Honoring Black History Month as a Business 02.23.2024 | Chris Brunone, MBA

Black History Month challenges us as individuals to lean in, listen, and learn more about the lesser-known (but vitally important) parts of history that have shaped our communities today. But businesses that value cultivating inclusive and diverse workspaces and cultures are also responsible for leaning in.

Black History Month within a business context is not merely a gesture of acknowledgment; it’s a deliberate commitment to fostering an inclusive environment that values diversity and honors the contributions of Black individuals to society and the workplace. In recognizing and celebrating the achievements, struggles, and cultural heritage of the Black community, businesses actively contribute to cultivating a more vibrant and enriched organizational culture; colleagues across your company can deepen their understanding of diversity, promote equality, and cultivate a sense of belonging among employees from all backgrounds. This observance — and other similar events dedicated to honoring minority contributions – also underscores the never-ending work corporations must do to embrace different perspectives and experiences to drive innovation, creativity, and winning outcomes!

Weichert’s culture is undoubtedly distinctive; our people share a relentless dedication to supporting each other, and this is apparent in how they have wholly embraced initiatives that promote diversity, inclusion, and helping others unlock their greatest potential. But this didn’t happen by accident; DEI is an integral part of our company’s Mission and Beliefs and guides our behavior in every aspect of our work.

Our Belief in Open Doors and Open Minds tests our ability to have our minds changed through respectful dialogue. Our colleagues participate in a wide range of training and focus groups on Inclusion, Unconscious Bias, Microaggressions, and Bystander Responsibility to build perspective and be the best they can be. This training also teaches diversity of thinking, personality, culture, lifestyle, language, gender, spirituality, and the principle of “meeting others where they are” as critical distinctions and skills to best support our customers, who are going through all the mixed emotions associated with relocations and assignments.

We especially emphasize the nuances of various cultures worldwide and their importance at work and in life. We maintain a dedicated focus on learning from our colleagues and evolving our internal processes, policies, and behaviors in pursuit of our overall DE&I goals as an organization. Here’s what that looks like:

◾ We protect the health of our colleagues by allowing flexible work arrangements such as hybrid and work-from-home options to most colleagues. Currently, 98% of our North American staff work hybrid/remotely, and 100% of staff across the EMEA and APAC.

◾ We invest in local talent, and thereby ensure availability of local successors.

◾ We create a diverse and fair career and leadership development system.

◾ We foster platforms where employees with shared backgrounds or interests can connect, share experiences, and encourage a sense of belonging. Over 2023, our newly formed Colleague Networks met monthly to discuss current events, issues and concerns inside and outside the workplace. This month, these platforms will serve as a dynamic stage for meaningful conversations about Black History Month, educational opportunities, and actionable steps toward creating a more inclusive environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to thrive.

We’re in the business of people, and what makes our people feel supported, included, and engaged only makes us stronger as an organization. I sat down with a few remarkable colleagues to understand what this month means to them, how they have been shaped by their heroes, and what lessons businesses should adopt in reflecting on Black History Month.

Siera Tambajang, Workforce Mobility Counselor:

I’m originally from The Gambia, one of the smallest countries in Africa, so Black History Month has a unique meaning to me. I seize this time to celebrate, recognize, and learn about Africans and African Americans who have shaped black culture (worldwide) and history through their great contributions. And in learning these stories, I’ve discovered more about who I am, where I came from, and how I live my life daily.

Growing up, my family members were my guiding heroes, from my paternal grandfather, who, despite not ever having any formal education, worked under British colonial rule to assist with designing and constructing almost all the roads and streets in the capital of The Gambia. Or my dad, who made the arduous journey to the UK by road and sea to continue his education and graduate from one of the most prestigious universities in London while working many full-time jobs to obtain a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

I’m so proud to say that my list of heroes grows yearly as I learn more about the men and women from all racial backgrounds who fought tirelessly for equality but whose stories are not always shared in our history books. Like Dr. Shirley Jackson, who invented the technology responsible for touch-tone phones, caller ID, and call waiting… there’s someone you can think of and thank every time you call a transferee or client.

Michael Cummings, Workforce Mobility Counselor, Homesale

While Black History month creates a space honor the neglected accomplishments of our African American heroes by showing us their struggle for freedom and equal opportunity, our learning should extend beyond one month! Growing up, my grandmother was my hero; she was one of the first black Cheerleaders in Morristown High School and was so well-loved by everyone in our community, no matter the color. She taught me so much about equality, respect and humility long before I’d even picked up a book in a classroom.

The lesson we should be taking away from this month is the value of equal opportunity. Everyone should have an equal chance to succeed, whether it be through equal pay, equal opportunity for jobs, equal housing…because equitable communities are stronger and more resilient.

Yvette Byrd, Team Lead

Black History Month is an opportunity for me to give thanks to the Ancestors by working through my goals. I honor my heritage every day because I am here because of the tenacity of my family members.  I honor my ancestors by attending cultural events such as the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, attending local library events and volunteering. To me, February is the kick off month, but every day is an opportunity to honor black history…. acknowledging the past and moving forward on new dreams and goals. My Great Grandmother was a dynamic woman, my hero, and our very own history book; the challenges and extreme racism didn’t deter her when she attended culinary school, when she purchased her first home, or when she raised her family.

I just celebrated my 4th year at Weichert and am enthusiastic about being part of a client-focused organization that encourages growth, competitiveness, and education and prioritizes DEI and employee partnership. Celebrating and accepting differences and our individual values is encouraging and should be woven through every company today.

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Written by Chris Brunone, MBA

Chris Brunone

Chris is Executive Vice President, Talent Development & Colleague Engagement at Weichert, managing companywide training initiatives and overseeing our talent onboarding and engagement efforts. He has 35 years of experience in talent development and leadership training to his role, having honed his craft working at The Ken Blanchard Companies and BlessingWhite. He is the architect of our Legendary Service initiative, which has grown from a customer service training program to part of our corporate DNA, and as our industry grows more complex, he continues to equip our leaders to more competently and confidently lead others to higher levels of performance.

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