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Employee Development, Diversity, & Inclusion


The Employee Development, Diversity, and Inclusion attribute is focused on creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive work culture where all contributions are valued, respected, and appreciated. Best practices focus on internal work culture and place an emphasis on intentional recruitment, retention, advancement, and a pervasive feeling of inclusion.

As social institutions, public gardens can inspire inclusion in communities by modeling equitable and inclusive practices and policies for all of their stakeholders, both internally and externally. A workforce that is representative of a public garden’s community is aligned with the organization’s success and sustainability. This holistic change results in a creative, innovative workforce, a competitive advantage, and an organic shift in audience demographics. 



Accessibility is giving equitable access to everyone along the continuum of human ability and experience.  Accessibility encompasses the broader meanings of compliance and refers to how organizations make space for the characteristics that each person brings.

Diversity refers to the variety of personal experiences, values and worldviews that arise from differences in culture and circumstance. It includes but is not limited to the influence of different cultural, ethnic, and religious heritages and the differences that emerge from class, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability and other socially constructed characteristics.

Equity refers to the guarantee of fair treatment, access, and opportunity for advancement for all individuals. Equity also aims to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of marginalized groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically marginalized populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed in order to provide effective opportunities for all. The key to understanding equity is the idea that individuals and groups need different kinds of policies, programs and practices in order to succeed.

Inclusion indicates an environment in which a diversity of identities are not only represented, but are also supported and embraced through consistent institutional behaviors, practices and policies. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all members.

Culture refers to practices, habit patterns, customs, values and structures that are related to a common group experience. Culture can include ethnicity, language, religion or spiritual beliefs, race, geographic origin, group history and life experiences.

Cultural Competency refers to a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that come together in a system, agency or profession that enables that system, agency or profession to achieve cultural diversity and to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.

Intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. It is also a sociological theory describing multiple threats of discrimination when an individual’s identities overlap with a number of minority classes — such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, health and other characteristics. For further explanation on intersectionality and its roots see here.


UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that align with this attribute:

Quality Education (SDG 4):

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 

Gender Quality (SDG 5):

Women are still underrepresented in managerial positions. In the majority of the 67 countries with data from 2009 to 2015, fewer than a third of senior- and middle-management positions were held by women.

Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10):

The least developed countries and small island developing States continue to require additional assistance to ensure that they share in the benefits of sustainable development. Gardens need to work to ensure immigrant workers and students from all over the global are afforded equal opportunities to learn and participate despite language and cultural barriers. 


Making the Case: Why Should We Care About Diversity and Inclusion in Public Gardens?

1. Population 

  1. American population demographics are changing, and these changes accompany a shift in our public garden audiences, members, supporters, and neighbors. It is predicted that by 2065, only 46% of the population will be white, with an inevitable “minority majority” population that already exists in some major urban centers. While population growth is fastest amongst racial and ethnic minorities, age demographics are also changing. Millennials have recently overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation and this younger cohort of public garden visitors may have different needs, interests, and expectations compared to prior generations. Immigration is also on the rise, with 13.4% of the American population being foreign born, but these indicators of racial and generational diversity are not the only ways that the population is changing. In 2010, one out of five Americans identified as having a disability, and the religious landscape of the United States has been shifting as fewer young adults identify as Christian and more identify as non-affiliated. While data surrounding LGBTQ+ populations can be difficult to obtain, it is estimated that anywhere from 4% to 10% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+ and support of LGBTQ+ issues has grown. With these demographic changes, communities that may have been previously underserved by public gardens are now an increasingly important and targeted audience.

  2. In higher education, two emerging discussions are increasing as it relates to individuals with disabilities and veterans. Both populations are included in compliance and affirmative action planning and expectations. It is important that the same standard apply for public gardens. 

