Workplace diversity and inclusion not only benefits the business, but also the entire community. By eliminating the barriers to employment, companies like B Corp-certified Cascade Engineering are able to expand the quality of their internal talent pool while proving opportunities to the underserved and often overlooked members of the local population.

Best practices for inclusion

Inclusion and diversity aren’t easy. Cascade Engineering’s Kenyatta Brame and Keith Maki says their diverse employees include those who come from generational poverty or have a criminal record — employees who may otherwise struggle to find employment. Often, those in management positions are unsure how to relate to employees who come from diverse backgrounds and unfamiliar obstacles. It can create a tense work environment.

To address that issue, Cascade Engineering has social workers who work with management, as well as the employees, to assist with transitions and help everyone gain a better understanding of each other’s differences.

“You need to have an open mind,” Brame says. “Nothing is perfect.”

Other best practices for social inclusion include: creating an overall supportive culture, developing career programs to assist with job growth, encouraging advancement and setting up re-entry programs for those who have been out of the workplace for an extended period of time.

“You don’t have to agree all the time, but you do have to listen and try to understand.”

Open conversations and expectations

One of the ways to create a supportive culture is to have open dialogues with the employees and get their feedback about what is working and what isn’t. If they know that someone is listening, it helps them break down some of the barriers they face in terms of feeling included.

At the same time, the employees should know that there are expectations they must meet. The organization and the employees need to have a clear set of goals and an understanding of how to fit into the company culture.

These employees are dealing with some tough issues. Sometimes there will be difficult conversations and uncomfortable situations while creating an inclusive environment.

“You don’t have to agree all the time,” Brame says, “but you do have to listen and try to understand.”