How To Talk About Diversity In An Interview: Top Tips

Are you a multicultural job seeker, military veteran, part of the LGBT+ community or have a disability? More than ever before, the answer is likely to be “yes.” Increasingly, employers pay attention to diversity and inclusion — so candidates should know how to talk about diversity in an interview setting.

Here are our top ten tips for how to talk about diversity in an interview.

How To Talk About Diversity In An Interview

Remember to make eye contact.

Employers and hiring managers interviewing you expect a direct gaze and a firm handshake. Your interviewer will remember your confidence and self-assuredness if you maintain direct (but not totally uncomfortable) eye contact. It’s a gesture that means you are listening and you care about what’s being discussed.

Bragging vs. explaining your accomplishments

In wondering how to talk about diversity in an interview, know that it’s your time to self-promote. Although it may feel distasteful to some, it’s perfectly normal to promote your abilities and diverse background through telling specific, factual stories from your experience. Be concise and confident. Whether you’re a veteran, a person of color, a woman in a male-dominated industry, have a disability or are part of the LGBT+ community, present your diversity as an asset to the role and company you’re applying for.

Express your diversity with anecdotes.

Before the interview, come up with 4-5 examples of times you’ve done a job or task well. What was the problem or issue, what did you do, and what was the outcome? Be specific. These are your own stories. Practice recounting them, because they can serve as strong answers to pretty much all the questions an employer might ask. What sets you apart? Are you part of any cultural or otherwise identity-related groups, such as an LGBT+ alliance or a women’s group? How has your background contributed to successes in past roles?

Focus on what you can do.

If you have a disability, for instance, highlight your abilities first. If possible, consider waiting to disclose your disability until you have demonstrated your abilities. For example, one hearing-impaired candidate took the time to create strong cover letters for each application. While her phone skills proved limited, prospective employers experienced her exceptional written communication immediately.

A tip for military veterans

Veterans have learned the language of the military, which can be a barrier during an interview in the civilian world. Remember to “translate” any military ranks, acronyms, job functions or jargon into terms the hiring manager will understand.

Professional, not personal

If your cultural background places high emphasis on family relationships, resist the urge to talk about your family when asked about your greatest accomplishments. Although this is a valid aspect of your diversity and uniqueness, it may not make sense to tie it in to your own accomplishments.

Don’t be long-winded.

Avoid excess elaboration in your responses to interview questions. The interviewer probably won’t take more time for the interview than what’s scheduled. You might find yourself interrupted mid-story if you ramble.

For seasoned candidates…

If you have previously held senior-level roles, be ready to discuss why you want this particular job and why you’re not “overqualified.” Express your genuine interest in this position, the company and your qualifications.

Accentuate the positive.

You might have experienced discrimination in the past. Yes — it’s an awful feeling. But keep any lingering resentment, bitterness or negativity out of the interviews. To stay upbeat, highlight your talents and strengths that stem from your uniqueness, and always avoid gripe sessions. Don’t complain about former coworkers or supervisors; just move forward and find the silver linings!

Don’t accept less than the best.

One way to find an employer who appreciates your diverse perspective? Focus your job search on award-winning employers with track records of diversity initiatives or awards. Meet some of the best companies for diversity & inclusion at our 3rd Annual Diversity & Inclusion Career Event. Secure your spot today!

Diversity and Inclusion Career EventFor more career tips and opportunities, subscribe to our eNews digest!

The Best Companies For Diversity & Inclusion

“Diversity: The art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes

Workplaces are increasingly implementing ways to embrace the diversity of their employees. From winning national awards for their inclusion of women and minorities to providing tailored resource groups, some companies hold diversity particularly near-and-dear to their mission and values. Many of the 100 Best Arizona Companies have strong diversity and inclusion initiatives! Meet BestCompaniesAZ’s pick for the best companies for diversity and inclusion: American Express, Camden Property Trust, Cox Communications, Deloitte, General Motors, Hyatt Regency Phoenix, Medtronic, Quicken Loans, Synchrony Financial and USAA. So, get to know five of them below.

The Best Companies For Diversity & Inclusion

Cox Communications

As one of the best companies for diversity and inclusion, Cox Communications was recognized by DiversityInc on their 2017 list for Cox’s “best practices” in welcoming different skillsets, backgrounds and perspectives. Pat Esser, president of Cox Communications, serves as the chair of the National Diversity Council, a position he has held for about a decade. In 2016, Cox created a new 90-minute virtual learning experience, “Embracing a Culture of Inclusion,” and incorporated it into their training program geared toward middle manager and people leaders.

Cox also launched two new employee resource groups (ERGs) to serve employees, Black and African American and Cox Pride ERGs. These two new groups join their Women’s and Young Professionals ERGs. Furthermore, with more than 18,000 global employees, Cox’s mentoring programs also encompass cross-cultural mentor-mentee partnerships matching employees from different genders, races and ethnicities.

