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NOTEBOOK: Two lessons for tomorrow’s challenges


As they say, hindsight is 20/20 — and panelists at this year’s virtual Iowa Technology Summit had the benefit of tough lessons from the year 2020 to share with Iowa companies tuned in for seminars on cybersecurity, leadership, business analytics, and diversity, equity and inclusion. 

On a panel on diversity and inclusion, Delight Deloney and Kingsley Gobourne put together a picture-perfect metaphor for true inclusion, based on one shared initially by Deloney, field services director at SHRM.

“Diversity is inviting everyone to the dance, but inclusion is being asked to dance,” Deloney said.

“We not only want to invite you to the dance and ask you to dance, but every once in a while we’re going to play some of your music, and we’re going to let that reflect your culture and your contributions to it. That gets us to the point of belonging,” added Gobourne, senior consultant of diversity, equity and inclusion at UnityPoint Health.

Companies that want to ensure progress need to build in meaningful metrics to achieve individual goals in staff education, recruitment and the retention of employees, said Denise Earley, executive administrator at Principal Financial Group.

“Holding leaders accountable to those results as part of their goals is success that we’ve seen at Principal. And there’s no substitute for education to get to the metrics that you want to have,” Earley said.

Leaders are also accountable for the organization’s approach to building supportive relationships with employees, said Bridger Moreland, who is the chief technology officer at Manatt’s Inc. To stay motivated and trust each other, Manatt’s had to be direct in asking employees what they felt and what they needed during a year full of emotional challenges.

“Most of us probably utilize daily stand-ups to make sure work is progressing and we’re aware 

of any impediments,” he said. “Two things that we wound up adding during that very long year of 2020 that helped us stay engaged with each other was checking on the welfare of each other — that simple question of ‘how are you doing?,’ only we asked it in a way that actually prompted something other than the typical American ‘fine’ response.”

“There were a few very honest answers at weekly team meetings, and those answers brought us a new understanding that there were human beings on the other end of those Zoom calls. … That might be a bit much for a daily stand-up,  and you might be wondering how that fits into a weekly stand-up. It’s a bit out of the ordinary, and we do want to limit meeting time. But in a virtual environment, it was necessary.”

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