The Beauty of Diversity in the Workplace
Is Much More than Skin Deep


Workplace diversity no longer merely denotes the color of one’s skin in the workplace, but rather implies the range of differences belonging to the people of an organization. Differences in race, gender, ethnicity, age, education, place of birth, tenure, position within the organization, religion, family background, sexual orientation, cognitive style, and more affect how individuals perceive themselves and others. When individuals come together on a team, these perceptions influence interactions and propose a challenge to organizational communications, performance, and ability to adapt to change.

While one might assume that a homogeneous team would consistently outperform one filled with diversity, it is quite the opposite. In fact, McKinsey & Company found in their 2015 Diversity Matters project that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median, and the companies in the top quartile for racial (and) ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely.”

When workplaces develop and implement diversity and inclusion plans, they find themselves increasingly adaptable problem solvers in areas that run the gamut from supply chain to financial management. Staff capable of communicating in multiple languages and representing a breadth of experiences can better serve customers on multiple continents. In turn, this access offers employees opportunities for training and promotion in global business centers. A variety of viewpoints, experiences, and skillsets tackle strategic issues and develop optimal solutions faster. Conflict resolution improves when employees acknowledge each other’s diversity and focus on common production and quality goals. A company’s reputation is enhanced when outsiders acknowledge and applaud its dedication to diversity practices.

It becomes a place sought out for employment by top talent too. Bronson Healthcare is such a place in Southwest Michigan. Its diversity practices contribute to its position as one of the region’s largest healthcare providers with over 8,800 employees delivering services at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Bronson Battle Creek Hospital, Paw Paw’s Bronson Lakeview Hospital, Bronson South Haven Hospital, and 90 additional provider practices. The 269 MAGAZINE team connected with Beth Washington, Bronson’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, to dive deeper into the provider’s programs.

How does Bronson Healthcare define diversity?
Diversity is what makes each of us unique and can mean something different to everyone. Keeping this in mind helps us deliver on our mission that together—this group of 8.800 employees—we are here to advance the health of our community. We honor diversity as a fact and work to be inclusive. Otherwise, we’ll never meet our vision: An exceptional healthcare experience for every person, every time.

What role does diversity play in your recruitment?
We’re always looking to recruit, retain, support, and promote a diverse workforce—diverse meaning not only racially and ethnically, but in thoughts, ideas, and experiences. The more lenses and the more diverse perspectives a team has, the more innovative it is. We want to recognize everyone’s differences and the power they bring.

Not only do you employ a diverse workforce, but so too are your customers.
We service whoever comes to our door, so our language translation and interpretation tools are important. We see the value of bilingual staff members who go through a qualifying process to provide live interpretation services, partner with several local agencies that offer onsite interpreters, and engage a remote video and telephonic service to ensure we have 24-hour, multi-lingual capabilities. We can meet the need of probably close to 200 different languages via video or voice.

How are cultural observances and celebrations honored?
We offer personal time off rather than specific holiday observances. Because of what we do, we are open 365 day a year; provider practices close on days that make sense. Our people can use their time as they wish.

How does your Diversity and Inclusion Council engage employees in things they are passionate about?
Members of the council lead internal Inclusion Teams that celebrate one aspect of our diversity. For example, teams focus on cultural awareness and appreciation, the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, veterans’ recognition, Pride events, and ways people celebrate important holidays in their ethnic groups around the world. Employees who volunteer to help on these teams are called “Friends of the Council.”

Some companies have summer BBQs, Bronson has block parties?
The Bronson Human Resources department hosts catered summer celebrations at all our hospital locations; the Diversity & Inclusion Council hosts the block parties at each of these locations too. Block parties include booths where employees share unique things about themselves. We had one woman share her enthusiasm for roller derby, while another performed baby wrappings. One group offered insight into the Islam religion, and Indian culture was the message of another group. Last year, we had 13 booths in Kalamazoo, another seven in Battle Creek, five in Paw Paw, and three in South Haven. We create awareness about how unique our employees are.

We also have an internal program which assists those who want to switch careers, yet need to brush up on math and English skills before going back to, let’s say, community college. Employees apply to participate and those selected are released from work and paid for time spent in class. We have quite a few employees who start, for example, in food service and move up into a higher paying job because they have taken advantage of the program.

As part of the Michigan Minority Supplier Diversity Council, we seek out minority-owned businesses as suppliers. Many minority business owners have found unique ways to be competitive in their markets that help us lower our costs as well. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that ultimately delivers value to the communities we serve.

And then there are ways for employees to get involved with the Bronson Health Foundation which aims to improve overall health status by promoting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Employees can receive four hours of paid time off for the volunteer work they do in the community.

Diversity truly seems to be woven into all aspects of Bronson.
The value of diversity and the behaviors of inclusion are embedded into our Standards for Excellence. We believe in respecting all people, in building trust and partnerships, promoting a healthy workplace, and raising the bar. You can’t raise the bar if you’re not including a variety of people on your team. We live our values, and because all decisions for our workforce are made locally, it makes it easier to meet the needs of our community. Together, we advance the health of our communities.

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