Hyatt Regency Phoenix

For the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, diversity and inclusion seem to be as second-nature as hospitality is to their leadership. Their Diversity Business Resource Groups (DBRGs) provide a variety of resources for colleagues who share a common cultural heritage, race, gender, age or interest. Their groups include: Asian Pacific Islanders, disABILITIES, HyPride, Black, Latinos, Veterans as well as Women. Hyatt also has a Supplier Diversity Program, enabling their appreciation for inclusion to come full-circle.

As the Hyatt site explains: “Hyatt builds and sustains a culture where everyone is embraced and valued for who they are so they can be their best. This enables Hyatt to provide authentic hospitality that cares for and also engages every guest and every colleague. We believe the more globally inclusive we are, in terms of culture, race, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, abilities, perspectives and styles of thinking, the stronger, more culturally invested and valued Hyatt will be globally as we continue to care for people to be their best.”

Hyatt Regency Phoenix also received a 100% score on the 2017 Corporate Equality Index, earning them an award for the Best Places To Work For LGBT Equality. In 2015, they were also recognized as one of the Best Workplaces For Women.

Medtronic

From advancing the careers of women at Medtronic to integrating diversity & inclusion processes into its HR scope and business development efforts, the company continually demonstrates their commitment to propelling healthcare forward in a conscious way. Medtronic also works to incorporate valuable employee feedback. Their focus is on enabling their people to do great work by embracing their authentic selves. “At Medtronic, diversity, inclusion, and engagement aren’t just buzzwords — they’re instruments of innovation… It’s a fact — when people from different cultures, genders, walks of life, and points of view come together, the quality of work improves exponentially and companies succeed and grow.” Their practices earned them a DiversityInc Top 50 Companies For Diversity award. The company also provides numerous ERGs to support local communities and cultures, including:

  • African American Resource Group
  • Asian Employee Resource Group
  • Christian Employee Resource Group
  • Disabilities Resource Group
  • Gay, Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, (LGBT) Employees and Their Allies Resource Group
  • Latino/Hispanic Resource Group
  • Muslim Employee Resource Group
  • National Black MBA
  • National Society Of Hispanic Engineers
  • Society Of Women Engineers
  • Veterans Employee Resource Group
  • Women’s Network Resource Group
  • Young Professionals Group

Synchrony Financial

A common theme with these Best Companies For Diversity & Inclusion? Employee Resource Groups. At Synchrony Financial, their Diversity Networks include an African American Network, Asian Professional Engagement Network, Hispanic Network, LGBT Partnership Network, People With Disabilities Network, Veterans Network and Women’s Network. Synchrony Financial believes that “inclusive thinking is the difference between a good idea and the best idea. Different perspectives allow us to see a problem from all angles and come up with the best solution. Diversity of thought, point of view and experiences drive creativity, innovation and make us stronger.”

The company, which is the largest provider of private-label credit cards in the United States, earned a place on Fortune’s 2016 50 Best Workplaces For Diversity as well as scored 100% on both the 2017 LGBT Corporate Equality Index and the Disability Equality Index.

USAA

With nearly 32,000 employees nationwide, USAA continues to prove that embracing employees from all backgrounds and walks of life allows them to better meet the needs of all of their members. They have earned a spot on Fortune’s 50 Best Workplaces For Diversity list, and also won a Top Companies to Work for in Arizona award for Exemplary Diversity Initiatives, among other recognitions for promoting an inclusive culture. Their tagline? “Many Faces. One Mission.”

“We recognize that employee and company performance are at their best when inclusion is embedded into the culture. Diversity and inclusion is a two-part equation. The business value of diversity is the diverse perspectives, thoughts and ideas it generates that leads to innovation and optimal performance.”

To promote diversity and inclusion as well as maximize organizational and individual potential, the company:

  • Provides diversity and inclusion skill building as well as training
  • Celebrates cultural heritage month events recognizing our rich diversity
  • Offers multiple career development and mentoring resources and tools
  • Leverages multiple feedback channels for employee ideas
  • Maintains an innovation lab and interactive tools and resources to foster inclusion as well as innovation
  • Conducts engagement surveys of all employees
  • Utilizes Diversity Business Groups to assist in turning diversity into measurable value for the association

Congratulations to these amazing organizations blazing trails to create workplaces that are diverse and inclusive, where all employees can thrive! So, does your job embrace different perspectives and backgrounds? If you’re unfulfilled in your current career, join us for our Diversity & Inclusion Career Event on November 1!

Work-Life Benefits: Vanguard Raises The Bar

When it comes to striking a happy balance between your work life and personal life, your job can either make it or break it. One company that offers excellent work-life benefits for employees is Vanguard, one of the world’s leading investment management firms.

The workplace awards Vanguard has received — including being named one of the Best Places To Work For New Dads — speak for themselves. They also spend time helping out in the community. Below, you’ll get a closer look into one of the 100 Best Arizona Companies and how Vanguard’s amazing benefits help attract and retain crew members (what Vanguard calls employees).

