Connecting to the Mission by Leveraging Difference - Penn-Mar

Connecting to the Mission by Leveraging Difference

Posted on August 5, 2022

Greg Miller

Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

By the time our team members at Penn-Mar read this, they will be aware of a new program we are launching called the “Belonging” initiative.  

Traditional diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs often focus on a problem to be solved. Our approach at Penn-Mar will rather focus on opportunities to be embraced by ensuring all team members have a profound sense of belonging as we celebrate the differences among us.  

Once identified, team members will be challenged to work together to understand the ways these differences matter to our business so that our leadership can use them to accomplish things more effectively. In short, we are looking to leverage the differences among us to best meet our mission as an organization. 

This is not a “check-all-the-boxes-and-move-on” program. This is an investment in our workforce and in the future of our organization. We are launching this initiative because our journey to ensure everyone is properly supported and encouraged in their daily work at Penn-Mar has not been fully accomplished. In short, I know we can do better. 

We are taking this pro-active, innovative approach to help Penn-Mar attract and retain the best and brightest talent by leveraging the life experiences of our team members so that they will always feel welcomed, respected and connected to a place where they truly belong. 

Leading us on this ambitious, year-long initiative will be Dr. Martin N. Davidson, a Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Martin is also the Chief Diversity Officer at UVA and his approach to this issue is world-renowned. He has worked on five continents with numerous different types of businesses. 

Martin is a thought leader on global leadership with an emphasis on how to manage diversity to generate superior performance. He uses an approach called “Leveraging Difference” and is the author of the book, The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed 

Both our Penn-Mar Human Services and Foundation Boards have read and embraced Martin’s philosophy about how to better connect people in the organization and confront the places where that is not currently happening. 

This exciting initiative is made possible by grants from M&T Bank, WellSpan, the Kahlert Foundation, and a significant contribution from the Penn-Mar Foundation. It is a leadership endorsed process and while our Leadership Team is committed to successfully implementing necessary change at Penn-Mar, we will not be following a “top-down” management structure as we roll this out.   

Our leaders will be fully engaged in this process but “Belonging” will also be powered from the bottom-up, using team member interviews with Martin to explore work experiences and issues that can help our culture be more connected to the organization’s mission. Our hope is that all team members will embrace the importance of celebrating and leveraging our unique differences. 

Studies show that employees closely connected to mission, co-workers, and managers have a more productive, enjoyable experience in the workplace. That is the goal we are obviously shooting for. We will be working with Martin to create our own metric to measure just how successful this initiative has been to achieve that. 

The “Belonging” initiative promises to be an organizational journey of discovery. Clearly, based on our success and reputation, we are doing many things very well. But undoubtedly there are areas where we need to grow and change.  

By working with outside expertise, we will be better able to challenge our own assumptions and thought processes. You know what they say: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”  

Not yet, anyway. 

We want to hear from our team members to ensure that we have a powerful process in place that leads to amazing outcomes. It is my fervent hope that this exercise will excite and engage all of us over the next 12 months. 

I see the “Belonging” initiative as a building block on our brand promise to “Live Courageously.” It’s the right program at the right time. It also presents a higher level of accountability for our leadership team to ensure that we truly are who we say we are, continually driven by passion and guided by purpose. 

I look forward to walking with each of you on the exciting journey ahead. 

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