity are 35% more productive. And even more directly related to the facilities management industry, a report from Boston Consulting Group stated that companies with a strong supplier diversity focus see 30% higher procurement ROI. (For more on the value of successful supplier diversity programs, read Connexus’ article “Stronger Supply Chains.”)


Planning and Resources


To implement diversity and inclusion initiatives, organizations must first identify what needs to be addressed or changed. “You have to name it,” Darden said. “What is needed to make inclusivity a reality? Is the focus internal with coworkers, or is it external with customers and funding?”


Once an organization recognizes its issues, the next steps will be to outline a strategic plan that will hold everyone accountable for executing the DEI programs and ensure a way to measure the effectiveness of the programs long term. “Create a course for your organization,” Darden said. “Be honest about where you are and where you want to be. Decide on your “why” of DEI. It’s not for the faint of heart; be prepared to have uncomfortable conversations.”


To help accomplish this, companies should also identify a budget for the programs. This is a vital step because for DEI programs and initiatives to flourish, there must be resources and funding to help support them.


There are several resources that facilities professionals can use to supplement the growth of diversity at their companies.


“I would encourage facilities professionals to utilize the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM),” Lilly said. “SHRM is doing a lot of work around diversity and inclusion, and they have some resources you can access to give you the blueprint of creating your diversity and inclusion program.”


Another source professionals can use is CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, a community of business leaders and professionals that have come together to share best practices related to diversity and inclusion. The group offers discussion guides, quizzes, videos and articles to help those in search of DEI assistance.


ConnexFM Provides Opportunities


ConnexFM’s DEI Committee has been working to help promote diversity and inclusion in the FM industry. “One of the greatest gifts ConnexFM has given us is the space to have the conversation about how important DEI is for our companies,” Lilly said. “They help create an opportunity for us to congregate and start working on developing diversity and inclusion programs inside our companies.”


Darden credited ConnexFM CEO Bill Yanek for understanding that there was a need within the industry to be having these conversations. “Bill acknowledged in 2020 that there was a gap in what was being done to address and educate members on diversity and inclusion,” she said. “He responded by starting the conversation, forming the DEI Committee and offering fireside chats, webinars and dedicating Daily Grind episodes to give a 360-degree view of DEI, including race, sex, age, interabilities, military status and religion.”


The DEI Committee already has a series of great resources for interested members and has plans to continue further promoting the importance of diversity and inclusion.


Having these resources, funding and safe spaces for honest conversations will result in more diverse and inclusive workplaces that everyone can benefit from. “This idea of greater opportunities for innovation, creativity and collaboration is an incredible value that facilities professionals and their companies should be striving to achieve,” Lilly said.


Learn more about how to establish a supplier diversity program from Ciara Lilly's education session at this April's ConnexFM National Conference.

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