Work-Life Balance Benefits at Vanguard

Family-Focused

Vanguard’s benefit program supports its crew  at all stages of their lives and their careers. Some recent enhancements focus on important events that nearly all crew will experience: welcoming children, acting as a caregiver, and pursuing or continuing education.

With Vanguard’s belief that their crew members deserve best-in-class parental leave, their revised benefits allow new parents to now remain eligible for six weeks of fully paid time off. Furthermore, mothers giving birth will also be eligible for up to 16 weeks with an increased disability benefit. Vanguard crew who become parents via adoption and surrogacy will receive assistance with associated costs, in addition to being eligible for equal time off.  

Recognizing that flexibility is key to a successful transition to parenthood, parents can each take the time off in increments that enable them to be home when they determine it is most needed.

Spending Time With Loved Ones In Tough Circumstances

Additionally, Vanguard’s new family care leave policy will grant their crew members two weeks of fully paid leave per year to care for ill family members. Time away from the office is important especially in such time-sensitive circumstances, and the company’s new leave supports this model. Increased bereavement leave will also give crew five days of leave and the flexibility they need following the death of a family member.

Making Time To Stay In Shape

Another one of Vanguard’s work life balance benefits is their ShipShape program. For just $15 a month, this allows employees to utilize professionally staffed, state-of-the-art fitness centers that offer a full range of programs and services to help you stay fit. In their Scottsdale location, Vanguard’s ShipShape program offers:

  • A variety of top-of-the-line fitness equipment
  • A large group exercise room
  • A cycling room
  • Fitness assessments & weight-loss challenges
  • Exercise classes
  • Personal training

Easing The Financial Stress Of Earning Your Degree

Lastly, Vanguard has recognized that the high costs associated with higher education impact an individual’s overall well-being. One of their newly unveiled work-life benefits is designed for this. Vanguard crew within five years of their graduation date from an undergraduate or graduate degree can now take advantage of a new student loan repayment plan. It provides a $100-per-month payment to loan servicers for a six-year term.

It’s one thing to carry out important work serving individual investors, institutions, employer-sponsored retirement plans and financial professionals. It’s another thing to integrate your aspirations and your life outside the office with your career. And Vanguard’s perks embrace all of the above.

To browse jobs and more work-life benefits at Vanguard, visit their Careers Page.

Developing Great Bosses: Direct Energy’s Four Components of Success

Everyone in business is aware of the importance of good leadership in a CEO. Less attention is given to the leadership capabilities of front line management, but supervisors play a critical role in the success of the company and the careers of those who call them “boss”. Direct Energy, rated as one of the Top Companies to Work for in Arizona and Arizona’s Most Admired Companies for 2017, demonstrates how a company’s investment in strong supervisory skills and developing great bosses pays off.

We’ve all heard the cliché that “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their bosses.” Conversely, research proves that not only do good supervisors retain their staff, they make them better at their jobs. When employees in one professional services company were asked in a survey who they viewed as the company’s “leadership”, they most often replied, “my supervisor”. The CEO was named second. It’s possible that the relationship employees have with their immediate bosses are the most important relationships in the company.

Direct Energy has built a reputation for developing strong supervisory capabilities, and it shows in their exceptionally high employee survey results, which indicate 93% of employees have a great relationship with their supervisors. (*From the 2017 Top Companies to Work for in Arizona employee survey.)

Direct Energy develops great bosses largely by emphasizing four areas:

  1. Developing strong mentorships
  2. Volunteering
  3. Career development and coaching
  4. Developing trust

Developing strong mentorships

Teaching people skills and developing trust are generally the most important and complex elements of a supervisor’s role. Direct Energy’s Dave Ammons, Senior Manager, Vendor Relations, at Direct Energy, is one example of a leader who is committed to sharing his life and work experiences with others through mentoring. His highly interactive approach is focused on overcoming obstacles, building bonds of trust, and remaining vulnerable about his own experiences. Dave notes, “I’m confident the people I have had the privilege of mentoring find value in our mutual ability to reflect back to each other how we overcome obstacles and share ways in which we have moved forward in positive directions in our work and our personal lives.”

Volunteering

Volunteer leadership is not only an opportunity to bring more meaning to work, it can be remarkably good training for executive leadership. Why? Because the skills required are similar: persuasion, promoting work-life balance, and rallying employees around a common vision. Timoteo Araiza, Supervisor, at Direct Energy, explains; “We volunteer with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Feed My Starving Children, the Salvation Army and St. Mary’s Food Bank, encouraging each employee to volunteer for every opportunity. Our volunteer program helps you become a better leader because you learn through volunteer work that every person is valuable, giving to others first will yield success and that we are better together.”

Career Development and Coaching

When Lisa Schroeder, now a Supervisor at Direct Energy, was at an earlier stage in her career, she reached out to her boss to inform him of her goal to get into management. He began coaching Lisa and helping her improve her skills. He offered opportunities for Lisa to lead meetings and projects, and was given the responsibility of sharing data with other supervisors. Raves Lisa, “I’ve had so much help from other leaders here at Direct Energy that have encouraged and nurtured my growth within the company. I have never worked for a company with such support for career advancement. Direct Energy is truly a one of a kind place to work!”

