Through the Michigan Chamber’s DE&I events, we have come across an array of valuable resources and leaders who are building inclusive businesses and organizations and who have shared their successes, challenges, best practices, and lessons learned.
That’s why we’re excited to showcase the work of members through a new quarterly series focused on this DE&I space. Our inaugural edition features the Grand Rapids Chamber (GRC), a leader in building a welcoming, diverse and inclusive West Michigan.
Attah Obande, GRC’s vice president of business & talent development, shares more about their mission and work.
Two of the biggest takeaways Obande says he’s gained from formulating the GR Chamber’s programs include paying attention to the regional landscape and carving out consistency.
“We’re not getting any less diverse,” Obande said in reference to Grand Rapids. While Grand Rapids is an energized city on the move and grow for business and various industries, it also has had its share of challenges representing a wide range of ethnicities. Paying attention with program offerings goes a long way in building regional rapport and attentiveness, he noted.
Obande noted that it wasn’t uncommon for DE&I programs to have fluctuated around 2020 and then struggle in subsequent years. A lack of consistent offerings or trainings, such as unconscious biases, can inaccurately promote that DE&I has a time limit or expiration date. “[DE&I] should not be ebbing and flowing with crises. But rather showing up with consistent education opportunities. That is huge step to recognizing the ongoing value of DE&I.”
Obande also shared that feelings of exclusion can be equal to that of physical pain and dehibilating in the workforce, reducing an employee’s performance by 30%. The GR Chamber works to maintain a growth mindset by asseing team make up and individual indentities and how each person can bring their best selves to work. When an organization is committed to better understanding its employees –whether through meetings, one-on-ones, trainings or more – gaps of misunderstanding and exclusion decrease, improving relationships and company morale. Obande emphasized that DE&I can act as a cornerstone to company success.
So once a company has dedicated itself to DE&I consistency and individual inclusion, how does it effectively listen? One example Obande said the GR Chamber utiltizes is their Mosaic Council to weigh in on Board topics, making sure that diverse voices can contribute feedback. “We want to make sure all voices are heard as we work to ensure a thriving and prosperous community for all.”
While DE&I implementation can seem daunting, it boils down to understanding others better. “Continue to keep a finger on the pulse,” Obande said in closing. “Lean into data and pull back the curtain to analyze blind spots.” He also underscored that this isn’t overnight process, nor will it be without challenges, but the only springboard DE&I needs is earnestness.