Making a more diverse and inclusive company is not a matter of following a formula. It takes consistent, long-term commitment. It means always looking for areas where we can improve our efforts and try new things. These were just a few of the big ideas advanced by the guests on our recent panel discussion on diversity and inclusion. The conversation ranged from ongoing efforts at Duke Realty to those in the field of commercial real estate overall.
Our panelists for the conversation were Collete English Dixon, executive director of the Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate at Roosevelt University; Norman K. Jenkins, president of Capstone Development and current member of the Duke Realty board of directors; and Thomas J. Baltimore, president, chair, and CEO of Park Hotels and Resorts and a former member of the Duke Realty board of directors.
Panel moderator and Duke Realty chair and CEO Jim Connor asked the panelists for their perspectives on a number of issues affecting diversity and inclusion efforts. How do we more effectively recruit and hire a more inclusive workforce? How do we create a culture and environment that encourages minority associates to stay and grow with the company? And how do we build a supplier diversity program that more broadly includes minority-owned businesses?
When it comes to hiring and recruiting, think more broadly, said Norman Jenkins. “If you look in the same places you always look, you’re going to yield the same results.” Use different recruiters, recruit outside the industry, look at historically black colleges and universities, and make sure you’re recruiting talent at all levels of the organization. “We have to focus on entry level, middle management, and senior management,” Jenkins said. “Those new folks you’re bringing in can see somebody who looks like them and that they can connect with, and the likelihood of keeping them for a long, long time is increased significantly.”
A transparent and supportive company culture can also help diverse talent feel more welcome, said Collete English Dixon. “The comfort that people of color will have in being part of the Duke Realty organization, or any organization, comes from having a culture that is open and engaged and supportive of the diversity of its talent and its workforce,” Dixon said. “It’s a culture that acknowledges it is important to be anti-racist, not just not racist. And it’s an environment where there’s an open dialogue about the challenges and opportunities that everybody has.”
Creative thinking is also key, especially if the usual approaches aren’t working as well as you’d like. When it comes to supplier diversity, Thomas Baltimore pointed out, “We hear all the same excuses: ‘We can’t find them,’ or ‘They’re not there.’” In response to these attitudes, a colleague at Baltimore’s company instituted vendor diversity days, in which contractors and subcontractors—some already in the business and others aspiring to be—gathered for working sessions on best practices and lessons learned in the industry.
“That provided an ecosystem,” Baltimore said, “We were able to take that concept and create mentor/mentee relationships that allowed us to grow and develop a next generation of these minority vendors, and many of them have gone on to do extraordinarily well.”
Finally, each panelist took time to give their perspective on being a Black person in the business community today. The stories related during our summer discussion on racial inequality have really struck a chord at Duke Realty, and our associates were eager to hear what our diversity and inclusion panelists had to share.
As Jim Connor noted in closing, it’s our hope that these insights and these perspectives will keep the conversation going and become the foundation for change.
You can watch the panel discussion below.