Trust

Direct Energy Leadership DevelopmentThe essence of good leadership includes trust, and trust is more powerful than power itself. Leaders who have built trust are often called “authentic”. Not only are they passionate about their work, they are compassionate with people, without biases based on race, gender, generation or stereotypes. They are the supervisors who will help you get where you want to go.

Kevin Jones, Supervisor, at Direct Energy, considers it a privilege to create trust in his role. “Trust is never easy to build but requires a consistent demonstration of a few characteristics. My employees appreciate my earnest commitment in knowing them individually and building a relationship without conditions. Furthermore, honesty, follow-up and dependability all have value toward building trust with any team assembled for purpose.”

Jones continues, “Emphasizing what we all have in common (both obstacles and goals) helps employees believe their obstacles are not overwhelming and goals are obtainable. Seek to foster an environment where barriers do not exist. Allow synergy to work for the common good, then everyone wins!”

A supervisor’s role is incredibly complex. Direct Energy has a track record of pouring into their supervisors, teaching people skills, developing trust and it is paying off for the company with high employee engagement, and winning workplace awards!

Learn more about Direct Energy’s Tempe office and their great career opportunities!

Why Companies Should Offer Employee Resource Groups

Imagine an innovative, efficient, inclusive, and productive workplace, where communication thrives across functions and up and down the hierarchy. This is the picture our clients’ employees paint when they describe their Employee Resource Groups or Business Resource Groups. Who doesn’t want that?

Look at some of the ways Employee Resource Groups benefit employers:

  • Grow high-potential leaders
  • Develop community partnerships
  • Assist in attracting diverse talent
  • Boost innovation
  • Encourage professional development
  • Cultivate mentoring
  • Provide cross-functional teamwork

ERGs provide solid opportunities for the next generation. Think of the potential career benefits: greater exposure in expanded networks, access to senior leadership, new skills learned from working on ERG initiatives, and the opportunity to increase cultural awareness throughout the company.

Charles Schawb Employee Resource GroupCharles Schwab’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) serve Asian/Pacific Islanders, Blacks, Veterans, LGBT, the environmentally focused, Latinos, parents, and women. Deloria Nelson, Schwab’s Managing Director of Diversity and Inclusion, supports all of those groups. She says, “It’s a great way to connect with colleagues, learn about the company, help recruit great talent, help spread the word about what a good company we are and gain professional development.”

One of the strongest ERG benefits for workers is the chance to develop leadership skills. Nelson explains, “Participation in an Employee Resource Group provides an opportunity to network with leaders, partner with Talent Acquisition and gain exposure to executives across various locations.”

Lashonda Royal, the national chair of Black Professionals at Charles Schwab (BPACS), describes her experience: “I’ve grown professionally, and my leadership skills have been enhanced. For example, I’ve been a project manager, a liaison, and a guest speaker on behalf of my group, and I am now its national chair. All of these opportunities were new to me and help me exercise my influence with not only my peers but leadership as well.”

Daniel Chaparro, who is an Area Wellness Manager for Hyatt and is a member of HyPrideAZ chapter, agrees. “Each day I can enter work and be my true self allowing me to focus on my daily tasks and make connections with colleagues, new hires and community partners. As part of the HyPrideAZ chapter we get to bring our purpose to life “We care for others so that they can be their best” by bringing awareness to not only our colleagues on LGBT issues and also be part of the LGBT community within Phoenix.”

Employee Resource Groups empower diverse groups, develop leaders, and develop new business opportunities. As the scope and function of ERGs has grown, the opportunities for career development have grown along with it. Savvy, diverse candidates often seek out companies with ERGs.

Hyatt also has a Women@hyatt ERG that focuses on the development of women leaders. AZWomen@hyatt is a program where colleagues of all levels are able to come together to mentor, flourish and guide the local members in their careers. Women@hyatt also hosts wellness, networking, life balance and community involvement events.  Lori Schacher has been a member of local chapter since 2014 and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the AZ chapter which includes all Hyatt properties in Phoenix and Tucson. “Women@hyatt is such a great resource for newer colleagues to meet and get to know other professional women within the company at all levels and across all our Hyatt brands. It offers opportunities for growth and development along with networking and fun” says Schacher.

Employees appreciate the enhanced opportunities and are enthusiastic in recommending their workplace to others. “Schwab gets the importance of diversity and inclusion,” explains Nelson. “Supporting ERGs is one way Schwab demonstrates that commitment. We recognize that diversity and inclusion make us a better company. Innovation and excellence are what we strive for, and including people with various backgrounds, gender and gender expressions, ethnicities, ages, disabilities, family status, veteran status and religions contribute to us being the awesome, industry-leading company we are.”

