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Big Table Talk To Examine Diversity, Inclusion In Hiring Practices

The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce and Discover Peoria want to help local businesses and organizations become more inclusive and diverse.

The third session in the Big Table Discussion series “Gather Around Justice” presented by the two organizations, will examine HR practices and organizational culture. The event is scheduled for a 4 p.m. Zoom meeting on Tuesday.

“It’s an opportunity for us to virtually sit down with other community members and our panelists, to have really a mindful conversation about how we can use our individual power and privilege to make the changes we regionally need to correct historical racial, economic and social inequity,” said J.D. Dalfonso, CEO of Discover Peoria.

He said the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing demands for social reform have prompted many companies to take a closer look at their practices and how to improve. But there may not be one simple solution.  

“I don't think there’s really a blanket system that we can incorporate, but (it’s) more of: how do we tailor our practices in our organizations and structure to new a perspective,” Dalfonso said. “I think it's a matter of more stories being brought to the forefront for us to understand how we can change some of our practices.”

Chamber President and CEO Joshua Gunn will introduce Tuesday’s discussion, and Brian Ray, regional president of PNC Bank, will serve as moderator. Panelists are Tom Alexander, co-founder and CEO of Holistic and consultant for Distillery Labs; Laraine Bryson, president of the Tri-County Urban League; and Eric Sutter, senior vice president of HR for EP!C.

Dalfonso said the pandemic has forced people to “step outside of our comfort zones” and find new and better approaches to conducting business.

“We have to think more innovatively than ever before to be able to survive this pandemic in the first place, and I think we can attribute those lessons to all aspects of how we improve our organizations,” he said. “So talking about HR and organizational practices, particularly as it pertains to racial diversity, I think is a big part.”

He added that adopting practices to improve diversity and inclusion “may seem uncomfortable at the beginning, but when you look back you realize we should have been doing this a long time ago.”

Previous Big Table conversation topics focused on criminal justice inequities.

“These big table events have been really beneficial in allowing everybody to have a voice in a larger discussion for the region,” said Dalfonso, adding he sees the discussions as a good way to promote the area.

“When people see (Peoria) as a great place to live, it also translates (into) great place to visit, great place to work,” he said. “The more people see our communities is a great place to live, the effect that comes after translates into jobs and visits and economic opportunity.”

Anyone interested in Tuesday's Big Table discussion can register at the event's website.

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.