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Creating a Culture of Belonging for Day of Understanding

Leslie Drish, Manager of Diversity & Inclusion

When people ask me what I do for a living, I let them know that I’m a diversity and inclusion practitioner. Most of the time, people don’t have a clue what that means, so when they ask me what my job entails, I tell them I teach people how to be nice. Sometimes, even when we don’t mean it, we aren’t as nice or supportive as we can be. As humans, we make rash judgements and don’t always take the time to get to know someone and understand what inspires them before categorizing them or labeling them. At Tyson Foods, I work with our team members to build bridges between perspectives, gain more insight into people’s motivations, and create a culture of belonging.

Two years ago, when I joined Tyson Foods, I was amazed at how open and friendly our team members are. Collaboration is at the core of our business, whether it’s making sure we’re meeting our customers’ needs, working across business units to get things done, or stepping in to stay late if it means helping our team members meet our collective goals. It’s just part of who we are.

National Day of Understanding

But, with collaboration there can be some challenges. Not everyone has the same approach to a problem. Not everyone works in the same way. People must recognize their differences, be prepared to be uncomfortable, and challenge previously held beliefs. When you work with people who have different perspectives or experiences, you must be open to learning their viewpoints—that’s when true collaboration happens. Common understanding leads to innovation.

Because getting to the heart of innovation is essential to our growth, Tyson Foods is committed to Inclusion and Diversity. When we talk about this, we have some concrete definitions in mind:

Inclusion creates an atmosphere in which all people feel valued and empowered and have access to the same opportunities.

Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ and it encompasses characteristics that make one individual or group different from another.

I like to say – diversity is inviting everyone over to dinner. Inclusion is asking THEM what they want to eat.

To demonstrate our commitment to inclusion, we have signed the CEO for Diversity and Inclusion Action pledge. This means we are committed to having some challenging conversations that will ultimately lead to greater understanding.

Since signing the pledge:

  • We have realigned our Business Resource groups to make them reflective of our inclusive culture, including starting a group that focuses on people with disabilities.
  • Our Women’s Business Resource group has created mentoring circles as part of a targeted development program.
  • We have benchmarked where we are as a company with our inclusion and diversity practices by participating in several external surveys.
  • We have developed policies and practices that are more inclusive of people who identify as LGBTQ.

In the next few months, we are going to take even bolder steps in creating a more inclusive environment. We’ll be hosting an all-company event that will focus on what our customers are doing in the inclusion and diversity space. We’ll be recognizing and hosting events for International Women’s Day and Memorial Day, and teaching our team members how to be allies. We’ll be facilitating trainings on unconscious bias and dimensions of diversity. We’ll be expanding our development programs to provide more diverse opportunities for our team members.

National Day of Understanding - diversity

Everyone has a role in creating an atmosphere of understanding, and while it does require some effort, there are things that you can do to be a little more inclusive every day:

  • Invite a person you’ve never had a personal conversation with out to breakfast or coffee.
  • Watch a TV show that’s geared toward a type of person who is a little different from you or your friends.
  • Use inclusive language. Instead of saying “Hey guys!” lead with “Hi everyone.”
  • Be a more active listener – speak to understand, not be understood.
  • Use people’s names when you talk to them.
  • Smile more.

Learn more about Inclusion and Diversity at Tyson Foods, and check out our targeted Business Resource groups that help team members feel more included and understood.

Published December 7, 2018.

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