2. Financial Sustainability and Support

  1. Research supports that diversity pays! In the for-profit sector, gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective national industry group in terms of financial returns, and race and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform peers using the same metrics. Research further suggests that it is likely that age, sexual orientation, and experience would also bring competitive advantages. Diversity drives innovation, leading to growth in market share and new markets. For non-profit organizations, this could lead towards larger audiences, more revenue-based income, and increased grant funding. Other benefits of diversity in the workplace include an increase in creativity in terms of both new ideas and problem solving, decreases in turnover (Glassdoor Survey: 57% of employees believe their company should be doing more to increase diversity), and boards with diverse members function better.

  2. With changes in cultural, generational, and socioeconomic demographics, there becomes a need for change in the representation and engagement of our donors, supporters, and funders that must also be reflected in the constituents we serve. The topic of diversity in nonprofit fundraising has been a key issue for contemporary nonprofits, and has led to resources on building relationships with and among diverse constituents, the giving patterns of multicultural donors, and diversity in fundraising models. Creating diversity and inclusion in fundraising will require deep reflection, subtle differences, and strong connections to encourage the deeply personal act of philanthropy.

3. Organizational Culture and Decision Making

  1. Despite best intentions, programs aimed at diverse audiences can be difficult to plan and implement without input, engagement, and stakeholders from the communities they represent. In areas where communities are racially and ethnically diverse, reflecting this diversity in garden leadership could aid collaborations and partnerships with communities of color. This could also be helpful connecting with other underserved communities that may be marginalized due to ability, orientation, or financial access. Studies in nonprofit leadership show that an organization that encourages diversity and inclusion will have a wider range of perspectives, experiences, and methods of action. An organizational culture that encourages differences can benefit from honest feedback, especially if “unpopular” opinions are taken into consideration. This can also be a challenge, as having a heterogeneous staff risks conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings due to different perspectives. However, a diverse organization is still one that has a diversity of experiences, perspectives and contexts to draw on in crisis management, and is better equipped to respond to emergencies.       

  2. Also important is engaging individuals with disabilities, whether physical or mental. Ensuring they are represented on garden staff in some capacity, whether through volunteer, employment, or internship opportunities demonstrates a commitment to non-discriminatory hiring practices. Individuals with disabilities should not be discriminated against for a pre-existing conditions or tragic circumstances and an organization should be open to them applying for any position that is advertised.


4.    Relevance and Sustainability

  1. As public gardens tackle questions of relevance and engagement, diversity and inclusion practices can and must advance a garden’s ability to fulfill its mission. Diversity in garden leadership, staff, volunteers, and board members opens up access to resources in and out of the community. By strategically implementing diversity and inclusion practices, public gardens can prepare for the future by attracting younger generations of leaders and board members, ensuring sustainability in leadership and management.


Goal 1: Identify and adopt a culture and values system that understands, respects, and promotes diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the institution.

Goal 2: Recruit, retain and recognize a diverse workforce within your institution.

Goal 3: Establish equity, diversity, and inclusion best practices that shape and impact the workforce, the workplace, and the community.



1.Investigate and Establish a Baseline   2.Identify Stakeholders   3.Data Collection/Resources   4.Develolp and Implement a Plan of Action   5. Evaluate and Maintain Success   6. Report Communicate and Educate  7. Resources and Case Studies 




1.  Investigate and Establish a Baseline



The following questions should be considered as part of an initial self-audit.  Board members and key leadership staff including Human Resources professionals will ideally be part of this initial conversation and organizational self-reflection. If you do not know the answers to some questions, simply note that you don’t have metrics in place. Do not be discouraged if your initial responses generate more questions than answers.

Use the Employee Diversity & Inclusion Self-audit worksheet for the self-audit and use it to further track your planning decisions (see Develop and Implement a Plan of Action section below).




  • Have Diversity and Inclusion become embedded in the culture of the organization and is not seen as an isolated program, but rather as a key value and a means to growth and success?

  • Are all the major components of Diversity and Inclusion, including vision, strategy, business, goals, policies, principles, desired behaviors, and competencies regularly reviewed?

  • Do all employees and the board of directors demonstrate that Diversity and Inclusion is aligned with and integral to organizational success?

  • Does all “institutional body language” (the design of buildings, the content of advertising, the behavior of front line staff to visitors, the demographics of staff and boards, the choices made in exhibitions and programs) convey the message that the garden is for everyone?




