D&I: Making Employees Feel Valued, Seen & Heard

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People Spotlight:  DeLonzo Rhodes, Head of Employee Experience, MoMA

Diversity and how to manage diversity within the workplace have become increasingly popular topics in the field of Human Resources. From differences in race, ethnicity, age, education, gender, gender identity or physical ability, inclusion has become the strategy to leverage the different skills and ideas that a diverse workforce brings to the table. At the end of the day, employees are a company’s most important asset, they keep operations running. Addressing diversity by practicing inclusion is a business strategy to ensure that operations continue to run smoothly and a variety of voices are included, because when your employees feel heard and included, they will work harder for you. 

We had the opportunity to speak with DeLonzo Rhodes, Head of Employee Experience at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) who has an array of experience managing diversity within the workplace. DeLonzo began his career in the field of HR with the belief that developing a connection with others starts with clear and open communication. He found success working in HR early on as a result of his ability to foster genuine connections with coworkers and employees. DeLonzo’s HR experience is wide ranging considering he’s held roles in various industries such as higher education, beauty and fashion, as well as construction. The common thread throughout all of these roles is that each company had a very specific culture that he was able to successfully leverage and build a distinctive employee experience. Currently, DeLonzo cultivates experiences for a very diverse population across all the various departments at MoMA. 

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation about managing diversity with DeLonzo. We think you’ll find his passion for people to be inspiring.

  1. Invest in your people; then empower them. One of the most important things an organization can do is invest in the learning and development of their employees. When employees feel you are invested in their growth, they will inevitably feel more connected to the organization. For MoMA, creating a successful L&D strategy was key to not only engaging employees, but aligning their actions with desired organizational outcomes.  Consequently, empowering employees is a result of having strong interpersonal and corporate communication. Employees who feel like insiders and who feel like they are a part of the conversation are more likely to convey pride and enthusiasm in your brand internally and externally.  MoMA essentially shifted their communication with employees from a more frequent performance development conversation, to more all staff meetings where different departments present what they’re working on. Their goal is to keep the communication flowing and to encourage employees to be curious and ask questions.  They have visitor facing staff, which includes MoMA retail stores, so it’s important that they not only have the tools to do their jobs well, but also are empowered to go above and beyond to provide a memorable experience.
  2. Tailor D&I programs to fit the aspirations of the organization. MoMA aims to create a culture of inclusion. It’s important to first collectively define what inclusion means for your organization.  In many ways, MoMA is one of the most diverse places DeLonzo has ever worked and he says they are always challenging themselves to include all the different voices of their employees. No matter who the employee is, whether it is an executive or a security guard, employees want to feel like they matter. One thing known for sure is that a diverse and inclusive workplace is increasingly more creative and innovative. Happy employees, employees who feel valued, included, heard and seen, will take better care of your customers and your business.  
  3. Don’t overthink employee engagement. Instead, listen to your employees to get a feel for who they are and what motivates and inspires them. At MoMA, it’s important to be specific in the programs offered to employees. When first joining the organization, DeLonzo went on a listening tour to better understand the needs and desires of our employees.” An easy way to start conversations is to host focus groups on a wide variety of topics.  One of the first programs put into place was morning meditations for staff. DeLonzo found that during exhibition installations or MoMA free Friday hours, it was a stressful time for many employees. Providing a space where they could find peace and clear their minds made a world of difference for their energy and disposition. 
  4. Celebrate your differences. Part of MoMA’s mission is to, “celebrate creativity, openness, tolerance, and generosity. We aim to be an inclusive place – both onsite and online – where diverse cultural, artistic, social and political positions are welcome”. These words also offer guidance to DeLonzo as DeLonzo’s cultivates the MoMA employee experience and finds that employees generate some of their best ideas when they have a diverse cross section of employees at the table, allowing them to incorporate or consider different points of view that help to create programs and initiatives that make sense for their unique staff.  

Inclusion is the purposeful act of welcoming diversity and cultivating an environment where our differences are our strengths.  Considering the diversity of your workforce and implementing inclusion strategies into communication, learning and development and engagement initiatives is key to making employees feel heard and feel like they belong. Taking a look at your companies diversity and inclusion strategies and evaluating what is or is not working, making the necessary changes and testing new approaches will allow you to implement the best possible programs to ensure employees feel valuable at all levels.

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