“You are either supporting the vision or supporting division.”
– Saji Ijiyemi, Author
Companies and organizations around the world are implementing various diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs and initiatives. DEI is the right thing to do, and it’s good for business. However, many well-intentioned DEI efforts fail due to lack of support from executive leadership.
Nationally known DEI Strategist, J. Israel Greene of Greene Consulting wrote an online article entitled Getting Past the Top 5 Barriers to DEI Program Implementation. According to Green, low or no prioritization by top leadership is one of those significant barriers. “Unfortunately, some senior leaders don’t make DEI initiatives a priority. Often, it’s because they either don’t or won’t see a problem, or they think their company is already doing enough to address the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Greene.
Chris Brink, President of Favorite Healthcare Staffing, is one such senior leader who is changing that narrative. Brink understands the importance of executive-level support and is fully committed to extending that support for DEI here at Favorite. “I want to lead through actions, not words,” says Brink.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been on Brink’s radar since he was named President in 2020. “When I first took on the role, a close friend approached me and challenged me to look at Favorite with a different set of eyes. After some soul searching and taking a step back, I realized there were some aspects of the organization that I wasn’t too proud of.” According to Brink, one of the issues he wanted to address the most was the organization’s lack of diversity. “I realized we had to improve the opportunity to make Favorite a better place and give qualified, diverse candidates a seat at the table.”
After this newfound awareness, Brink set out to do things differently. He started by talking to others and really listening to their perspective. “Often, we have our own view, but sometimes it’s good to see things through another person’s eyes. And if we don’t know something, we’ve got to ask questions. It allows us to do a better job as a leader.”
Equipped with self-reflection and awareness from having meaningful conversations, Brink officially began his DEI journey. His next step was to put someone in place to officially lead Favorite’s DEI efforts. In April of last year, Brink appointed Jeff Welch as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Welch worked as a Diversity Training Facilitator before coming to Favorite and holds a professional certification in the field from Cornell University. “We wanted someone qualified to spot DEI opportunities and to drive those initiatives,” says Brink.
With a Diversity and Inclusion Director in place, the green light was given to implement new and transformative DEI initiatives at Favorite Healthcare Staffing. One of the first initiatives was to officially honor the now federal holiday, Juneteenth. “First, I had to learn more about Juneteenth. Once I realized the significance of that day, I, along with the other executives knew we needed to celebrate it,” says Brink. “I’m proud to say that Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day are now observed as official company holidays.”
One of the DEI initiatives that Brink is most proud of is the establishment of a Reflection Room at all three of Favorite’s corporate locations in Overland Park. The purpose of each room is to provide a safe space for quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer. Any Favorite associate is welcome to use the room, regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation.
The idea of a Reflection Room also began by having meaningful discussions and listening. “In getting feedback from our associates, especially those who are Muslim, we realized we didn’t offer a space for them to complete their prayers while here at work. Our Reflection Rooms now gives these employees an opportunity to step away and practice their commitments in a safe, quiet space,” says Brink.
By having continual dialogue with Favorite’s Muslim associates, Brink also began to learn about the importance of the holy month of fasting, known as Ramadan. “As they educated me, I gained a great respect for them and their sacrifice.” In an effort to show solidarity and get a greater understanding of their “why,” Brink decided to fast for Ramadan this year. “I usually give up sugar for Lent, but I know this will push me well beyond my Lent commitments. However, I feel this will help me better understand their sacrifices and it’s a great way to demonstrate action vs. word.”
While significant DEI inroads have been made at Favorite Healthcare Staffing, additional work still remains. According to Brink, DEI is a continuous journey, and the next phase is to assess and improve the recruitment and promotion of qualified, diverse candidates. Brink says what would make him the happiest is to “look around the room and see that it looks different from what I inherited.” He says he wants employees to continue to choose Favorite, not only because it’s a great company, but because “they feel included and good about working for us.”
Brink says he’s proud to be an ally and plans to continue with his full support for all things DEI. “I care about people – all people. And if you consistently do the right thing, great things will happen.”
Successful leaders leave a legacy. They do so because they understand the impact on everyone around them. “What we’re doing with DEI is really bigger than Favorite. These initiatives make positive changes in the lives of so many people,” says Brink. As part of that legacy, Brink realizes that he’ll be graded on his leadership performance. “When I retire, the question will be asked ‘What was my grade?’ I understand that I will have earned every aspect of that grade. Hopefully, I will be remembered for making positive changes and not being part of the status quo.”
About the Author
Jeff Welch serves as Director of Learning and Development, as well as Director of Diversity and Inclusion here at Favorite Healthcare Staffing. He is a corporate trainer, leadership coach, public speaker, and writer. As a trainer, Jeff has delivered training workshops in the United States and internationally. As a writer, he’s written for various newspapers and media outlets. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communications and Broadcast Journalism from Western Kentucky University, as well as a professional certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University.