  • Are leaders (all levels of management) held accountable for implementing Diversity and Inclusion strategies in all areas of the organization?

  • Are senior leaders seen as change agents and role models themselves,  providing consistent, visible leadership on Diversity and Inclusion?

  • Do leaders and board members publicly support diversity-related initiatives, understanding that the work of Diversity and Inclusion is systemic and designed to strengthen the organization’s culture?

  • Has the garden surveyed a large majority of employees (with representation across a range of diversity dimensions) to rate their leaders as treating them fairly and inclusively?




  • Does the board and staff reflect the diversity of their own community?

  • Does your garden’s talent development process result in equitable outreach, recruitment, retention, advancement, and a pervasive feeling of inclusion?

  • Does the garden’s reputation for Diversity and Inclusion efforts enhance its ability to attract and retain employees who contribute to outstanding organizational results?

  • Does developing and advancing employees with valued competencies usually result in diverse senior leadership at the garden?

  • Are coaches and mentors made available to develop advanced careers within the organization?




  • Do garden leaders have the skills to respond to requests for flexibility and model work-life balance?

  • Are part-time, job sharing and flexible work arrangements that do not negatively impact career development or progress available for all appropriate positions?

  • Does the garden accept diversity in language, dress, physical appearance, non-traditional schedules and leave, as fully legitimate?

  • Does the garden offer a full range of flexible benefits and services, including education and counseling, partner benefits, provided based on employee needs, wants, and the organization’s financial ability to provide them?

  • Are significant others, same-sex, and transgender partners included in organizational events that previously excluded them?

  • Are benefits and services adapted to changing conditions and innovative ideas based on research and assessment?




  • Does the garden have equitable compensation and classification practices?

  • Does innovative job design result in employees being paid for performance, enabling them to work flexibly based on their needs and wants?

  • Have reward and compensation systems been designed specifically to reduce bias in recruiting, hiring, retention and advance the development of high-performing talent? 

  • Does the garden utilize balanced scorecards or similar methods as part of its compensation system to ensure that conscious and unconscious bias is reduced?




Does Diversity and Inclusion training and education include:

  • learning reinforcement, application and sustainability strategies?

  • on-going, multi-year, developmental curriculum that takes individuals through graduated stages of learning?

  • customization to meet changing local situations, ensuring that it is not global at the expense of local or local at the expense of global relevance?

  • innovative tools, including an extensive accessible library, fully supported, and shared externally?

  • learning and strategic evaluation and measurement of cultural competency (see Cultural Competency Guide in Resources and Case Studies section)?

  • challenging and sometimes controversial issues such as racism, sexism, ageism, classism, homophobia, religious bias, and unconscious bias  addressed with sensitivity, conviction, and compassion?

  • Is Diversity and Inclusion integrated into all training and education that advances the garden’s strategy?



2. Identify Stakeholders



Leadership from the top

An effective process is predicated on buy-in from both the garden’s leadership and the members of its board.  But supportive words will not, on their own, be sufficient.  Leadership must strive to identify potential board and committee members who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.  Then they need to convince these individuals of the benefits of their providing service to the garden, and the benefits that the garden can provide to causes that they care about.

For example, an issue with finding racially diverse board members or donors is the mistaken assumption that they are not interested in philanthropy – it has been found that community leaders of color are often on multiple boards or involved in multiple organizations, but they choose to associate with the ones that serve the interests of their communities such as churches, community centers, social service organizations, and health organizations. The following questions are important for leadership staff to ask themselves in order to identify the right stakeholders.

  • What does your garden provide your community?
  • How does your garden engage and interact with your community, and vice versa?
  • What is your community’s image of your garden? Is it positive, negative, or nonexistent (i.e. unaware)?
  • What reasons would diverse members of your community want to sit on your board or become a part of your leadership staff?

