COVID19 has impacted our lives unexpectedly and immeasurably. Workplace interactions with coworkers have been particularly limited. However, in person, or remote, the need to connect with and engage employees has remained a critical aspect of leadership, as well as the delivery of services to clients, customers, and employees.
Individuals employed in HR roles have had to adapt to a new employment reality. Many HR professionals are tasked with hiring, staff development, employer and labor relations, and employee benefits and compensation. Imagine having to handle these tasks remotely.
Another function that may or may not be in the HR department is DEI, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. My guest, Rita Mitjans, lives DEI professionally and personally.
Rita emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba when she was seven years old. Growing up in Florida, Rita graduated with a bachelor’s degree from St John’s University and returned to school to acquire her MBA from Harvard University. She has over 35 years of leadership experience, including seats on the Board of Advisors at Catalyst and the Council of Global Diversity & Inclusion of The Conference Board.
After graduating from St. John’s, Rita spend about 10 years in the client services and sales industry. After obtaining her MBA, she landed in the financial services industry, mainly working with mergers and acquisitions. At ADP, she held various leadership positions including VP of Marketing and Chief Diversity & Corporate Social Responsibility Officer until her retirement in September of 2019.
Rita thrived in her diversity role at ADP. Her favorite aspect of this position was that she had the opportunity to impact the culture of the organization. She was able to influence the investment n and the advancement of talent. Rita made sure that associates felt like they belonged and had their voices heard.
One of her major challenges was not being able to own her own results. She oversaw a small team that had a large area of responsibility. Because of their role in the company, they did not have direct control over the implementation of their projects.
If you ever find your self in a diverse work environment, Rita offers the following advice to make it a comfortable, learning environment.
- Practice active listening. Listen to learn and not to respond.
- Be Inquisitive. Ask appropriate questions to find out why people feel the way they do.
- Take time to understand someone else’s “why”.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the other person.
When you find yourself in situations with people of diverse backgrounds, always be receptive to learning more about them. Make the effort to understand their backgrounds and where they came from. Always be curious and not closed minded. Just remember the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.