Best Practice Forum: Defining Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity is a reflection of reality
— Tracy Levesque, YIKES, Inc.

On Thursday, May 19th, Forsei Consulting and SBN held the first of its Best Practice Forum series. The conversation was about Cultivating a Diverse and Inclusive Culture. The case study presented highlighted Marcus Iannozzi's company, Message Agency, a full-service interactive agency based in Philadelphia (and a B Corp). The panelists included Marc Coleman, the founder, chief executive officer, and president of The Tactile Group; Theresia Kody, a Business Service Representative at PA CareerLink® Philadelphia; and Tracy Levesque, Co-Owner & Co-Founder of YIKES, Inc. The workshop gave attendees ideas for tangible best steps and innovative best practices for their own organizations.

We started the workshop by having everyone share their definition of diversity. Mentions of “equal access”, “cultural sensitivity”, “not just compliance” created a common understanding of what we were all there to discuss. Our favorite favorite simple explanation of diversity came from Tracy of YIKES, Inc. - “a reflection of reality”.

Marcus then moved on to exploring how Message Agency actively pursues diversity and creates an  inclusive culture by saying “it’s not business, it’s personal”. Message Agency puts it people before profit to create an authentic organizational culture. Marcus narrowed down how Message Agency works to be an inclusive workplace by:

  • Being Proactive in Recruiting -  posting job listings in MeetUps (Women in Tech, etc.) and to Chambers of Commerce (African American Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
  • Being Authentic - interviewees are also evaluating you so being able to communicate your mission simply is crucial.
  • Creating Employee Growth Opportunities  - Message Agency has professional development fund that allows employees to grow their skill sets.
  • Increasing Retention - Staying thoughtful about how employees stay by creating a safe space for them to work in.
  • Get Creative! - Start a MeetUp, bring people together, hold a job fair, join a professional organization.

But even an amazing organization like Message Agency has it’s challenges and roadblocks. Marcus was honest with the audience when mentioning where the company lacks diversity - all Message Agency employees but two have degrees and five are Ivy League grads. The development team lacks overall diversity and the age of the organization leans toward 30+ years old. A few challenges they continue to face include coaching men on conscious language and creating a more accessible office. Message Agency recently hired an employee who uses a wheelchair and the experience of creating a more accessible office by rearranging desks and chairs and even getting a designated parking spot was eye-opening. Marcus said he felt a personal obligation to make sure all his employees are included and comfortable.

Thank you Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses for sponsoring the event! And a big thank you to our promotional partners: 

Mark your calendars for our next Best Practice Forum on Thursday, September 22 from 9:00-11:00a.