In today's rapidly evolving corporate landscape, embracing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) is not just a moral imperative but a strategic business advantage.

GHJ has recognized this critical component of success through the establishment of its BIPOC Cohort — an employee resource group dedicated to supporting Black, Indigenous and other people of color. This group not only fosters a culture of open dialogue and mutual respect but also serves as a beacon for companies striving to harness the full potential of their workforce.

GHJ Search and Staffing Practice Leader and BIPOC Cohort Sponsor Derrick Coleman has seen firsthand how initiatives like the BIPOC Cohort can positively impact business outcomes, drive innovation, attract top talent and enhance client and employee engagement.

Roselynne Reyes: The BIPOC Cohort plays a critical role in enforcing our Firm’s culture. Before I joined GHJ, I worked in industries where I was often the only woman of color in the room. Learning about the BIPOC Cohort and GHJ’s other DEIA initiatives definitely influenced me as I made the decision to work at GHJ. What motivated you to establish this group?

Derrick Coleman: We started this group in 2020 after George Floyd’s death. The national discussions about race highlighted an urgent need for our firm to give employees an outlet to share their perspectives and support each other. We envisioned the BIPOC Cohort as a space where individuals could freely express themselves, share their experiences and feel supported.

RR: One thing that struck me when I attended my first BIPOC Cohort meeting was seeing the open dialogue in action. Seeing employees of all backgrounds and levels share their perspectives really set the tone for me and let me know that my voice was truly welcome. In my experience, getting people to open up can be a challenge in itself. How did you navigate this?

DC: One of the first hurdles was simply figuring out where to begin. Every organization has its unique nuances and understanding that no one cohort is the same was crucial. We wanted the BIPOC Cohort to be a safe space for everyone to share their experiences, not just Black issues. At the same time, we wanted to position this group as a formal entity, not just a place for venting.

Our initial meetings were primarily listening sessions, which allowed us to understand the diverse perspectives within our firm. The feedback from our informational sessions really helped guide us and helped us craft the agenda based on our shared experiences and insights. It has been extremely successful in fostering that culture we aimed for, and hearing feedback like yours reaffirms the importance and impact of this initiative.

RR: Can you highlight some specific accomplishments of the BIPOC Cohort that you are particularly proud of?

DC: One of the things we are most proud of is instituting firmwide unconscious bias training. Additionally, providing mentorship opportunities has made a significant impact on how we support our inclusive culture. Most importantly, we have been able to provide a safe space for people to share and be their authentic self. I have had a lot of folks come up to me and say “thank you for providing this” and “thank you for giving us a safe space to be open and honest,’ which is incredibly rewarding to hear.

RR: I really appreciate that this group is able to highlight such a wide range of perspectives and voices. With that said, how has leading the BIPOC Cohort influenced your approach to your roles, both as a recruiter and as a manager?

DC: Through my work with the cohort, I have definitely gained a deeper understanding of the challenges and experiences faced by my colleagues in the workplace. Even though I was already conscious of some of the experiences faced by BIPOC employees, leading the cohort has enriched my understanding of the challenges faced by BIPOC individuals in the workplace in general.

It has added depth to my approach to recruitment. Our clients are increasingly inquiring about our DEIA efforts, and I have seen how our commitment in this area resonates with candidates from underrepresented groups. It has been a profound learning experience and has certainly shaped our practices for the better.

RR: Last year, the BIPOC Cohort hosted a panel discussion for Immigrant Heritage Month, which I found really impactful because it featured different perspectives without focusing on one specific cultural identity. How have you been able to strike that balance of showcasing such a wide variety of voices without having anyone feel left out?

DC: We have always maintained an inclusive approach to the BIPOC Cohort. The key is to ensure everyone feels represented and included in our programming. Prioritizing inclusivity while being open to more focused groups is key to fostering a culture that embraces all our employees' diverse backgrounds.

RR: Looking ahead, how do you see the BIPOC Cohort evolving at GHJ?

DC: I see the BIPOC Cohort continuing to play a pivotal role in our firm's DEIA efforts. We'll keep building on our successes, adapting to new challenges and finding innovative ways to promote DEIA. Our goal is to ensure that GHJ remains a place where everyone can thrive, and I believe the BIPOC Cohort will be central to that mission.

RR: Your vision for the future is inspiring. Lastly, what advice would you offer to other companies looking to start a similar initiative?

DC: Starting a cohort can seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Begin with open dialogues, let these conversations guide your actions and remain committed to fostering a culture of inclusion and equality. It is important to tailor your approach to meet your organization's unique needs and challenges.

The journey of GHJ's BIPOC Cohort is more than just a story about an employee resource group; it is a blueprint for how companies can leverage DEIA as a strategic advantage. By fostering open dialogue, providing mentorship and promoting inclusivity, GHJ is not only enhancing its workplace culture but also setting a precedent for how a commitment to DEIA can lead to tangible business outcomes.

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Roselynne Reyes

Roselynne Reyes has seven years of marketing and communications experience. She enjoys working with subject matter experts to deliver interesting, engaging content.​ At GHJ, Roselynne works with the Firm’s niche leaders to develop relevant articles. She produces GHJ’s Business Disruption and…Learn More