Article: Craig Ammon, Out & About Nashville
Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce members know that fostering diversity in the workplace strengthens companies and improves performance in a competitive marketplace. By ensuring that their work environment is welcoming for everyone—including members of the LGBT community and other minority groups—companies can attract the best talent. Their employees feel valued, comfortable just being themselves, and can focus on doing their best work. And truly embracing diversity provides a solid foundation for teamwork that brings out the best from all employees.
Many of the Nashville LGBT Chamber members featured in this column are independent business owners who make it a point to foster diversity and inclusiveness in their companies. Others are enthusiastic employees often working in human resources or volunteering with an employee resource group specifically to improve the inclusivity of corporate policies and culture. But if companies lack such influential ‘insiders’ to help them learn about and foster inclusivity, how do they get to that point?
Whether a company is proactively advancing inclusivity because they’re already aware of its benefits or doing damage control after some unfortunate event, companies need guidance from experienced diversity trainers. Diversity Builder, Inc., is an LGBT-owned Nashville company that offers training and consulting for other companies and organizations interested in fostering inclusion.
Diversity Builder facilitates programs on the topics of diversity and inclusion, harassment prevention, cultural competency, and leadership excellence. One of their founders, Rachel Stanton, says that companies that incorporate consistent inclusive training programs and advocate respect in the workplace experience valuable benefits for their employees that, in turn, improve company performance. These benefits include improved communication, enhanced employee performance and morale, higher employee retention rates, and better innovation. And, of course, more inclusive companies experience fewer human resource incidences, charges, and discrimination lawsuits.
Diversity Builder’s unique approach to instructor-led training and utilization of trainers with diverse cultural, educational and professional backgrounds help clients successfully develop a lasting culture of inclusion. Stanton said, “It is our belief that successfully integrating inclusion and developing cultural competency requires practice and implementation following the initial training sessions.”
Their trainers and consultants offer tools, resources, and support to employees and leadership. “Other trainers feel their job is done after their training class ends,” said Stanton. “Our trainers know that this is where the real work starts. A true culture shift requires team members to integrate action plans and engage accountability partners.”
But how did this company build its reputation? Diversity Builder was founded in 2003 with the mission of building a directory of inclusive businesses for members of marginalized groups seeking services. Their founders recognized a need for a national resource directory that offered professionals and health care providers who welcome all patients and clientele.
Stanton worked as the Training Manager for CIGNA Healthcare. It was clear to her in that role that there was a shortage of LGBT-welcoming healthcare providers, and they were difficult for LGBT patients to locate in smaller cities across the US. For instance, finding a welcoming dentist who would accept gay men as patients was a far more daunting task in Jackson, Mississippi than New York or Los Angeles.
Diversity Builder took on the challenge of identifying and listing LGBT-welcoming providers in every state across the nation. The diversity directory focused on inclusive healthcare providers and was the first of its kind to encompass every state in the nation.
By 2004, Diversity Builder had already begun receiving calls from businesses that had learned about the directory and didn’t qualify as an inclusive provider. They wanted information on how to improve their company’s inclusivity in the workplace, so they could be included in the directory and have the opportunity to serve those groups. As a result, Diversity Builder formed its Training and Consulting Division to equip organizations and staff with knowledge and strategies to establish a thriving inclusive workplace culture.
Diversity Builder was one of the earliest members of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Stanton recalls attending meetings back in the days when we called ourselves the Nashville Association of Professional Persons. She said that, over the years, local residents and leaders have often asked her about the Nashville LGBT Chamber and expressed interest in attending Chamber events, so she appreciates the reputation the Chamber has earned.
Stanton said her company has benefited from their membership. In fact, Diversity Builder leveraged their connections and experience gained through the Nashville chapter to become the first training company certified as a diverse supplier by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Stanton said she sees Diversity Builder’s involvement with the Chamber as their way of giving back to the LGBT community because she appreciates all the Chamber is doing to make a difference for LGBT-welcoming businesses. “Diversity Builder sees the challenges and barriers LGBT employees face in Nashville and the need for workplace education. Each local company we reach through training can be a catalyst for changing Nashville’s larger workplace culture. We commend the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce for recognizing local corporations for their commitment to diversity through their annual Excellence in Business awards.”
In 2018 Diversity Builder was selected by the LGBT Chamber Foundation and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce to receive a scholarship to scale their business through the Scale Nashville program. It is a competitive training program exclusively for Middle Tennessee’s small businesses. This six-month program assists growth-oriented small businesses grow revenue, build staff, and expand services. Being selected was a great honor for Stanton and Diversity Builder.
Stanton said, “We were thrilled to receive the support of two high-contributing organizations doing such meaningful work. Because of the increased exposure, several local companies have contacted Diversity Builder seeking training and consulting. Working on training projects in our own backyard and being part of the cultural change in Nashville is particularly rewarding.”
After participating in Scale Nashville, Diversity Builder is taking a closer look at the segments of its business that are scalable. They are incorporating blended learning solutions for their clients that allow them to reach more learners than before, while enhancing effectiveness. In doing so, they will have a broader impact furthering workplace protections and inclusiveness in Middle Tennessee and nationwide.
The Nashville LGBT Chamber received a $25,000 grant from Metro Nashville in June and a $2,500 grant from Wells Fargo in August, to grow and certify LGBT owned businesses. Each month the Chamber will highlight one of its members that already is an LGBT BE (LGBT Business Enterprise) or is in the process of getting their certification. To find out more about certification, contact the Chamber.