Employee Resource Groups are often a significant indicator of a company having a commitment to diversity and inclusion. BestCompaniesAZ is shining a spotlight on companies like this at our 3nd Annual Diversity & Inclusion Career Event, Wednesday, November 1, 2017. Meet hiring representatives from Charles Schwab, Hyatt and many more award-winning employers. Register today!

 

About the Author
Lee Vikre – Hiring Jedi
A workplace culture maven, writer, and speaker, Lee Vikre has helped numerous companies develop “best company” cultures, gaining recognition at the local and national level. Lee has been called the Jedi Master of hiring because of her exceptional recruiting abilities and friendships with people who love Star Wars. Her favorite activities involve matching people with their dream jobs at award-winning best companies. Lee coaches CEOs but still hasn’t been able to train her three dogs not to bark during conference calls.

BestCompaniesAZ and Career Connectors Host Diversity & Inclusion Career Event on November 1

Hundreds of Positions Available with Arizona’s Award-Winning Employers 

Phoenix, AZ (September 25, 2017) – BestCompaniesAZ is hosting its annual Diversity & Inclusion Career Event in partnership with Career Connectors on November 1, 2017 at the N. Phoenix Baptist Conference Center from 9-12, and is free to job seekers but advance registration is recommended at DiversityAZ.org 

A roster of award-winning companies will be offering hundreds of positions, at all levels, in the fields of finance, IT, healthcare, customer service/client relations, sales and hospitality. Sponsoring companies must have programs in place that support diversity and/or have earned at least one prestigious state and national workplace award to participate.  Most have earned many best practices awards, such as Diversity Inc.’s Top 50, Arizona’s Most Admired Companies, Top Companies to Work for in Arizona, Arizona’s Best Companies to Watch, FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® in America, FORTUNE Most Admired Companies, US Veterans Magazine’s Best of the Best and others. 

On event day, on-site registration and check-in for job seekers begins at 8:30 a.m.  Company representatives will be available to answer questions about their recruitment process and meet one-on-one with candidates. 

BestCompaniesAZ Career Events are unlike other job fairs because we feature award-winning companies meeting one-on-one with candidates in a casual, comfortable environment. BestCompaniesAZ has selected and will showcase ‘the BEST’ hiring companies in the state, those that are deeply dedicated to the principles of diversity in the workplace.  Each company has a distinct culture, and this is the place to come and learn about their differences. Additionally, we have joined forces with the dynamic nonprofit Career Connectors to share valuable resources with job seekers in advance of the event and on-site, all free of charge,” said Denise Gredler, BestCompaniesAZ founder and CEO. 

“We’re excited to be a part of this year’s Diversity & Inclusion Career Event. Most job seekers leave BestCompaniesAZ events very enlightened — with new contacts, resources, and hiring leads, all for taking the time to attend. Year-round at Career Connectors, we offer free networking events and many resources, including career coaching, resume writing and even assistance creating LinkedIn profiles to help people prepare for events and great hiring opportunities such as this,” said Jessica Pierce, Executive Director of Career Connectors. “It’s a win-win situation.” 

Featured 2017 BestCompaniesAZ hiring sponsors include Charles Schwab, Dignity Health Arizona, Progrexion, USAA, GoDaddy, Hyatt Regency-Phoenix, Vanguard, Direct Energy and Vixxo. Career Connectors partners that will be on-site include State Farm, Freedom Financial Network, NESCO Resource, Allstate, AFP Professionals, OPEN, New Horizons Learning Center, Coder Camps, and Goodwill of Central and Northern AZ.  Visit DiversityAZ.org for the full list of participants. 

About BestCompaniesAZ
BestCompaniesAZ has been at the forefront of identifying, developing and promoting Arizona’s best companies for more than a decade. As co-founder of the very first workplace award program in Arizona, BestCompaniesAZ is committed to helping companies maximize their branding, recruitment and retention results by offering consulting services in the areas of employee surveying, best practices, culture development and human resources. Outstanding achievement in these fields is promoted to the national workforce and H.R. communities through social media and local public relations outreach programs. BestCompaniesAZ offers quarterly events and annual award programs that promote and reward corporate best practices within Arizona. Companies interested in becoming a sponsor can reach BestCompaniesAZ at 480-545-5151. 

About Career Connectors
Career Connectors’ mission is to connect professionals in career transition to hiring companies and quality resources. As Arizona’s fastest growing job seeker program, the organization hosts no-cost job seeker events in Glendale, Chandler/Gilbert, Phoenix, and North Scottsdale. For more information, visit careerconnectors.org, or call 480-442-5806. 

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BestCompaniesAZ Media Contact:
Stephanie Burchfield
Burchfield & Wolin Public Relations
480-460-4111 O
602-418-2501 M
sburchfield@bwprinc.com 

 

Giving a Voice to the Largest Minority Group: DUNAMIS at USAA

By Lee Vikre | @LeeVikre

People with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed as the general working population. While this is disappointing, it also represents an opportunity for organizations who tap into this underutilized hiring market. 