In some cases, this process can function more effectively by bringing in an outside consultant or advisor from a constituent community. In addition to their expertise and practical knowledge, such a consultant brings an objective, non-emotional approach that can be critically important when points of conflict arise. Consultants with a relation or background in that community are invaluable. If you are having trouble locating a consultant, consider approaching someone with a history of social work or education in that community, even if it is in an unrelated field. Community members bring an in-depth understanding and narrative of the concerns, desires, and complexities of a specific community. Be sure to offer this as a paid-contract position, as it demonstrates organizational commitment to this relationship. If you value the information enough to hire an outside consultant, then the same value should be placed on community relationships, including compensating members financially for their time and input.


Entire teams working together

The commitment to diversity and inclusion must reach beyond the garden’s leadership to the entire organization. Groups of staff members must commit to it, as must the committees with which they work. These can range from a Best Practices Committee, to an Education Committee, to a Cultural or Outreach Committee.

In addition, each staff member and volunteer needs to understand that the garden’s mission and values support diversity and inclusion, and that they are contributing to the fulfillment of that mission and those values.


Keeping everyone informed

A commitment to diversity and inclusion is an evolutionary process that isn’t accomplished overnight.  As new staff, board, or committee members are recruited, it’s essential that they be properly oriented and kept informed of positive developments in the garden. It’s equally important that all members of the garden’s community feel that they have a voice and are being heard. By identifying community stakeholders, the garden can gather information on what type of events might attract different audiences, and go about planning them with blessings, input and/or direction from the community. A particular community may even ask the garden to sponsor an event to help celebrate an occasion, a particular heritage, or other program. Active listening and a collaborative approach to these types of events will help ensure authenticity, sincerity, and genuine appreciation of community diversity.



3. Data Collection/Resources


Having completed the audit/self-reflection activity and begun the process of identifying stakeholders, it is critical that key staff begin a dialogue about the internal culture of the garden. It is important to discuss definitions and agree on the shared goals. Agreeing to take steps that affect change will require acknowledging that the path forward will be difficult, messy, uncomfortable, and will if successful, reveal what we are not even aware that we are doing wrong. This is personal work in public spaces and many people will feel vulnerable examining biases. Others may feel afraid to discuss this if they are afraid that disclosing sexuality, orientation, gender-identity, hidden disability, religion, or reporting discrimination/harassment may cost them their job. It is important to set standards, policy, and procedure to protect employees in these situations, or else you will risk insincere or incomplete feedback.


Solicit feedback from staff at every job level and every department to determine the current cultural climate. Survey methods must be anonymous, secure, and easily accessible even for those without regular or private computer access.

Sample questions for staff:

-Do you feel emotionally and psychologically safe?

-Is the garden helping you to progress in your career?

-Do you see yourself throughout the organization? In the makeup of staff, what is on the walls, in the leaders and managers?

-Do you feel that you belong?

-Do you know how HR would handle an issue like discrimination, and feel safe and confident in pursuing that process when needed?

-Do you see senior leaders demonstrating inclusive policy as a culture of practice?


Questions to ask your organization:

-Have you researched successful strategies at other similar institutions for collecting data internally for diversity, equity, and inclusion work?

-Have you created a clear statement of objectives to communicate the purpose and goals of your data collection?

-Have you created a plan to share the data collected with the rest of the organization?

-Have you benchmarked similar organizations or professional associations to get an idea of average statistics and opinion?

-Have you run your survey questions and objectives by a diversity and inclusion committee or consultant?


Demographic Data Collection

Use regional demographic data to understand your organization. Once you have a baseline understanding of both current staff demographics and regional demographics, you will be able to use this to establish long term goals for staff representation.  

Objectives of Survey

A clear objective for feedback collection will communicate the importance and necessity of the research to all participants, as well as identify possible actions as a result of the research. An example:

“ABC Botanical Gardens recognizes that diversity, equity, and inclusion are key issues of our time. We are aware that in many areas of diversity, we do not meet the bar. ABC Botanical Gardens would like to begin the change process, with the help of our staff, board, and volunteers. This survey aims to collect feedback on your (anonymous) identity, experiences, perceptions, and suggestions for a more diverse and inclusive work culture. ABC Botanical Gardens hopes to use this information to inform our recruitment, retention, and recognition practices. All surveys are anonymous, even to HR and leadership staff, and no question requires a mandatory answer.”


