Summit County officials outline plan to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion programs for workforce

Advisory council proposes more flexibility for religious holidays, bilingual pay compensation and continued recognition of diverse groups

Robert Tann/Summit Daily News
Summit County commissioners heard proposals for ways to support and improve diversity, equity and inclusion programs for the county government's workforce during an April 11, 2023 meeting.
Robert Tann/Summit Daily News

A newly-created advisory council on diversity, equity and inclusion gave its first formal recommendations to Summit County officials during an April 11 Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting. 

The nine-person council, which formed earlier this year and consists of county employees, is tasked with proposing ways the county’s workforce can increase hiring and retention of diverse groups, improve communication and transparency and contribute to an equitable workplace culture. 

Its proposals were based on the findings from interviews, surveys and focus groups conducted internally with county staff by an outside consultant. One of the council’s marquee goals is to increase the total number of county employees from underrepresented groups by 10% by the end of 2025. 

“For example, if there’s 20 people in Summit County government who identify as any underrepresented group, 10% of that can be two more hires,” said Zuleyma Arias, a coordinator for the county’s Mountain Mentors Program. 

Arias said the council is also proposing adjusting pay for bilingual employees, which she said is a “skill and it should be reflected in the pay.”

That could be part of a larger effort to continue to increase staff pay across the government, Arias said, while recognizing that commissioners have made those investments with a per-hour raise of $6 last year for staff. 

“We appreciate the work you are doing,” Arias said. “It’s just that the cost of living in Summit County is very, very high. So how can we best help our locals to come work for Summit County government and be able to live here?”

Flexible schedules could be another way to entice more people, and the council suggested continuing to build on hybrid and remote-work options that have become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Accommodating for religious holidays will continue to be an important way the county can support diversity and equity, said Kim Weiers, administrative assistant for the county’s facilities maintenance department.

Weiers also recommended that commissioners continue to recognize diverse groups such as through an annual proclamation in June celebrating Pride “along with announcements of other county Pride events and activities.”

Weiers said the options available for nursing mothers employed with the county were “questioned” by survey respondents. Weiers said the human resources department will “ensure that all managers are aware of the existing federal and state laws” for nursing mothers in the workplace. 

The county could also explore dedicated quiet spaces for those employees, Weiers added.

Stefanie Miranda, deputy human resources director, said in a bid to increase hiring and retention, the county could look into ways to provide online courses to staff seeking certifications that will help advance their career.

“I think there’s definitely more opportunity, and I think we can discuss this further,” Miranda said, while acknowledging “it will cost money.”

Commissioner Josh Blanchard, in response, said, “It does cost, but it’s an investment in our employees and ultimately an investment in how we serve our community better.”

To ensure that goals remain on track, county officials proposed possibly conducting an audit of its diversity, equity and inclusion programs, policies and guidelines.

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