Hiring people with disabilities isn’t just socially responsible, it benefits the company. People with disabilities tend to be experts in overcoming obstacles and innovation. They’ve had to be, since everyday situations that able-bodied people take for granted call for creative thinking for people with disabilities. Employers also find their disabled employees to be loyal, dependable, hardworking, and longer tenured.

Some employers still believe that hiring people with disabilities will cost more, but more than half of the accommodations people request cost little to nothing. Many accommodations include scheduling flexibility, dress code modifications, or sitting/standing adjustments – all of which are popular requests from employees in general. Honest communication during the interview process helps smooth the way, while focusing more on strengths than disabilities. Most of the time, accommodations are not a big deal.

What is a big deal, however, is building an inclusive environment. Existing employees are typically very accommodating if they understand the co-worker’s disability and the appropriate ways to interact.

Employee Resource Groups or Diversity Business Groups (DBGs) are powerful influencers for employees and employers alike. USAA’s DUNAMIS DBG has a dual purpose, according to Dareion Johnson, CPM, Program-Project Manager and DUNAMIS group chair. DUNAMIS stands for Disabled United iN Action to Make an Inclusive Society and is also a Greek word that means mighty, powerful, capable and “to have the ability to do more than what is perceived.” This newest DBG at USAA’s Phoenix campus provides a platform for people to be welcomed, valued, heard and respected; and if someone’s voice is not loud enough, DUNAMIS will speak loudly on their behalf.

Explains Johnson, “This is the one minority group any person can be a part of without ever wanting to and without any notice. It is one of the minority groups that is often forgotten, but has the largest membership of all the minority groups.”

One example of how a DBG can have a direct impact; DUNAMIS is creating awareness about service animals in the workplace, and how to interact with both employees and service animals. At an employee event, the DUNAMIS team brought in four service dogs and their handlers. Not only did they educate employees, but encouraged a number of USAA employees who are now becoming involved with service animals through donations, fostering, or training. Although USAA has always supported employees with service animals, the Phoenix Campus had their first two employees with service animals start in 2016. Now, USAA has over 6 employees with service dogs employed at this campus, with a projection of 10 by the end of 2017.

Johnson is enthusiastic about his experience with DUNAMIS. “When I hear the words, ‘I thought I was alone’ or ‘I am glad I am not the only one experiencing…’ I know we’ve made a connection, an impact.” He goes on to stress communication; “The only way we are going to be truly inclusive is to know when we are not being all-encompassing. Often not knowing is blocked by fear or the unknown consequences. DUNAMIS hopes to wipe away those fears and encourage real conversation without worry of any kind from all levels of USAA employee population.”

Best companies agree that diversity is more than race and gender. “It’s the collective strength of unique characteristics, experiences, skills, backgrounds, perspectives and cultures,” says Johnson. “USAA strives to deepen its employee population with most qualified candidates that fit within our core values, standards and meet the mission.”

Learn more about USAA, their culture and current career opportunities. You can also meet hiring representatives from USAA’s Phoenix Campus at our 3rd Annual Diversity & Inclusion Career Event, Wednesday, November 1. Register today!

About the Author
Lee Vikre – Hiring Jedi
A workplace culture maven, writer, and speaker, Lee Vikre has helped numerous companies develop “best company” cultures, gaining recognition at the local and national level. Lee has been called the Jedi Master of hiring because of her exceptional recruiting abilities and friendships with people who love Star Wars. Her favorite activities involve matching people with their dream jobs at award-winning best companies. Lee coaches CEOs but still hasn’t been able to train her three dogs not to bark during conference calls.

Turning Personal Struggles Into a Support Network at Work

By Lee Vikre | @LeeVikre

Do you like being inspired by others? Dareion Johnson inspires us. He’s a great example of overcoming adversity and using his own difficult experiences to help others. At USAA, Dareion, CPM, Program-Project Manager is the chair of the Phoenix chapter of DUNAMIS, a Diversity Business Group that supports those with disabilities. (DUNAMIS stands for Disabled United iN Action to Make an Inclusive Society.) Read on for some of Dareion’s insights on diversity, disabilities, courage, and connections.

BCAZ: Why did you decide to get involved in DUNAMIS?

DJ: I like the saying used by both Mikhail Gorbachev and Emma Watson, “If not me, who? And if not now, when?” I felt it was important to be a part of something that is greater than myself. DUNAMIS is an Employee Business Group that promotes diversity for our disabled community, both our fellow employees and the members we serve, through employee engagement.

