Employers are essential to building Dubuque’s Community Equity Profile

In January, my colleagues and I had the pleasure of visiting John Deere Dubuque Works for an open and honest discussion about health and wellness in our community. About 25 employees had gathered in a safe, nonjudgmental space to share their experiences with access to services, resources and amenities in Dubuque.

This was one of 22 community conversations we at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque have hosted since September that will help us create Dubuque’s Community Equity Profile. Many of these conversations are open to the public, while others, like the one at John Deere, are hosted by local organizations with the goal of better understanding how their employees’ lives are shaped by systems like health care, education and housing.

Companies like John Deere understand that their workers’ satisfaction in their jobs is tied to their satisfaction in the community where they live — and vice-versa. Those who feel welcome and included in their workplace and community, and can access services that enable them to thrive, are more likely to stay.

Employers have been key partners in creating the Community Equity Profile since we published the first one in 2015. John Deere is just one that has volunteered to host conversations for employees. Others have included the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium and Northeast Iowa Community College. In addition, organizations like Cottingham & Butler, the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Dubuque Development Corp., Green State Credit Union and Hodge Company have sponsored panel discussions that provide background data and an overview of each Equity Profile topic. John Deere and NICC also have sponsored panel discussions.

Since the first Equity Profile was published nearly eight years ago, it has served as an important tool for employers, civic leaders and others to understand what’s working in Dubuque and where there are opportunities to strengthen the systems that serve everyone who lives and works here. The updated Equity Profile, which will be published in May, will shed light on community issues, assets and opportunities that exist today.

Employers interested in hosting conversations for their teams might consider looking to John Deere for inspiration. The conversation I attended on its campus stood out for a few reasons.

First, the level of engagement was impressive. It was clear that leaders worked hard to ensure employees from all departments and of different experience levels knew about the opportunity.

Second, those in attendance seemed to feel comfortable and shared thoughtful comments about their experiences accessing health care in the area. Creating opportunities where employees can feel like they have been seen and heard is essential to gathering meaningful input.

Finally, the crowd was diverse, comprising a range of employee demographics. This is important because, in order for the Equity Profile to be effective, it needs input from voices that represent the many different communities of Dubuque. It also creates an opportunity to hear how employers can better serve the needs of their team and families.

We are grateful to John Deere team members Danielle Moore and Abhay Rawal, who also serve on the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors, as well as Anderson Sainci in the City of Dubuque’s Office of Shared Prosperity and Neighborhood Support for helping organize the conversation.

John Deere leaders have long understood that focusing on diversity and inclusion is good for their workers, good for the organization and good for the community. Beyond the Equity Profile, they have stayed engaged with the Foundation initiatives to foster welcoming, inclusive workplaces and communities, such as our Business Leader Equity Cohort and Employer Inclusion Council. Many other employers who have taken part in the Equity Profile process also have engaged with these initiatives.

There’s still time to host conversations for your organization’s employees. March will focus on safe neighborhoods, and April will be about issues related to transportation.

If you’d like to get involved, call 563-588-2700, or dbqfoundation.org/equityprofile.

This is a chance to learn more about your workforce while helping build a Dubuque region where everyone has access to resources and opportunities that enable them to thrive.