How your HR department can further an inclusive economy in Philadelphia - Generocity Philly

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Oct. 19, 2017 1:23 pm

How your HR department can further an inclusive economy in Philadelphia

As America's poorest big city, we need to make opportunities for more people, writes Communally CEO Chris Jacobs. Here's how the tech company has done it.

The 2017 B Corp retreat in Toronto.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Communally CEO Chris Jacobs.
Earlier this month, a group of Philadelphia B Corps traveled to Toronto for the 2017 B Corp Champions Retreat.

Participants reported back on accomplishments from the Inclusion Economy Challenge and re-committed or committed to it. Communally was one of 154 companies to accomplish the 2016 challenge goals.

Why is that important? Because our city can use inclusion to fight the stark reality of poverty.

Although poverty is on the decline across the country, Philadelphia remains one of the poorest of the 10 largest cities in our country with 37 percent of the city’s children living in poverty. Among the largest cities, Philadelphia holds the distinction of having the highest rate of deep poverty, or people living at 50 percent of the poverty line or less.

That statistic becomes even more concerning since our city has now held the distinction two years running. Also, the median household income of $41,449 was lower than the country’s overall income of $59,039.

These statistics show the difficulty of ending poverty, the ultimate mission of Communally. One step that would go a long way in this effort is to shift our focus to an inclusive economy for all. When local business leaders commit to making the economy impartial to class distinction, everyone’s wallet wins.

In the most simple terms, let’s create more opportunities for more people.

An inclusive economy is one that is equitable and creates an opportunity for people of all backgrounds and experiences to live with dignity, to support themselves and their families, and to help their communities thrive.

How can this be put into action? In the most simple terms, let’s create more opportunities for more people.

Most importantly, let’s bring diversity and inclusion into our workplace. A year ago we took the Inclusion Challenge presented by B Lab. During that year, we promoted women into leadership and management roles to better reflect the makeup of our staff which is 56 percent female. Communally also sees diversity through its relationships with vendors, using businesses owned by women, minorities, people in underrepresented populations and other B Corps in the Philadelphia area. Working with likeminded, local companies is not only better for the economy but has consistently given us a more productive, better experience.

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At Communally, we have worked very consciously to build a corporate culture that ensures that our internal operations align with our external goals; paying family-sustaining wages with a full complement of benefits for all staff, offering multiple options for the team to be refreshed from the stress of work though generous sabbatical, parental and personal leave policies, and committing to using a diverse group of local suppliers.  The result is very low staff turnover and a high return rate.

So where does one start? In your hiring department.

Look first at your leadership.

Start from the top. Upper management must lead the discussion on bringing more diversity and inclusion into the workplace. They can ensure that a robust and clear message is  sent: that diversity is essential in the company. By doing so, other employees will follow suit.

Integrate your program into your business structure.

Upper management can also incorporate inclusion into other business objectives as they would any other goal. Remember, each company and its culture is different so focusing on this step will be unique. A diversity and inclusion committee or a diversity hiring manager can create a voice within current staff. Approaching the issue with a comprehensive plan will also keep you on track to meet your goals.

Set up basic policies.

So, you already have a head of human resources — what do you need next? Establish systems that formalize good practices, to create greater clarity and accountability for all employees and preserve these methods as the company changes and grows. Policies that are already in place include equal opportunity/employment, nondiscrimination/harassment plan and a grievances process.

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Chris Jacobs

Chris Jacobs is CEO of Communally, The Antipoverty Technology Company, and a leader in the sustainability movement. He serves as a board member of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. He has lived and worked in the Philadelphia region for over 30 years and enjoys English Premier League soccer and cycling.

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