Demographic Categories

When writing demographic survey questions, consider the information that your organization might need now, and in the future. Common questions include age/age range, race/ethnicity, gender, and ability. Other questions can include orientation, veteran status, educational background, Indigenous status, etc., depending on the data your garden wants to collect. Most statistics and demographics guides recommend using standard parameters for collecting data, but also to allow for write-in options under “other”. This is especially important for achieving accurate and meaningful statistics in race/ethnicity, gender, orientation, and ability, as individuals may not identify with standard options in the survey. As well, where possible, allow for self-reporting rather than labelling. Identities are complex, human bias is natural, and it is easy for labelers to make incorrect assumptions.


Anonymity and Employee Protection

Anonymity is key in achieving honest results, as well as protecting identities. Group together labels that only have one or two respondents, for example if only two people answer “transgender”, and one person answers “non-binary” in a demographics survey question on gender identity, the three can be grouped together into “transgender/non gender conforming”. Considering current cultural and social issues, remember and respect that individuals may not be comfortable giving data such as gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or religion, despite best intentions of the organization and assured anonymity. Do not force participation of each question, and allow for participants to “prefer not to answer”, as this ties in with building trust in your regional communities. This is especially important to remember when conducting an internal survey – what questions could potentially risk the anonymity of your participants? If there is only one person of color in your organization, will their critical feedback immediately lead to them? One way to manage this is to conduct demographic surveys separately of feedback surveys. This way, identifying factors will not inform personal opinion, criticism, and feedback.


Sample survey:

Sample reports:

Pay Equity data should be tracked and reported and ideally the garden also tracks their compensation and benefits ( against median.

Secondary Studies (External)

If you are within the United States, community demographic data is available through the U.S. Census and Public Use Microdata. There may be other community organizations that collect demographic data in your region on specific populations such as local health departments or organizations that are working with government grants for services. This may supplement the longer timeline of census data.



4. Develop and Implement a Plan of Action


“You shouldn't start your plan of action until you really understand what work you're already doing, how it's affecting people by either not reaching them, or turning them off, or who knows what. You may not have any idea how what you're doing isn't working.”

~Insurance/Risk Management Consultant, BHS


“The organization really needs to look back at itself and its own history of staffing and hiring practice and really be honest about where they might have been wrong about something, which is hard to do right for an organization.”

~Director of Marketing and Social Responsbility, Denver Botanic Gardens


Identifying the Unique Garden Story

In this section, you will begin the planning process by first engaging stakeholders in helping to interpret the answers to the self-audit and employee/stakeholder surveys. This work can be accomplished through task forces or committees, as long as strict timelines result in outcomes that will be shared across all departments, engaging the entire garden organization. No working group or task force should operate in a vacuum. As soon as short term goals are met, the continuation of task force duties should be integrated with the work of all departments.

The first step for task forces/working groups is to utilize the self-audit and employee/stakeholder data to understand holistically what the garden knows about itself; what the work force looks like, what overarching goals and new initiatives must be considered (i.e.: projects that will add significant number of new hires, contracts etc.), and unique characteristics of the larger community, including significant community needs.

Development of an action plan must engage top level leadership (see Stakeholders) including the director, directors of departments and board members which are often positions with diversity challenges. Because these roles control a lot of the policy making, it is critical that they push initiatives forward in the upper levels or it will be hard for anyone in the middle and lower levels of the organization to feel motivated to work for change.


Best Practices for building working groups/task forces:

Groups should be comprised of people across age spans, abilities, ethnicities, departments, personalities and MUST include persons in leadership positions. Group supervisors need to be supportive of group activities, so that group members can be committed to working well together, empowered to enact the garden’s priorities, and have the initiative to take leadership roles.

The Process of Prioritization

Like many things in life, addressing Diversity and Inclusion is a messy process which may not follow a phased approach. The work the garden does internally with board and staff members will reverberate out to make external change. Use the same categories that were presented in the self-audit and determine which areas will be addressed by specific working groups. Take advantage of external resources (cited in this Index)  including external facilitation opportunities.



