As we set our personal and professional goals for 2021, what would it look like if we collectively included showing honor and valuing others to our individual lists? What difference could we make in the lives of those around us?

This year, the Eurest Diversity and Inclusion Action Council (DIAC) has set out to create additional programming that supports our commitment to celebrating differences and fostering inclusion.

On February 1, Eurest is launching the Better Together Series in marketplaces across the country. The Better Together Series is an opportunity for our teams to recognize various cultures, experiences, backgrounds and beliefs while educating others through sharing the stories of our associates, starting with Black History Month.

DIAC Executive Sponsors Garwin Freeze and Kim Gillyard are sharing how one of the most influential black leaders of our time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, has shaped how they lead our teams to create a culture where everyone is valued and welcomed.

As we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what are some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles and teachings that have made an impact on you personally and professionally?  

Freeze:  It is hard for me to truly understand the frustration that is felt in the minority community because I have never personally had to deal with those challenges. Nevertheless, I can show compassion and empathy. Progress has not happened quick enough for many people and the temptation to move to more immediate remedies can seem appealing, but we want to work toward solutions that will be long-lasting. I subscribe to Dr. King’s 6 principles of nonviolence.  I have always felt working together will lead to the desired and equitable outcome and that PATIENCE will be rewarded.

Gillyard:  One of Dr. King’s principles is that we should seek to defeat injustice and not people.  I find it vital to remember that, at the core, most people desire good.  In living through these socially charged times, it is important to see that common humanness can be a driver to evolve our society.  He also espoused the importance of choosing love over hate.  While these issues of injustice certainly and justifiably evoke strong emotional responses, seeking solutions through positivity and the filter of love will produce the better, lasting results.

MLK made an incredible impact as an influential leader in the Civil Rights movement. How are you hoping to make a difference when it comes to making sure all people feel valued and welcomed? 

Freeze: It starts with me. I control my actions, my emotions, my attitudes. Those will create the perception of me that I want. I want to be recognized as open, honest, willing and eager to help. My actions lead others and I want those to be positive interactions. We need people in leadership positions to affect change and to be the champion of the afflicted population in order to achieve the change we seek. That is my goal and my role.

Gillyard:  As an human resources professional, I have an awesome opportunity to model desired behaviors among the leaders and managers I partner with.  More than model behaviors, I challenge their assumptions and beliefs that drive their decisions while bringing a differing, but helpful point of view.

What goals are you hoping to achieve this year in the realm of diversity and inclusion?  

Freeze: We are working on English as a Second Language courses for our frontline associates along with launching Mentoring Circles to provide immediate support guidance to help with job development. We’re also pursuing computer literacy classes to help prepare frontline associates for mid-level management positions in addition to an expanded 16-week job development program that will help identify associates with the potential and true desire to advance their careers.

Gillyard:  I want to fully support the program and efforts of Eurest.  Our DIAC has some great energy and ideas to implement.  What is most important to me is to keep the drive going and to not let this be a campaign, but an opportunity to truly live D&I principles in every business decision.  It needs to be an active and ongoing part of our organizational DNA.

We believe that as an organization, our diversity gives us a competitive advantage. What are you looking forward to seeing come out of the Better Together Series? 

Freeze: I am looking forward to seeing the series create more awareness around the many cultures and backgrounds represented in our organization. I am hopeful that when we know better, we do better together.

Gillyard:  I agree that the Better Together Series brings great attention and awareness to our sector as it relates to the benefits of diversity in our organization.  We know there is empirical evidence that a diverse organization drives business success.  More than that, I hope this series invigorates our leaders and decision makers to truly live the principles of diversity and inclusion.