25 Years of Making Diversity and Inclusion Work
By David Diaz - Resident Regional Manager, Englewood Hospital, Englewood, NJ
Beginnings in Housekeeping
Since I started at Crothall 25 years ago as a housekeeping supervisor, I’ve seen diversity and inclusion at our company from three distinct views: as a new associate; a New Yorker working in Birmingham, Alabama, and now, as a regional manager. Each experience has been unique and helped shape my understanding of how inclusion can bring out the best in our people.
When I joined Crothall in 1993 as an ambitious 27-year-old from Queens, N.Y., I didn’t plan to stay there long. After attending New York City Technical College, I had my sights set on a career in engineering. In the interview for the housekeeping position, I recognized the value of the company’s mission and wanted to be part of the team.
I was hard-working and I wanted to learn. I didn’t have a set work schedule, but it struck me as unusual when I was often asked to follow up my evening shift at Westchester County Medical Center by also taking on the night shift.
I initially thought, “Why am I working the evening shift, then asked to work the night schedule?” Something just didn’t seem right and I wondered if I was being treated unfairly.
But it turned out that just the opposite was true. Because I knew the evening shift schedule so well, I soon realized my supervisor was placing his trust in my ability to perform the night shift without any interruption in service.
Working the night shift helped me learn more about the job, gain confidence in my ability and provide better service to our clients and care for the patients. Instead of being treated unfairly, I had been given greater responsibilities and within two years was promoted to assistant director.
Looking back 25 years later, I may not have had the proper skills at the time to adapt quickly to a new environment. But as I gained more experience and understanding of the company, its policies and culture, my perception of being excluded was just that. The experience taught me some valuable lessons. If I worked hard and did a good job, rewards would follow. I also learned that introducing myself and speaking to people in a pleasant manner goes a long way.
Finally, I also learned Crothall was a better place for me than a career in engineering. I earned an associate’s degree and started looking for a new job in industrial or mechanical engineering. But the job descriptions lacked any mention of team development or working with people. In our world, at Crothall, we work together every day. That’s where inclusion comes in.
Caribbean in the US
As my career progressed, I moved to Birmingham, Alabama in October 2006 as director at Trinity Medical Center. The medical team, support staff and patients were as diverse a community as you will find anywhere – and another good opportunity for me to put my skills to work.
It may seem like an odd fit for a person born and bred in New York, but my family and I felt right at home. We enjoyed the climate and the family-oriented environment. We would tell our relatives in the north that it was like living in the Caribbean with US currency.
Because of the racial and gender diversity in our staff, the opportunities to celebrate and promote diversity were around me every day. Everyone worked together to accomplish our goals and it didn’t matter that I was a Hispanic man from New York. The staff welcomed me and made me feel special. In turn, I was encouraged to support the team even more.
Because I’m bilingual, I was able to bridge the gap between those that spoke only English or Spanish. Doctors and nurses often needed someone to translate the needs of a Spanish-speaking patient, so they would often call me. By helping out the medical staff, I not only helped improve patient care, but forged a closer bond between the medical staff and many of the Spanish-speaking employees at the hospital.
The leadership team at the time also embraced a diversity within our local management teams, which turned out to be another rung in my development chain. When Ken Vlass, my regional manager at the time, would travel to Birmingham, he would also provide me and the staff with encouraging words about our performance and our future. His visits provided a boost to our spirits and made me feel that I was a part of the company’s future.
Making Diversity Come Alive Today
I’ve now been a director for 19 years, and it’s up to me to be the inclusion leader. As the person who supports our management team and front-line associates, it’s important to lead by example.
I begin each day with a tour of the patients’ rooms. In my interaction with staff or patients, I make sure that every action has a purpose. It could be opening a door, hearing them out when they have a concern or following up on a request at the end of the day. Every person needs to know that what they say to me is important. To me, that’s putting diversity and inclusion into practice every day. Everyone counts, and with engagement they will deliver their very best. In turn, we must celebrate that gesture and acknowledge the efforts for inclusion.
Our honesty and interactions with others can often make a big difference in creating a more diverse work environment. When a front-line staff member asks me “Where are you from?”, I let them know I’m the first generation in my family born in the United States and that my parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic. I may have a reputation as a strict supervisor who seeks excellence in everyone, but I believe my credibility increases with many associates once they know my background isn’t much different than their own.
Inclusion is also a formal part of the job. I hold one-on-one meetings with everyone on the staff so we can begin to build a strong relationship. And doing that will lead to their inclusion in a variety of ways.
As a DIAC board member, I’ve had the opportunity to share the experiences I’ve learned during my assignments leading very diverse teams from California, Maryland, Delaware, Alabama, Florida and back where it all started in New York/New Jersey. I want to provide as much support for this group for as long as possible.
Our momentum is positive and gaining strength. There is a lot of work ahead to drive and maintain efforts for diversity and inclusion through increased training, cultural celebrations, embracing our associates, and minimizing barriers of resistance.
Looking for other Ignite Inclusion stories? Check out our latest:
More about DIAC
Diversity & Inclusion Action Councils (DIAC) are business supported, associate led groups that are dedicated to championing the Diversity & Inclusion mission of Compass. The DIACs are aligned to the business sectors and seek to foster inclusion through cultural awareness, engagement and appreciation of diversity. Learn more here.
Join the Compass One Family as a Crothall Associate
Looking for meaningful work helping people? Do you want to marry your passions and serving others? Check out available team member or management opportunities to join the Compass One Healthcare and Crothall Healthcare family. We believe in providing exceptional patient experiences and are proud of the opportunities we have each day to help people and serve alongside world-class clients.
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