Diversity, equity, inclusion action plan created for Douglas County offices

County’s new DEI officer recommends four-pronged plan focusing on workforce training, retention
Douglas County looks into improving diversity
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 5:49 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Douglas County has developed a plan to make the county a more equitable and diverse place to work with the help of a new county employee, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer.

Not quite a year ago, Douglas County hired Marisa Hattab to help answer a question:

“How can we operationalize diversity, equity, and inclusion into how we do business, and how we run our government?” Hattab said Tuesday afternoon.

After months of meeting with the 22 Douglas County departments, hundreds of employees, and the county commissioners, Hattab said they’re one step closer to solutions to that question.

Tuesday, she presented her 22-page diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan to county commissioners In it, she identifies four main pillars:

“The first is workforce development, the second is workplace inclusivity, the third is equitable policies and procedures, and the fourth is strengthening community relations.”

Each pillar has its own set of goals and objectives, she said.

For workplace development, goals include creating more efficient hiring processes, laying succession planning, and creating intentional career development plans with employees.

When it comes to equitable policies and procedures, goals include things like strengthening workplace cultures and team dynamics and creating fair access for employees to be held to the same standard across the county.

The plan also includes things like inclusive leadership training for higher-level staff members, creating employee-led task forces for employee retention, and creating yearly employee surveys to help measure progress and success.

The overarching goal of all four pillars, however, Hattab said, is this:

“Kind of the bread and butter, I guess you can say for all of them is to have a workforce meaning employees that feel like they can come to work and be their best selves, to know that there’s a system that is equitable, meaning that it’s fair.”

Part of the plan, too, is to further diversify the county workforce, so it better represents the community it serves.

“When you have diverse representation, diverse thought, identities, leadership practices.... When you have those thoughts and people around the table, it helps us to be a competitive, thriving workplace,” Hattab said.

The goals were in part developed following a survey that nearly half of Douglas County employees took last year. That survey also helped create the new DEI officer position.

“One of the areas we scored the lowest in was only 31.1% of our workforce believe that there are career development paths. So that means, basically, they know what steps they can take to advance; they know what steps they can take to be promoted,” Hattab said.

Those survey results also showed just 44% of surveyed employees believe incidents of discrimination and bias will result in inappropriate action; and even fewer, two in five, believe employees of different backgrounds are treated fairly when it comes to internal promotions.

“I think it was more an opportunity to look at this and say, ‘You know what? There are things we do well, there are areas we do well; but there are things that we can work on.’” Douglas County Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann Borgeson said about the survey results. “So how do we work on those, and work on them in a positive manner?”

Borgeson said she’s pleased with the action plan presented by Hattab, and looks forward to making Douglas County a leader when it comes to DEI.

“You have found ways to create tangible, concrete steps practically and affordably to really improve our efforts in the DEI space,” Commissioner Roger Garcia said during Tuesday’s board meeting.