June 8, 2021
Holly Carmichael, COO
Following the death of George Floyd, we made a pledge to make GT Independence more culturally inclusive. In the spirit of accountability and transparency, I wanted to share how we’ve evolved over the past year and highlight where we still need to go.
It All Starts With a Single Step
Last summer’s national conversation about racial injustice and inequity has led us to redouble our efforts to create a more welcoming and inclusive organization. As a first step, we adopted the core principles of cultural humility and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care. We’ve implemented a Culture and Belonging Plan based on the 15 action steps established by the National CLAS Standards to address the issue of unequal access in the health care industry.
While we certainly won’t be able to resolve the unequal access issue alone, we can help promote health equity by raising awareness of and supporting access to home- and community-based services (HCBS) among communities with lower adoption, thus bringing better health outcomes to more people.
Looking Inward at GT Independence
This work starts by looking inward. We believe we’ll be able to better reach those communities if we make GT Independence more inclusive — in terms of the language we use, the cultures we understand, and the representation we reflect at the leadership level.
Implementing our Culture and Belonging Plan companywide will help us better align our internal culture with our values of respect, integrity, and allowing people to live the life they choose.
To lead the effort of fostering greater inclusivity at GT Independence, we brought on Stephen Graves, who has years of experience working on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in a hospital system setting. He’ll be drawing on this background as he rolls out the CLAS standards within the company.
Step 1: Developing opportunities for learning and self-reflection for GT staff
But before tackling growth and adopting new outlooks, we felt it was important for our staff to examine their current biases and identify areas for improvement. So the first priority of the inclusivity initiative was developing opportunities for learning and self-reflection for GT staff. We hosted 12 learning activities from August 2020 through March 2021, including two listening sessions at GT Week, seven “Courageous Conversations,” and three town hall sessions.
Step 2: Establishing a new organizational structure
The second component was establishing a new organizational structure to support our cultural humility and competency efforts. This meant performing an organizational assessment using the CLAS framework to identify areas for development. We conducted a Cultural Humility Committee listening tour in June 2020 to gather feedback from committee members, and then carried out a diversity and inclusion survey among our staff in October, achieving a 75% response rate.
Finally, we partnered with a language access coordinator to perform a language access analysis with operations managers in January and February 2021, gaining insight into barriers to and opportunities for improving language access.
Step 3: Developing tools to better measure effectiveness
The third pillar was developing tools to better measure the effectiveness of our efforts. This portion of our work is still in progress, but initial results of the employee survey indicated that 88% of staff members felt that their cultures were respected. We would like that number to reach 100%, and we will continue to measure our progress and learn from our people to improve our approach.
Continuing on the Road Ahead
While we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past year, we know we can do better, and we have a series of additional projects in the pipeline to us keep moving forward.
Planning for Next Year
In the next year, for example, we’ll be introducing voluntary employee resource groups, where co-workers with different backgrounds and interests can gather together for increased support. We plan to host additional panels and conduct further surveys so that every one of our employees feels heard. We’re also bringing in an independent contractor to validate the proficiency of our bilingual staff members, to make sure we’re communicating with people from diverse cultures as accurately as possible.
We will continue the dialogue among all the populations we serve, challenging ourselves and our industry to build stronger, more equitable communities — starting with health care. We believe passionately in the idea of HCBS as a model of support for people with disabilities and those who are aging, and we know we’ll be able to better reach and serve those people if we reflect and represent all communities needing that support, while ensuring that all cultures feel respected, honored, and valued.
When people of all backgrounds have the same experience interacting with GT Independence, we will have reached our goal. But until then, the work continues, as we seek to be more inclusive and more welcoming to more people.
From the desk of