Source: Designing Accountability into Diversity and Inclusion Strategies

Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are most successful when given the opportunity to become a part of an organization’s vision, strategy, and business case. Taking DE&I into consideration when creating organizational goals, strategic plans, business models, and institutional vision encourage participation at all levels of staff, as well as communicate the importance and benefits of an inclusive workplace.

Some example visions, strategic goals, or business objectives include:

  • Improving the community image of the garden
  • Gathering feedback on event accessibility from focus groups



Source: Holding Every Person Accountable for Workplace Inclusion


Successful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are key to organizational growth and success, and should be embedded in the culture of the organization, rather than existing as an isolated program. For example, assigning diversity, equity, and inclusion to one staff member or department can create challenges if it is not supported by all levels of staff, and may also be perceived as a “token” effort. A single staff member may have difficulty achieving organizational buy-in, may feel isolated and separated in their work goals, and sends the message that DE&I work can be achieved by having one dedicated employee.


Methods of encouraging organizational buy-in for DE&I programs include:

  • Holding all departments accountable for DE&I goals

  • Facilitated workshops and discussions on DE&I across all levels of staff including facilities, guest services, administration, horticulture, education, etc.

  • 360 degree feedback on the DE&I process with an open mind towards constructive criticism

  • Board and leadership demonstration of DE&I practices in planning, recruitment, and evaluation


Examples of individual goals and efforts towards DE&I goals can include:

  •  Participating in cultural competency training

  •  Taking part in engagement surveys and providing honest and thoughtful feedback

  •  Workshops for employees to understand personal privilege and to cultivate empathy for   marginalized groups

  •  Individual identification of the ways an employee can support a marginalized group

  •  Becoming a mentor or committing to a co-mentor relationship 


It is important that staff members who are officially involved with DE&I (committee, surveys, training) receive the support they need to succeed. This included financial support, staff and time from the organization, additional necessary resources, as well as emotional and professional support from colleagues and leadership.



Source: In hiring, racial bias is still a problem


Diversity in recruitment and other HR processes can be a controversial subject. Some are afraid of favoritism or appearing too “politically correct”, while others fear tokenization of marginalized groups – simply hiring to fill a “percentage” requirement. Everyone wants to hire the best person for the job, so how can one justify hiring for other qualities?


Hiring and recruitment, like everything else in society, does not exist or form in a vacuum. Therefore, recruitment methods and practices are subject to bias, prejudice, and privilege - the same as any other aspect of organizational culture. As well, recruitment practices are often open to chances for internal biases – studies show that resumes with typically white and male sounding names are unconsciously prioritized for interviews. One way of combatting this is to have an employee unrelated to the hiring process remove all names and other identifying factors from resumes before submitting them to a hiring committee. By acknowledging that we are all subjected to internal and subconscious biases, we can take steps to avoid submitting to said biases.


Another challenge is one of perspective. Does your organization recognize that diverse applicants may also have diverse competencies to offer apart from the “traditional” norm? For example, insisting on a four year degree or formal education can be a barrier to groups that have difficulty accessing or affording post-secondary education. As well, strict adherence to grammar and spelling rules (even for positions that do not involve communications) may eliminate otherwise qualified candidates who speak English fluently, but as a second language. Here are some considerations for diversifying recruitment advertisements:

  • Recognize the value of cultural competency, such as experience or connections with a specific marginalized community or with different cultural customs

  • Accept equivalent experience in place of formal education for positions that do not require it

  • Prioritize diverse perspectives as a benefit to the organization 


Once hired, it is important to continue to develop and support employees of marginalized or underrepresented groups. Studies show that isolation and emotional fatigue are sources of early burnout, especially in people of color working in largely white organizations. Offering opportunities for leadership mentoring, professional training and workshops, or committee participation can help diverse employees continue to succeed.


Lastly, it’s crucial to recognize that different diverse groups reflect different challenges and different levels of progress. For example, the public garden field has improved leadership diversity in gender, but still lacks diversity in race, ability, as well as open support for LGBTQ+ employees (especially transgender and non-gender conforming).




