Diversity, equity and inclusion practices can help businesses succeed
Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace have been increasingly hot topics for some time now. There is no denying that companies and employees are seeing increased benefits from bringing DEI into their workspace. Studies show that not only does it make business sense but also plays an important role in our society, allowing us to build greater understanding of one another’s backgrounds and cultures.
Yet, despite the benefits of DEI in all its forms — gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, advancement, etc. — it is still a challenge for many organizations to embrace this concept fully. Now that an increasing number of states where cannabis is legal also include legislative and regulatory mandates for diversity and equity, it is important for operators to understand the “why” behind diversity and also how they can better integrate these programs into their business plans.
DEI is good for businesses because it brings different ideas and perspectives to the table, which can help companies stay ahead of their competitors. Successful efforts in DEI help create a workforce full of unique talents that enables them to work better together as well as individually. DEI programming also helps create a work environment that is inclusive and enables everyone to feel welcomed, valued and appreciated for their unique talents.
These are benefits to any employer, but particularly those entering the cannabis space. A new industry means a new opportunity for everyone, including the operators, employees, their communities and beyond. Whereas the historical prohibition of cannabis has had a disproportionately negative effect on people and communities of color that has led to the intergenerational suppression of wealth, good health and longevity, this new industry offers a chance to address and correct those harms. Ensuring participation in the industry from those disproportionately impacted people and communities can greatly support diversity, equity and inclusion for cannabis industry operators. At a minimum, operators who put in the work to create substantial, meaningful DEI initiatives will ensure their compliance with their state licensing authorities. Those who fully embrace DEI as part of their overall mission, vision, values and goals will positively change the lives of those they serve for years to come.
Beyond having diversity in the workplace, DEI is about creating a culture where everyone feels like they belong and has an opportunity to participate, contribute and succeed. Diversity benefits businesses in several ways:
– Increases creativity: A diverse workforce can come up with more innovative ideas for products, services, marketing campaigns, etc.
– Improves decision-making: A variety of viewpoints means there will be differing opinions on different topics.
– Reduces turnover rates: When employees feel valued and respected, they’re less likely to leave.
– Provides new perspectives on problems: When everyone thinks alike, it can be hard to solve difficult issues.
These issues all impact a company’s bottom line. Therefore, there is a direct line from DEI to a company’s overall value that should not be ignored.
The first step in planning for diversity programs is to appoint a senior level executive to be responsible for the creation, implementation and maintenance of your DEI initiatives. This creates accountability and ensures the intent behind your DEI ethos is realized. Without senior level support and overall buy-in from company leadership, any DEI plan is destined to fail.
The next step is assessing your organization’s current policies, procedures and attitudes toward DEI. Completing an assessment of your workforce, clients and suppliers or vendors will also give you valuable insight into areas of under- or over-representation. A careful and thoughtful analysis will allow you to create meaningful diversity goals that align with your business’ mission, vision, values and goals.
Next, you’ll want think about developing an environment in which your employees feel included, valued and respected. To create an inclusive space, it’s important to look at the big picture and not focus on a single department. For example, if your organization is dominated by people who are 30 and older, how can you ensure you’re reaching people in different generations? Are your job postings gender-neutral and free from language that favors or dissuades certain demographics from applying for a job with you? Do you have gender-neutral changing rooms or bathrooms? Do you have a compensation philosophy? Is your company compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act? Answering these questions now can help you avoid poor employee relations, high turnover rates and possibly even litigation later down the line.
Compliance with federal, state and local laws should be the baseline from which you build your programming. Beyond that, operating in the cannabis space means interacting with and employing a largely millennial workforce, which has been shown to care very deeply about issues encompassed by DEI. It is imperative that employers in this space create environments in which their employees can thrive so that the employer too can thrive.