Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)

What is it and why is it important to your business?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (or DE&I for short) is more than just a trendy topic from business thought leaders. An investment in DE&I and associated policies can make a huge impact on your organizational culture, profits, and community. Let’s talk about why it’s important and how you can take some steps to achieving your desired outcomes.

Let’s start with a definition. According to consulting giant McKinsey & Company, DE&I “are three closely linked values held by many organizations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.” OK, so what does that mean? And why is it important? Many studies have shown that companies that embrace DE&I practices strengthen organizations, attract top talent, and meet the needs of various customer bases. Ultimately, embracing DE&I practices will enhance an organization’s bottom line.

Concept of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality

The rental industry, in particular, can stand to improve DE&I in higher-level roles. Taking a walk around the ARA Show floor, engaging in ARA meetings and events, and going into rental stores highlights a lack of diversity. Our industry can do better. ARA has made a great start by elevating and supporting women through Women in Rental. If each rental store makes an effort to increase diversity in their workplaces, particularly in management roles, the rental industry can be a role model to other traditionally white-male-dominated industries.

Now that we know what DE&I is and why it’s important for businesses like yours, what can we do to create a policy that supports our DE&I initiatives? Consider the following suggestions as you strive toward implementing a cultural shift in your business and your community.

Hire Without Bias

The first step in creating a diverse environment is to hire diverse talent. How do we go about doing so?

  • Post job vacancies in a wide variety of platforms/forums to ensure access to a diverse pool of candidates.
  • Scrub (or hire someone to scrub) names from resumes. Implicit bias is sneaky and we may not even know that we’re unconsciously making assumptions about someone based on their name or gender.
  • Put together a diverse hiring committee.
  • Use AI to create more inclusive job descriptions. Sometimes the perfect candidates won’t apply for our vacancies because unconscious bias can manifest in job description word choice.
  • Commit to a percentage of applicants being from diverse backgrounds. Don’t proceed with the hiring process until the candidate pool reaches the desired percentage. For instance, requiring a candidate pool of 40% women leads to an almost nearly equal number of men and women in an organization.
  • Keep a ‘stack‘ (virtual or physical) of resumes of diverse talent ready to go.

Give Back

  • Sponsor a scholarship for a student from an underrepresented background at your local community college. This not only primes your hiring pipeline with an educated and appreciative applicant base, but you’re also accomplishing your goal of giving back to your community.
  • Since you’re already trying to attract talent, consider engaging in an awareness campaign to highlight the benefits of the rental industry to marginalized groups who may not have thought about rental as a career path.

Engage and Support Your Current Staff

  • As much as possible, convert roles to remote or hybrid. This improves access to diverse talent if your geographic area doesn’t have a diverse talent pool – helps your current or potential staff who may be struggling with childcare or transportation issues.
  • Regularly review demographic composition of employees and compare compensation to ensure that there are no disparities between comparable employees of different demographic groups.
  • Conduct regular performance reviews of all staff through formal channels. This includes holding everyone accountable to the same goals, milestones, and evaluations.

Keep the Good Work Going!

Now that you’ve established a strong DE&I Program (or at least become aware of the issue and want to take some of the steps we’ve discussed) here are a few ideas to keep up the good work.

  • Establish bias-related incident reporting system with an option for anonymous reporting.
  • Encourage a culture wherein everyone is comfortable speaking up with bias is observed.
  • Draft and publicize (at least amongst staff) your company’s commitment to DE&I.
  • Hold leadership accountable by linking leadership performance to specific, measurable DE&I goals.

About the Author

Kara Longmire, CMA, CSCA holds a certificate in Diversity Equity and Inclusion from the Institute of Management Accountants. Kara is the Co-President/CEO of Alert Rental Software and is passionate about DE&I, the rental industry, and how we can all do better.

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