This is the one minority group any person can be a part of without ever wanting to and without any notice. It is one of the minority groups that is often forgotten, but has the largest membership of all the minority groups. There are two reasons I wanted to be involved with DUNAMIS:

  1. I have been in and out of this minority group for various reasons over the years. I have been in two severe car accidents (one which took the life of my daughter), a freak jumping accident that left me dependent on a walker and a wheelchair to maintain my independence. A couple years later, I was diagnosed with life-threatening disease, which requires strict medication intake regiment. All too often individuals only look at the physical disabilities and forget about the hidden ones that affect individuals every day. To put it in full perspective, imagine the psychological hurdle I had to endure after finding out my daughter killed while trying to still maintain a household psychologically and financially. Or having normal autonomy ripped from you and having to learn a whole new skillset to maintain that same level of value and contribution.
  2. I wanted to a part of a group that sets the grassroots for making a difference for not only the organization as a whole, but for the advancement of understanding and awareness for both employee and member experiences. DUNAMIS has a dual purpose: it provides a platform for people to be welcomed, valued, heard and respected; and if someone’s voice is not loud enough, we will speak loudly on their behalf.

BCAZ: What types of activities does DUNAMIS focus on?

USAA Service Dog Panel

2017 Service Dog Panel

DJ: We recently just had our 1st Anniversary event since our launched in Phoenix, July 2016. Since the launch, we have held several events on campus which included a Service Dog Panel, bringing awareness to the proper etiquette when approaching a service handler and dog team. We also held a mental awareness workshop inviting our internal DUNAMIS members to listen to a USAA Executive provide his personal store and how he dealt his own situation. This event inspired the DUNAMIS team to launch DUNAMIS Shares, which will focus on various disability topics in which members of DUNAMIS can listen and share their own experiences. We feel this platform will provide others they are not alone and there is a platform within USAA that can be supportive and help when/where needed. We strive to ensure we get out into the community (internally and externally), bring awareness through impactful events, and provide educational opportunities via fairs and other meaningful activities.

Community involvement is extremely important to USAA and DUNAMIS. Recently DUNAMIS sent volunteers to United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona for a painting project outside of their normal working hours so they can remain focused on their mission. We will continue to be heavily involved in the community by volunteering at other various non-profit organizations that need assistance (e.g. Wounded Worrier Project, feeding the homeless project, veteran service support, and other disability organizations). The plan is to make a difference in Phoenix that can be seen and heard.

BCAZ: How is DBG leadership chosen? What potential impact does DBG leadership have on careers?

DJ: We specifically reached out to our Executive Sponsor to support our mission and goals. It was an easy “yes” from him as he saw our passion in making a difference here at the Phoenix Campus. Getting involved — taking action for a cause that is greater than ‘you’, shows commitment to the organization, its members, and your fellow employees. Nothing is ever promised, but leadership can be an advocate for you during your career progression. How I see it, positive work tends to be accompanied by positive conversation about the end results and those that made it happen.

BCAZ: What sorts of experiences have you had by being part of DUNAMIS?

DJ: When I hear the words, “I thought I was alone” or “I am glad I am not the only one experiencing…” I know we’ve made an impact. Our DBG is about showing the value of change and one way we do that is connecting with people with real and true personal stories. I was one of five employee panelists during the official launch of Phoenix DUNAMIS DBG, broadcasted to all our campuses in the U.S. I shared the story of what happened to me after my car accident and loss of my daughter.

After each event my team and I host, we are often thanked for being so open and honest. We let our passion shine by being our authentic selves. When we are those things… we tend to connect with people at a much deeper level. That connection tends to provide others with the courage to move forward and to speak up (e.g. DUNAMIS Shares). In the end, having that real one-on-one conversation with someone about how my story had a positive impact on his/her life always puts a smile on my face.

The only way we are going to be truly inclusive is to know when we are not being all-encompassing. Often not knowing is blocked by fear or the unknown consequences. DUNAMIS hopes to wipe away those fears and encourage real conversation without worry of any kind from all levels of USAA employee population.

BCAZ: Why do you recommend your company as a good place for diverse candidates to apply?

DJ: Diversity is not just about race or gender – it is about more than that. Diversity is about the people and is defined broadly as the collective strength of unique characteristics, experiences, skills, backgrounds, perspectives and cultures that help achieve organizational cohesiveness. USAA strives to deepen its employee population with the most qualified candidates that fit within the core values, standards and meet the mission.

Would you love to work for an organization like this? Learn more about USAA’s Phoenix campus, check out their current career opportunities then apply!

You can meet hiring representatives from USAA who are just as passionate as Dareion at our 3rd Annual Diversity & Inclusion Career Event! Join us Wednesday, November 1 from 9 am – 12 PM. It’s free for job seekers – secure your spot today!

About the Author
Lee Vikre – Hiring Jedi
A workplace culture maven, writer, and speaker, Lee Vikre has helped numerous companies develop “best company” cultures, gaining recognition at the local and national level. Lee has been called the Jedi Master of hiring because of her exceptional recruiting abilities and friendships with people who love Star Wars. Her favorite activities involve matching people with their dream jobs at award-winning best companies. Lee coaches CEOs but still hasn’t been able to train her three dogs not to bark during conference calls.

Career Progression at Charles Schwab: Employee Q&A

Stationed in Denver, Colorado, Paul Bowen has been with Charles Schwab for four and a half years. Paul was previously a CSR (customer service representative) and shares some insight on his tremendous professional growth at Schwab, even coming from an educational background unrelated to finance. Keep reading to learn about Paul’s career progression at Charles Schwab.

