More than ever, companies are recognizing that supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is critical in their organization. Job seekers are looking for employers that actively promote these important values because they know that a diverse workforce makes for stronger teams and better service. Now, Maximus operates our own DE&I initiatives to attract and retain talent from diverse backgrounds, making our company culture richer.
In 2020, the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black Americans forced people to see racial violence, and discrimination, differently. Individuals and organizations alike stood up and demanded change. At Maximus, we knew we needed to be part of that change. Our first step was to develop a DE&I strategy to help us build a culture of empathy, acceptance, and respect within our own organization.
When I joined Maximus in 2020, a strong DE&I strategy was something that our CEO Bruce Caswell was already wanting to implement. So, Maximus leaders conducted listening sessions with our employees to determine what they wanted to see from a DE&I initiatives. In September 2020, we hired Dr. Arvenita Washington Cherry to serve as the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She has brought invaluable experience as a socio-cultural anthropologist and social justice advocate in her role to grow and advance the strategy.
Key elements of our holistic strategy include hosting company-wide cultural education activities, publishing stories featuring employees from a variety of departments and cultural backgrounds and measuring employee engagement to make sure we’re meeting our employees’ needs. Every aspect of the DE&I strategy reinforces our employee-focused culture as a foundation to attract and retain top talent as we continue to grow our business.
Maximus is focused on hiring a diverse workforce, but equity and inclusion are also important elements of the strategy. Inherently, people have biases — conscious and unconscious. We understand that, so we provided training to help our employees identify their own biases and challenge these beliefs to promote equity and respect in the workplace.
If you’ve ever worked at a company that allowed the “brilliant jerk” behavior — a super smart person who treats people horribly — you know how this destructive behavior and discrimination fosters a toxic working environment and culture. The damage that person does to your culture is three times the value they bring into the organization and is one of the main reasons women of color leave their jobs.
Earlier this year, we began forming employee resource groups (ERGs) to help create educational and networking opportunities that promote inclusion. We started with three — Women of Excellence, Black Alliance, and Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander— and hope to grow to nine (including groups supporting veterans, the LGBTQIA+ community, and Hispanic/Latinx Employees. The purpose of an ERG isn’t just to serve as a social networking group. Each ERG must align with advancing one of Maximus’s strategic goals.
Since officially launching our DE&I initiatives in late 2020, the initiative has been a critical area of focus for Maximus. Through the efforts of our DE&I initiatives, we’ve seen a year-over-year improvement in our DE&I employee engagement scores. We do everything we can to make sure that the Maximus culture is something that makes us proud to work here. The strategy is a living, breathing thing that needs care and nurture. We must pay attention to what’s happening outside the company — our competitors and the social and global environment — and strive to fix those issues within our organization. That’s what maintains a healthy culture.