Bridging the Gaps – Because it is Important
Our world is constantly changing. Just a few weeks ago, we were all laser focused on how the current pandemic is affecting our industry. Now, our hearts are heavy with the current issues related to peaceful protests versus criminal activity.
I think it's important to not lose sight of what it's going to take to keep us strong and moving forward when we begin reshaping our new normal. During my year as BOMA Greater Dallas president, I had the opportunity to talk about a topic that is important to me, which was also the theme of my presidency -- Bridging the Gaps. As an association, we used this as a topic for discussion among our peers, we talked about it in educational sessions, and for the first time, we published a forum for the association.
Personally, I learned a lot over the past year. I found our industry leaders take this issue seriously and that we are seeing progress. I also learned that some are more open with their efforts, while others would rather “walk the walk” than “talk the talk.” I get that and I respect anyone who prefers to take-action instead of talking about it. That's progress.
But WHY did this issue suddenly become a hot topic over the last few years? Even before the recent protests, we were having discussions -- not just in the commercial real estate industry, but as a society. Were we talking about diversity and inclusion 20 years ago? Possibly, but I don't recall it being a hot topic. Today it IS a hot topic that will continue to gather momentum. And we focus on diversity and inclusion for one reason: because it is important.
Teresa Foster recently had a conversation with John Myers, who brings a unique perspective to the discussion of diversity and inclusion. After spending 15 years as president of Peloton Commercial Real Estate, John is now the managing director, property management for JLL. Two completely different companies and cultures, but John's commitment to bridging the gaps started at Peloton and now continues at JLL.
“This is a great topic and one I love to discuss,” Myers said. “Dallas is a diverse city – one of the most diverse in the United States. It is important that our industry accurately reflects that diversity.”
And Myers is right. Recently the personal finance site WalletHub published a series on diversity among cities in the United States. WalletHub's study looked at diversity in a number of areas: socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household, and religion. The result: Dallas ranked fifth in terms of the overall diversity score.
While we all know that diversity is important, and it is a part of our local culture, it also makes good business sense. Research shows that cities, countries, and organizations with diverse populations all fare better than their less diverse counterparts.
According to Myers, “A larger workforce, with a broader base, provides for improved decision-making. It also provides higher client satisfaction – and clients are expecting their service partners to meet supplier diversity goals.”
While this has been an important issue for Myers for many years, with his role at JLL, the playing field is a bit different. Although Peloton was a market leader in terms of leasing and property management in Texas, the resources at JLL, with more than 92,000 employees, provide more opportunities to support diversity and inclusion.
“JLL's core values emphasize diversity and inclusion,” he said. “And I think it is important not only to our company, but to the industry as a whole.”
And the company provides programs that support this value. These programs include:
- Empower, Black Professionals Network
- GenAll, Intergenerational Business Network
- Latino Empowerment Resource Network
- PossABILITY Business Network
- Building Pride Business Network
- Women's' Business Network
These platforms provide a great foundation for increasing diversity and inclusion, but we're still not there yet. This begs the question: how do we keep moving forward? According to Myers, continued awareness and support.
“The industry as a whole does not yet seem to represent the broad diversity of the population, particularly at senior leadership levels,” he said. “And most of us got into this industry by accident. So, we need to be constantly aware of people we come in contact with, that they have the aptitude and attitude for our industry.”
That means developing a workforce that represents society. But diversity doesn't just mean a variety of ages, genders, races or religious affiliations, it also includes skill sets. If our companies are stacked with “numbers people,” we would make budget every year. However, as much as we love our accountants, we need other skill sets to keep our buildings running efficiently and our tenants happy. And to provide a different perspective for our opportunities.
Sometimes it is challenging to embrace skill sets, systems or opinions that are different from our own. However, making the effort is important…and it brings us one step closer to creating that workforce that looks like our local culture.