Career Progression at Charles Schwab: Paul Bowen

Tell us how you came on board at Charles Schwab.

I finished my college degree a little bit later in life. I was 31, and I had a friend who worked for Schwab for close to 15 years at the time. My degree was in political science, and with that, I wanted to go to law school. But law school was a bit unreasonably priced for the prospects at the end as far as income-wise. My friend said, “Why don’t you come work for Schwab?” I said, “I don’t know anything about finance.” He said, “Well, Schwab will teach you.” And he sent me a referral.

So, I got the referral and was hired on a few months later. I came in as a CSR rep and learned everything from the ground-up. I started off doing some password resets and moved on to bigger and better roles. It was a tough study for the Series 7, which was a difficult thing to overcome.

What attracted you to Charles Schwab?

The thing that really drew me in was the culture — the dynamics of the company. That was passed onto me by my friend Chris, who told me about Schwab. He described how open and how diverse of a community they had here, and how they would really help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. That included inside the firm as well as in your personal life. They really value you as a person.

How would you describe the culture here in a few words?

I’d say it’s a very open culture, very diverse, very fun in a lot of ways.

What support does Charles Schwab provide for you to advance your career?

Schwab has many open lines of communication. They do encourage a lot of cross-boosting with other departments to explore different opportunities that may be out there and also help you set the groundwork to them. I depend on them for help and guidance. I also do the same thing for my colleagues who may need help in certain areas. They can depend on me for similar guidance in different aspects.

Tell us more about the Series 7 Financial Certification exam.

When I came in, they hired me as a customer service rep, which was not required for a Series 7 license. When I did decide to pursue the Series 7 after I felt more comfortable with Schwab as a place of employment, I took the book home with me and that’s where I studied – at home on the weekends and in the evenings. It was a tough thing to study for. It took me four attempts to pass the Series 7. Certainly after that third attempt, having to wait six months was very discouraging. But at the same time, Schwab also said, “Keep doing what you’re doing,” and was very supportive. There wasn’t that derailment of, “You can’t do this.” There was encouragement to pass. Once I passed, it was a huge relief.

The Series 7 provides an individual with the qualifications necessary in order to make different types of trades with all types of corporate securities, excluding commodities and futures. The Series 7 exam must be passed in order to take many other principal licensing exams offered by FINRA. 

Click here to learn more about Charles Schwab’s career opportunities and culture.

Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona and Cartel Coffee Lab Brew Up Something Special for World Habitat Day — Oct. 2

Free Bag of Private-Reserve Builders Brew Coffee for New Online Monthly Givers

Phoenix – Sept. 26, 2017 – Do something wonderful for your community and enjoy an extra special treat for yourself.  Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona has teamed up with Arizona’s celebrated Cartel Coffee Lab (cartelcoffeelab.com) to create a steamy promotion with lots of buzz that new monthly Habitat donors can savor while knowing their monthly contributions are making life better for others here in Valley communities.

New Habitat donors who register to make recurring monthly donations of $20 or more will receive a bag of whole-bean, private reserve Builders Brew coffee roasted by Cartel Coffee Lab, one of Phoenix’s most celebrated coffee enterprises. To qualify for this special limited-time offer, visit the Habitat website (habitatcaz.org/buildersbrew/) and click on the “Donate Now.” The promotion runs Oct. 2, 21017 through Dec. 31, 2017.*

Dusty Parsons, Marketing Director for Habitat, states, “We wanted a way for people to connect with that ‘warm feeling’ you get when helping others. Each donation directly helps Arizona families build affordable housing, revitalize neighborhoods and improve communities across the Valley. Now each new donor can celebrate World Habitat Day by savoring some of the best coffee in the city, knowing that their monthly gift is making a difference and changing lives locally.”

*This offer is open only to new donors who establish a recurring monthly donation of $20 or more during the designated promotional period. Donations through this program qualify for the Arizona Tax Credit. Monthly donations may be cancelled at any time.

 

About Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona

Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona (habitatcaz.org) (Habitat) is a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, the renowned humanitarian organization based in Atlanta. Each affiliate operates as a separate 501c3 nonprofit, and is responsible for leading its own fundraising and operations management, while adhering to the Habitat for Humanity mission of serving communities within its area.  Habitat, named two consecutive years as one of Arizona’s Most Admired Companies, also promotes volunteer programs with corporations, groups, churches and individuals. Their services include new home construction, re-constructions, renovations, repairs (even emergency repairs) and most recently, entire neighborhood revitalization projects.  Consistently ranked among the Top 10 of 1,400 affiliates nationally, Habitat has built more than 1,100 homes in the metro Phoenix area since 1985. To learn more, please visit habitatcaz.org or find us on Twitter @habitatcaz.

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Media Contact:

Dusty Parsons
Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona
602-448-5758
dusty@habitatcaz.org
habitatcaz.org