Aaron-Sims_Blog
Greater Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace
By Aaron Sims
In this post, you will learn how three keys to greater diversity, equity and inclusion drove our approach at UWM and helped our team members at UWM feel connected and accepted.

When you get home from work, are you excited to share your workday with the people closest to you? If your loved ones had the opportunity to join your team, would you encourage them? Do you see yourself with your company in 2 years?

These questions are heavily influenced by your workplace environment. The lesser-known connection between these questions is that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) play a key role in shaping that environment. Respect for cultural diversity, fostering an inclusive environment and support for both equity and equality are all concepts that directly shape a person’s experience and perception of an organization.

In this post, you will learn how three keys to greater diversity, equity and inclusion drove our approach at UWM and helped our team members at UWM feel connected and accepted. Although this is not an all-inclusive list, these are the themes we focused on when building our DEI foundations and initiatives.

1. Listen First. Act Later.

The first thing we did was take time to listen. We listened to what’s going well. We listened to the concerns of team members. We listened to the feelings, thoughts and opportunities our team members were wanting to share. We created a safe space and allowed our team members to be open, honest and unapologetic about expressing those feelings. These conversations helped guide the creation of our DEI initiatives.

How did we do this? We scheduled one-on-one meetings with the team members and leaders. It’s important to spend an equal amount of quality time with all members of your team. We listened to their concerns, the initiatives they wanted to see at UWM and how many people from each diverse community were part of our team. From there, we helped facilitate and support our team members through the creation of resource groups. Representing these specific communities here at UWM, like United Black, United Pride and Women in Technology, resource groups provide feedback on what impacts their communities both professionally and personally.

For example, our LGBTQ+ resource group is focused on establishing a sense of community and support for people within the LGBTQ+ community at work, and our United Black resource group is focused on developing Black representation in leadership. Listening to the concerns, needs and wants of each group helps us determine our next steps.

2. DEI Is S.M.A.R.T.

We made our plans actionable and created measures of accountability using S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-oriented. This represents taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach to supporting DEI, equality and representation in the workplace.

While part of what we aim to create are feelings of inclusivity for our team members, these feelings are driven by interactions within the workplace. These daily interactions are what should be addressed and adjusted with action plans. After listening to our teammates and deciding what our key areas of improvement are, we used S.M.A.R.T. goals to create action plans to improve those targets.

For example, our resource groups were established using S.M.A.R.T. goals. We set a goal to launch four new resource groups by the end of 2021. By targeting a launch of one resource group per quarter. The way we measured our success was by creating a list of milestones. Examples of these milestones included establishing dedicated leadership committees representing at least five different internal teams, establishing published goals and hosting at least one event. Each resource group must complete these milestones in order to be launched.

Each resource group also has specific goals that are measured the S.M.A.R.T. way and follow a S.M.A.R.T. action plan. Each resource group is also required to host one event per quarter for any team member to join.

For example, to help build a stronger pipeline to leadership, United Black held a leadership summit where black leaders from across the company spoke to our team members about how they made it into their role and provided key takeaways that will help team members grow. Many team members who attended the summit came forward to share the positive impact this event had on their career at UWM. The event and the amount of team members that made positive changes within their roles and career helped United Black execute their S.M.A.R.T. goal and measure its success.

3. It’s WE, Not I

These efforts cannot be owned by just a few people in the company. There must be space for all team members to be part of the solution. The biggest goal of inclusion is ensuring that there are many diverse voices across the organization with the ability to be heard and empowered to make decisions. For that reason, it only makes sense that team members can create the environment they wish to be part of.

Here at United Wholesale Mortgage, team members across the organization are involved in every facet of our DEI efforts. From assisting in developing training materials, planning cultural celebrations, to directing our resource groups and charitable efforts, active participation is key.

If a company’s purpose on conducting DEI-focused initiatives is to check a box to say they are involved, it will have a negative effect on their team members. They can always tell when initiatives are truly genuine. By encouraging team members to lead and be involved, they own the initiatives and genuinely feel the inclusion, which is not just a metric.

Inclusion is observable through the way people respond and treat each other and how active they are in taking initiative. Focusing on the “we” helps team members focus on the solution and own it, because inclusion is not something that one person or one initiative can fix. Having everyone participate in the solution is what fosters inclusion, which carried out through our resource groups.

Do What’s Best for Your Organization

Every company has their own unique ecosystem of people, therefore, there will be different opportunities to diversify and include, which will take on different initiatives. By listening, creating S.M.A.R.T. goals and working as a team, UWM has created a respect for cultural diversity, fostered an inclusive environment in the workplace and supported equity and equality. Learn more about our DEI initiatives.