Back to the Nov-Dec 2020 issue

Has Your City Made Changes to Increase Staff Diversity?

Alicia SojournerALICIA SOJOURNER
CDP Racial Equity Manager
St. Louis Park (population 48,910)

Over several years, St. Louis Park city leaders came to recognize that implicit bias played a role in hiring decisions, resulting in a lack of diversity in our staff. We wanted to ensure our city staff was more representative of metro area demographics, so we made several changes.

Ensuring readiness of current staff

First, we had to measure the readiness for this change among current staff. Spending time and energy to recruit differently wouldn’t matter much if new hires didn’t feel included and valued and, as a result, were not retained. Individual development plans and a survey measured the cultural competency of staff. This helped identify areas where professional development was needed to give staff the necessary skills and tools to advance racial equity and inclusion.

Changing the hiring process

The next step was to reduce implicit bias in hiring. We reviewed job descriptions for inclusive language. We scrutinized minimum qualifications to ensure unnecessarily strict requirements didn’t narrow the applicant pool. We reevaluated interview questions to ensure inclusivity and to measure candidate comfort with supporting the city’s strategic objective for advancing racial equity. We also made sure we had diversity on our interview panels. This helped amplify diverse voices in hiring decisions. Supervisors receive a report showing the demographics of applicants at each step of the hiring process. This report is often used as a teachable moment in identifying possible biases. To help ensure new hires stay with the city, we developed a more comprehensive onboarding program that includes employee resource groups, a new hire check-in survey, a mentorship program, and training about learning styles and the city’s racial equity strategic objectives.

Results so far

Since we began using these measures, city staff identifying as people of color has nearly tripled from 4.25% in 2016 to 12.14% in 2020. We consider this a success, but we know numbers only tell one story. We want our city staff not only to reflect metro area demographics but also to have a true sense of belonging, inclusion, and opportunities for growth. That work continues as we also pursue new ways of recruiting diverse applicants.

Christine RuzekCHRISTINE RUZEK
Human Resources Manager
Eden Prairie (population 63,456)

I belong. It is our goal that each and every employee can genuinely say those words when describing what it is like to work at the City of Eden Prairie. It is important to include others and appreciate them, but that is not enough. We need to do more.

Relationships are key

A few years ago, we put together a multi-faceted strategic plan to focus on race, equity, and inclusion. The plan included analyzing demographic data and conducting research, partnering with organizations and professionals with similar goals, establishing internal practices, continuing to align goals and values to what we do, and expanding the ongoing training and development opportunities provided to our employees. An important initial step in progressing our plan was to redefine our city values to better reflect who we are and explicitly promote diversity. “Relationships” is the key value that supports this effort, and this is how the city describes it: Create positive experiences and deliver high-quality services. We create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. We strive to exceed customer expectations with each unique interaction. We focus on listening and understanding the needs of others. We exhibit positive attitudes, even when faced with adversity. We embrace diverse perspectives, experiences, lifestyles, and cultures.

Recruiting and training

Having a newly defined value specific to diversity challenges us to constantly move forward in this area. For example, recruiting top talent has been a well-established goal, but we’ve challenged ourselves to diversify and create advertisements to target a variety of audiences. Our objective is to have a workforce that reflects the community we serve. Additionally, providing training has always been important at the city. Over the next two years, all employees will go through eight training workshop sessions on topics related to diversity, race, equity, and inclusion. Our goal is to have meaningful conversations to gain insight and address controversial topics head-on, even though they can be difficult.

Focus on growth

The topic of diversity can be overwhelming. In a world full of division, it can be very difficult to address the topic and know where to begin. But, at the City of Eden Prairie, we are focused on constant learning, developing, and growing. We know that’s what it will take to get to where we want to be, and we will be a stronger organization for it.