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Lessons Learned From the 2018 SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference

December 20, 2018

SHRM conference: October 22-24, 2018 in Atlanta


Recently, I attended the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Diversity & Inclusion Conference in downtown Atlanta. The event spanned two and a half days of experts sharing their knowledge about Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). Or, as many experts have recommended, Inclusion and Diversity (I&D).  

As Mediacurrent’s Human Resources manager, D&I is a major part of my role and the company’s vision for the future. This conference was an opportunity for me to reflect on Mediacurrent’s own efforts toward diversity, while gaining insight from leading experts.

In this post, I’ll share some of what I learned at the event and how that ties in to Mediacurrent’s journey toward expanding our diverse workforce and fostering a sense of belonging in our culture.

Here are the top three lessons and takeaways I learned from this event:

Lesson #1- Lead with Inclusion

Putting inclusion first is the key to building a successful diversity program. Why? Because having a culture where everyone feels included will help companies reach their diversity goals. Look at it this way - if you feel like part of the team, aren’t you more likely to recommend that team to others who are like you?

Lesson #2 - Look Past Traditional Diversity

Another key point the sessions I attended focused on was the various ways people are different. Traditional diversity programs focus on race and gender. But it goes so much deeper than that. Veterans, people with disabilities, national origin - these primary dimensions of diversity are often overlooked.  Mediacurrent has employees from many walks of life, educational, and work background. One of my favorite stories to share is of one of our front-end developers who was an over-the-road truck driver. He spent evenings at truck stops, learning code on his own. We have people with high school diplomas, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and even an employee who is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program! With employees in 28 states across the country, geographic diversity is an area in which we excel.  

Lesson #3 - Tap into Internal Resources

A final take away from the conference was to tap into your current workforce to drive change in inclusion and diversity efforts. Mediacurrent has an amazing team, so why not use those resources to garner ideas to foster inclusion and improve diversity? We have created a Slack channel for inclusion to get that ball rolling.

At the end of the conference, one particular session left a lasting impression: Utilizing Your Untapped Talent for Grassroots Culture Change. Presented by Steve Garguilo, this session made the point that we should look beyond leadership to effect change and influence organizational culture — all employees play a role here. The story of Richard Montañez, a Frito-Lay custodian who rose to a top executive role after he discovered Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, was a powerful anecdote that hit home on this idea.

Too often, organizations have a narrow view on who has the power to change culture. The solutions lie buried inside hearts and minds of employees throughout your organization.

 –  Steve Garguilo, partner, Cultivate, 2018 SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference

In summary, creating a more inclusive workplace is certainly a challenge, but it’s one we’re eager to tackle. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend the SHRM conference to lay the foundation for Mediacurrent’s HR goals in the coming year (more on that to come in a follow-up post).

Whether you attended the conference or not, what are some ways your organization listens to the hearts and minds of employees?

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