In June 2019, several employers from the Fargo-Moorhead brought together by the Regional Workforce Alliance to celebrate the diversity of the regional workforce, and brainstorm how to encourage more inclusive and equitable practices throughout the region. The Equity Summit, as it came to be known, led to an employer-driven idea to recognize regional organizations who are intentionally inclusive in their workplace culture and practices.
Ultimately, employers aim through the program is to be more apt when recruiting from an increasingly diverse talent pool, and harness that diversity into a competitive advantage. Regional labor market information demonstrates the impetus for such a bold initiative.
Since 2000, every non-white racial and ethnic group in the Northwest Minnesota experienced labor force growth. Three of the five racial groups added over 1,900 workers each, including black or African Americans (up 2,111), American Indian and Alaska natives (up 1,922) and people identifying as two or more races (up 2,102).
In both 2000 and 2018, American Indians and Alaska natives represented the largest minority population in Northwest Minnesota. Their presence in the labor force increased by more than 28 percent during that stretch of time.
But other racial groups grew at an even faster pace since 2000. In 2018, the region’s black or African American labor force was estimated to be three and one-half times larger than in 2000. The increase in Asians or other Pacific Islanders and people of two or more races also outpaced that of American Indians, growing at 57.3 and 93.5 percent, respectively.
The Hispanic or Latino population, which is an ethnic category rather than a racial group, added 4,513 workers (more than any other minority group). The net increase from 2000 to 2018 in Hispanic or Latino labor force entrants exceeded that of any other non-white race by more than 2,400 workers. When compared with categories of race, only the black or African American labor force had a higher rate of increase in the region.
Fast forward to March 2020, when three pilot businesses are set to be recognized by the Regional Workforce Alliance as Inclusive Workforce Employers, otherwise known as the I-WE designation. They include CHI St. Joseph’s Health, Goldmark Properties, and DyCast Specialties, each of which represent a different industry. In order to receive such distinction, each organization took four steps that were agreed upon at the Equity Summit:
Express a commitment to an inclusive workplace in their stated values, mission or policies
Assess how diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) influence their work and culture
Provide diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education for staff and leadership
Allocate resources to support and sustain an inclusive and equitable workplace
Each business identified unique methods to implement at each step, based on what was best for their organization’s development. For example, DyCast Specialties, a manufacturing establishment in Starbuck, MN that produces precision aluminum and zinc castings using a high pressure die cast process, is working with the Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes to design a customized inclusion and intercultural training program for its front-line workers. “The I-WE program allowed us to formalize what we have always strived for as an organization- to be an inclusive and equitable place of business” says Ed Bolas, Human Resource Director. “The framework and resources helped us communicate this commitment internally with our workers and externally to our customers,” he continues “Our work with I-WE supports our EEO compliance, but takes it a step further by demonstrating how we incorporate these principles throughout our business.”
CareerForce staff worked with each pilot participant to find the right resources for them, depending on their industry, staff capacity, and prior DEI knowledge and programming. As the program moves toward a broader launch, providing additional support and online resources for businesses to accomplish their DEI goals is a top priority of CareerForce staff and partners. Businesses in the pilot program agree that one of the primary challenges will be to continually improve their diversity, equity and inclusion practices, and sustain this work beyond the initial steps. Working together, regional business leaders are eager to share knowledge and lessons learned with others who are ready to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in the Northwest Minnesota economy.