Thursday, October 28 | Cause Connected, Netsmart Culture, Who is Netsmart?

A Look Inside the Netsmart Diversity and Inclusion Council: Connecting Through Conversation

By Wendy Hill, Chief People Officer

The past year and a half has challenged us all to examine our thoughts and beliefs. As a team we came together to ask what we can be doing differently and better. While diversity, equity and inclusion have always been at the forefront of Netsmart and our company culture, we wanted to ensure we had the focus we needed to continue to make a difference and move the meter.

In May of 2020, we came together to discuss how we could be a part of solving the challenge as individuals, a team and members of our community. After a long, thoughtful and candid discussion, we came away with many ideas, including a concrete first step: create a designated Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Council to ensure focus.

We envisioned a working group who would help further shape the Netsmart ecosystem inside and out by promoting inclusion, diversity and equity at all levels. The council was also created with an intent to give all associates a voice, paired with a sense of community and belonging.

At Netsmart, we live by the EveryDayMatters mantra, and in order to make every day matter, we have to feel safe and empowered to be our most authentic selves – especially in the workplace where we spend so much of our time.

Associates interested in joining the council were invited to fill out an application to ensure associates from all different backgrounds, levels, locations and experiences were included. In July of 2020, 14 individuals were invited to participate in the first-ever Netsmart Diversity and Inclusion Council. Now over a year later, members of the D&I council continue to help pave the way for a more accepting, authentic and connected associate workplace community.

A major part of the D&I council is the Associate Resource Groups (ARGs), which serve as a way for individuals to connect with other people who have shared experiences and identities while working to promote change and awareness within the company. Today, our ARGs include LGBTQ+, Women in the Workplace, Veterans, Mental Wellness and People of Color.

There are a lot of conversations that go on within the ARGs, one being within the LGBTQ+ group regarding proper use of pronouns. When an associate is misgendered it can bring out emotions of distress and anxiety. When someone misgenders a fellow associate by using the incorrect pronouns, more times than not it’s because they just didn’t realize. That’s why it’s important and helpful to encourage associates who would like to make their pronouns visible in such things as an email signature, Teams header or in their LinkedIn bio/profile.

These kinds of conversations within our ARGs provide associates a safe environment to converse and connect with people who share similar experiences while helping foster a more educated, inclusive and accepting community at Netsmart.

One of the best outcomes I’ve seen so far from the council is creation of this awesome network of associates I may have not had the chance to meet otherwise. Each member of our D&I Council brings a unique and valued perspective, leading the charge for a more connected organization where inclusivity becomes second nature.

I asked several associates who serve on the D&I Council to share some of their experiences including why they decided to join and where they hope to see us move forward.

“People miss the boat when they think of America as a melting pot. That would mean everyone becomes homogenous. The reality is America is like vegetable soup – we’re all in the same pot, just lots different vegetables. That being said, you can’t address the needs of your population with a one size fits all approach. I felt like the D&I Council was an opportunity for me to have a voice and to address this topic in our community. We are not an old-school corporate company. Netsmart is looking forward to the future and embracing everyone. I think the D&I Council shows that we accept everyone, and we want to hear from you and want to make a difference.” Jamie Songer, Senior Software Engineer

“Diversity and inclusion is a big thing in my life, and I’m used to being surrounded by lots of different types of people. Then I came to work in IT, and it was not like that. I’ve always wanted to start ARGs in my past roles. I was super thrilled to see the message about creating a D&I Council here. To have Netsmart become a place where you know you’re accepted and welcome, to challenge and grow together is so important – I wanted to be a part of that. One thing that has been the hallmark of the council has been that it’s really opened up this opportunity for vulnerability. We are starting to talk about things across the organization in an organic way for people to connect.” Bryan Guffey, Business Systems Administrator

“As an African American, as an African, as a first-generation immigrant, I came here to realize the ‘American dream’. So, I wanted to provide my perspective to the council. I saw the power of an ARG at my previous organization and what it offered to a lot of people. I wanted to be a part of helping people easily acclimate to the corporate culture, especially those who are just starting their careers. When you’re comfortable, you can be authentic and be yourself. This helps you get a lot more mileage out of your workday. Most importantly, diversity provides perspectives and growth.” Victor Goitom, Senior Director, Public Sector Consulting

While the council has been around for more than a year, we believe it is exactly what we need to make the next turn. Most importantly, you don’t have to be on the council to get educated and contribute. If you are interested in participating in an ARG, please contact DL_DI_Council@ntst.com.

 

Meet the Author

Wendy Hill · Chief People Officer

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