If you ask Natalie Davis, founder of The Evolution Group in Denver, with a little work, creating an office environment where everyone feels like they belong can happen quite quickly. All it takes is a commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion and a few tangible action steps to get started.
As we gear up for the 2023 Broker Summit in Kansas City, Mo., we’re taking a look back at the Bias Override co-facilitator and speaker’s presentation on creating a DEI blueprint for your brokerage.
As she got started, Davis made it clear that DEI is not a political issue, but rather “a way to foster a sense of belonging in your business and in your community.” With a commitment to creating a culture of belonging, brokers are well equipped to represent the entirety of their communities and lead a team of agents capable of doing the same.
Focus on the Feeling of Belonging
Inclusion and belonging are two different things, Davis said. Inclusion is that action brokers take to create a space where everyone feels like they belong. Inclusion is in the brokerage’s mission statement, marketing, core values and training offered to agents. Belonging is the feeling created by the action of inclusion. In order to create an inclusive space, focus on how belonging feels. Figure out what makes people of all backgrounds feel like they have a place in your office.
How do you do this? Through company culture.
Make DEI a Clear Part of Your Brokerage’s Culture
A company culture in which everyone feels like they belong isn’t “a thing that’s nice to have or a box to check,” Davis said. It’s a must. Attracting and retaining agents of all backgrounds starts with the culture the broker creates.
Start with your brokerage’s mission and vision statement, and figure out how DEI fits into those two pillars. To do so, you might have to turn inward and reflect, Davis said. “Why is DEI important to you? Once you’ve identified it, you want to bring that [reason] back to your mission and vision.”
Bringing your commitment to DEI back to your mission and vision means making sure it’s clearly articulated in both, Davis explained.
Perform an Internal Audit
Stating a commitment to an environment of belonging is a starting point. Taking action toward inclusion is making sure that both processes and practices within the brokerage align with DEI values.
Davis recommends creating a plan to ensure all facets of the business further your commitment to DEI. In order to create a plan for forward motion, though, it’s important to recognize where you’re starting from. To figure out what that starting place is, ask yourself questions in each of these areas:
Recruiting and Hiring
- What’s your commitment to DEI in this space?
- What’s the current makeup of your office and does it represent your commitment to DEI?
- Have you committed to working on uncovering unconscious bias?
- What statements are being made during the interview process?
Onboarding, Training and Support
- What’s in your new-hire packet? Does it support your commitment to DEI?
- Do you encourage or require DEI training initially? Ongoing?
- Are new agents held accountable to upholding the brokerage’s commitment to DEI? What about your longtime agents?
- Is there a segment of your community’s population that you’re not serving or that is not represented in your brokerage?
- Where do you conduct outreach on the client side and on the recruiting side?
Marketing and Branding
- What do your buyers and sellers packets look like?
- Are your marketing practices inclusive? Do your marketing photos and language promote inclusion?
- Do you have a social media policy or guidelines that outline your brokerage’s commitment to DEI?
- What does the last six months of your social media content look like, and does that period reflect your brokerage’s commitment to DEI? How about your newsletters?
Make Your Commitment Known Publicly and Privately
Once you’ve completed your internal audit and created a plan, it’s important to let your community and your brokerage know that you’re committed to creating an inclusive environment that promotes belonging. One of the easiest ways to do so is to make your commitment clear in your internal and external statements.
If you’re not sure how to word these statements, Davis recommends using phrasing that’s already been created.
“You can add a statement to your website that speaks to the fact that you align with the NAR DEI Commitment Statement. You could also use the One America Principles.”
Improve DEI in Your Brokerage
You have a plan. You’ve made your stance clear internally and externally. Now, it’s time to take action.
“You can start by hiring and developing people of color into positions of power, but this isn’t enough,” Davis said. “Can you form a committee or task force? An affinity group or a club?”
It’s also important to make sure you have buy-in from your team—and, if you don’t, adjust accordingly. Elevating people of color to positions of power and creating groups work only if you’ve truly created a culture of belonging where everyone feels safe and supported.
“Sit down and have a conversation with your team member with the caveat that everyone enter into the conversation with respect and curiosity. Highlight where the needs are and then come up with a way to fill those needs.”