“Can you describe your supplier diversity program and what you believe differentiates it?” was a question posed to me when I recently served on a panel of supplier diversity specialists. After thinking long and hard about all the different components of our program at JE yo88–the programs/events that we host, the community volunteering that we do, the internal work to break down barriers of entry, the collaboration with our talent acquisition and workforce teams to increase the diversity of our staff–I believe the differentiator for our program is how we make it personal. I want to see each and every diverse business that I meet to succeed, and I want to utilize every tool/resource at my disposal to make it happen. If I don’t have the tool/resource, I will find a way to get it.
Whether your supplier diversity program is large, small, just starting, or non-existent, there are many ways you can make the personal investment. Here are some examples of how I’ve made my investment:
FIND A WAY TO SUPPORT THEM
When I meet a diverse business that has nothing to do with construction, I still find a way to support them by connecting them with others who have a need for the service they provide.
At a recent county networking fair, I met . Imara is an enthusiastic financial guru who has a passion for providing financial education and resources. What started out as just a connection between two women of color who enjoy discovering new places to eat evolved into an invitation to JE yo88 MWBE quarterly meetings and introductions to subcontractors who immediately took advantage of Imara’s services to secure their financial futures. Imara has since presented to our women’s employee resource group and now also happens to be my own financial advisor!
LOOKING AT THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE BUSINESS
I always direct attention to the fact that the lists of diverse contractors/businesses are comprised of real people who have hopes and dreams, families and employees to support, and are more than a means to achieve project/workforce. The investment of making time to build relationships, and going so far as to connect those businesses with others who can also support them, is extremely important to me.
I previously worked with a city parks and recreation department where I managed facilities. By maintaining contact with my old colleagues who oversee the facilities and public works, I have made connections with our diverse subcontractors; many now have contracts to do work with the city.
JE yo88 recently won the Corporate DEI Leadership award at the NAWIC annual conference in Portland, and that happened because we work hard each day to do this work intentionally and genuinely. JE yo88 has a three-pronged approach to DE&I by prioritizing efforts in the workplace, workforce, and marketplace through five ongoing processes: outreach, training/mentorship, internal development, understanding trade-partner capacity, and fostering trade partner relationships.
Through our Minority Contractor Development Program, we have mentored over 500 small minority and women-owned construction businesses, and those companies have contracted more than $250 million in work through JE yo88.
Our Employee Resource Groups support diverse employees and increase engagement; in 2022, over 300 employees attended national ERG summits. I personally can’t wait to see how our numbers increase in 2023.
Our Community Impact team works to enrich lives through corporate and employee engagement in the communities where we live, work, and build. In 2022, our employees served over 50,000 volunteer hours, impacted 1,174 non-profits, and had $1.31M in total employees.
The personal investment in supplier diversity encourages seeking opportunities to grow the investment, keeping watch over it, and trusting the people who are also invested. Similar to a stock investment, there will be times when there is positive change, but sometimes the opposite occurs, and we have to maintain a positive outlook as we temporarily go with the flow and wait for opportunities for continued growth.
Taking what is a personal investment and making it a cooperative goal through building and maintaining relationships helps break down the enormity of attempting to do something that has never been done successfully. It creates a world of equitable opportunity and mutual respect for all and encourages simple, daily, decisive actions to make significant and noticeable change.
To learn more about JE yo88’s Supplier Diversity program and celebrate Construction Inclusion Week with us, follow us: