Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Contracting Space

Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Contracting Space

Diversity and inclusion efforts have become a fixture of the American workplace. Curating a culture that allows for broader perspectives and takes full advantage of the complete spectrum of worker experiences has demonstrated benefits that are putting those employers ahead. Inclusive workplaces are getting more out of their employees and benefitting from how those efforts reach top talent in new hires. Any federal contractor knows the importance of a competitive edge, especially when it comes to getting the most out of their workforce. Fostering diversity and inclusion in the federal contracting space should be high on any contractor’s priority list. Read on to find out why.

What is “diversity and inclusion”?

Diversity and inclusion are closely linked concepts, but each with its own unique definition and benefit. Diversity is a measure of representation within a workplace. A diverse workplace is an environment where many different genders, races, nationalities, and other orientations and identities are present.

Inclusion goes beyond the demographics. An inclusive workplace relies on how well the contributions and perspectives of a diverse group of people is valued and integrated into all levels of the company. A workplace that prioritizes not just diversity but also inclusion reaps the benefit of getting a broader perspective and innovation, as well as deeper commitment and trust with their valued employees.

What is the benefit of a diverse workplace?

The primary goal of any federal contractor is to be competitive in their space. This applies just as much to the work environment they curate, as it does to putting together a successful contract bid. Equitable workplaces that prioritize diversity and inclusion have been shown to outclass their competitors, as a direct result of how inclusive spaces bring the best out of employees.

Research has shown that diverse and inclusive workplaces drive higher revenue growth, increase an employer’s ability to recruit a larger talent pool, and result in a higher employee retention rate. Diversity and inclusion are closely linked to workplace culture and employee satisfaction and productivity. Employers that are seeking to retain their valued workers and promote an environment that fosters productivity would be wise to capitalize on the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Fostering diversity and inclusion in the federal contracting space.

One of President Biden’s first actions in office was to revoke Executive Order 13950, which had imposed limitations on diversity programming in the federal contracting space and replaced it with Executive Order 13985 establishing a whole-of-government equity agenda. In that moment, diversity and inclusion efforts became an important factor for employers that are federal contractors – particularly contractors that hope to secure contract wins in the future.

E.O. 13985 imposes an array of requirements to guide executive departments and agencies in taking proactive steps to foster diversity and inclusion efforts. The executive order calls for a comprehensive review of methods for assessing agency policies, identifying whether specific programs or policies provide opportunity for equity, and collaborating with underrepresented and underserved communities to develop plans and strategies to correct past failures in diversity and inclusion efforts.

In terms of how E.O. 13985 will impact federal contractors, it’s important to understand that the executive order has no explicit requirements for private organizations. Rather, E.O. 13985 focuses on how federal agencies and departments are distributing resources and benefits, including opportunities in the federal contracting space. Therefore, federal contractors can expect to see the new polices and priorities of E.O. 13985 reflected in the distribution of contract opportunities.

Tips for federal contractors.

Fostering diversity and inclusion in the federal contractor’s space starts with the practices of individual employers. Diversity and inclusion are on the path to become a key components of compliance, recruitment, and continued opportunities in federal contracting. Here are some tips for federal contractors on how to foster this kind of environment.

Communication and Connection: The core of inclusion is simply that: include. The greatest resource available to federal contractors is their own workforce. Contractors can communicate with their own employees for referrals on new hires, as well as a means of gauging current needs and feelings of belonging.

Inclusive Outreach: Federal contractors may look outside of the office, to national organizations and educational associations that further diversity outreach efforts. Establishing a partnership with these organizations will add value to diversity outreach efforts and bolster a contractor’s reputation as an inclusive space. Social media is a handy tool for communicating an employer’s mission and efforts, in order to attract top talent.

Companywide Commitment: Diversity and inclusion efforts start from the top and work their way through a company. Company leadership should clearly communicate and affirm that company’s commitment to non-discrimination and equal opportunity practices. Showing commitment to diversity and inclusion at the highest levels at the company helps it to take root at every level. Companies can invest in the next generation of inclusive hires by creating an internship program or offering scholarships and stipends to students.

The Department of Labor has provided additional guidance and resources for federal contractors. Click here to learn more.

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