Workforce diversity makes a stronger, better ITD            

OpEd from the desk of Transporter Editor Reed Hollinshead

The word “diversity” conjures up a whole set of possibilities. At various times, it can feel synonymous with protected classes, hiring practices (if not mandates, strong encouragement), or cultural progressiveness - none of which are bad. In fact, in my book, diversity is good for all.

When you have a group of individuals working together, each brings their own special qualities to the team. Workforce diversity recognizes those differences as an integral part of the work atmosphere.

Each of us brings special qualities to the table – those things that make us who we are. Within our workplace environment, we must value and respect individual differences. Those differences can make teams stronger and better, if each of us recognizes that valuable qualities exist in each other.

For this reason, the department stands firm on its policy to provide equal employment opportunities to all people, without regard to race, color, national origin, age, marital status, ancestry, religion, gender, veteran status or non job-related handicap.

A quarter of ITD’s workforce is female. That number needs to keep growing. I am proof that the department also hires (and most importantly, retains) persons with physical disabilities. ITD also employs more than 100 minorities. 

We all come from different backgrounds, and the department also recognizes and values that diversity. There are employees that have made ITD their entire career. It is not uncommon to find that employment here is the common thread for generations of state workers. Fathers and sons, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews — ITD history runs in the blood.

Others have joined the department from the private sector or other public-service jobs. ITD also employs 204 former or current military personnel — about 13 percent of our total.

We are deeply committed to maintaining a workforce reflecting the diversity of our state, where individuals work together in an environment of tolerance, understanding, open communication, mutual respect and trust.

We have made progress, but there is always room for improvement.

In today’s changing work environment, managers must learn to communicate much more with employees in order to get to know them better, on an individual basis. We must learn to stop and recognize accomplishments, and to celebrate both the quick wins and victories in the long-term battles.

We must identify the strengths and uniqueness of each individual and use those strengths. This benefits the department and all Idahoans by allowing the individual to feel included and valued within the organization. Employees who feel respected and valued are more receptive to working with and contributing to team efforts.

By nature of its definition, diversity is not one we can limit to only include race, gender, religion or age. It includes all the differences that make us unique.

It brings together all kinds of people, ranging from the quiet and withdrawn to the outgoing. Each has a place on any team. It is our job to create a work atmosphere in which everyone can thrive. This includes tolerance, understanding, open communication, respect and trust.

By placing value on the individual, each of us can claim ownership in the work we do, knowing we are playing a valuable role in the department’s success.

None of us individually is as good as all of us collectively.

Published 07-14-17