Diverse employees, by nature, require a diversity in organizational benefits and work-life balance. Equally important as official guidelines and policy is that organizational culture respects, understands, and empathizes with differences in language, dress, physical appearance, non-traditional schedules and leave, and recognizes them as legitimate. For some aspects such as religious wear, mobility assistance devices, and cultural norms, this can be addressed through cultural competency workshops and discussions.


Examples of diversity and inclusion in workplace benefits and work-life balance may include:

  • Opportunities for professional training or education

  • Flexible start and end hours for parents or others with non-traditional schedules

  • Flexibility in holidays and days off – can an employee work one holiday if it means taking off another day that has religious significance to them?


Other issues, such as including significant others, same-sex, and transgender partners in organizational events, are well intentioned but more complicated. A more important question is: do LGBTQ+ employees feel safe being “out” at your workplace? Are they and their partners protected from harassment and discrimination, despite changing state laws that may remove these protections? Many queer employees fear losing their jobs due to state laws, or conservative attitudes, and not just from professional colleagues. For example, would a volunteer complain that an employee discussing their same-sex partner is “inappropriate”? Could that volunteer’s complaint place the employee in a difficult situation? This example is from a real life event, and as such, diversity and inclusion guidelines must also apply to board members and volunteers. Training on appropriate language, behavior, and consequences for discrimination must be made clear on all levels of organizational culture, and clear protocol for addressing these incidences must also be in place. For example, do your customer service associates know what to do in a situation where a guest is harassing an employee that is visually different? Do your staff feel safe in disclosing an incidence of discrimination to their superior, or will they fear reprisals? Do supervisors and leadership take employee confidences seriously, instead of waving off the incidence and downplaying the employee’s feelings? More than company policy, the knowledge that colleagues, supervisors, and leadership “have your back”, so to speak, is an important distinction between an organization that merely appears to be inclusive, and one that truly nurtures a comfortable and safe work environment.



Studies show that people of color and other underrepresented audiences are more likely to apply for government jobs, for the following reasons:

-       Transparency in salary range

-       Clarity in job expectations and evaluation methods

-       Clarity in the ways to achieve a promotion or raise

The issue of salary transparency is a large on in the nonprofit world, where women or people of color are often not trained or experienced in the art of salary negotiation. Simply put, obtaining a job should be a science, rather than an art. Marginalized or underrepresented groups are less likely to waste their time applying for a position that may not even meet their basic financial needs, or trying to guess the political culture of an organization in order to achieve advancement. If an organization is not diversely staffed, an applicant may not feel confident that they have a future in the leadership of the organization, unless explicitly stated in the job design. Demonstrating that a potential employee will have the professional support they need to succeed, as well as clear and direct explanations as to work expectations and evaluations level the playing field for all staff. Lastly, transparency in compensation must also apply to understanding the compensation system: do all staff understand what they are being paid for, why they are being paid said amount, how to advance to the next level, and how their performance is evaluated?




Successful and impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion training and education should include:

  • Self-awareness, emotional awareness, and the breakdown of bias and prejudices. Why do we have biases? How have they served us in the past? How do they damage our efforts now? What unconscious biases have I grown up with?

  • Methodology on changing the way we react to things we don’t understand – how do we change a subconscious bias? How do we reinforce open-minded thinking and inclusion?

  • Challenging issues such as racism, sexism, ageism, classism, homophobia, religious bias, and unconscious bias addressed with sensitivity, honesty, and bravery


While organizations with fewer resources may find it challenging to hire a consultant or facilitator, smaller organizations could form a consortium among themselves and combine resources and staff for DE&I training. There are also many conferences and workshops dedicated to the subject all over the country, and sending a staff member to participate and report back is an alternate way of gaining information. Research colleges in the area with a focus on social justice or urban affairs – many graduate programs have professional outreach projects that could aide a smaller organization in training its staff on topics of inclusion. Other possibilities are social or community based nonprofits in the area dedicated to supporting marginalized groups.




Evaluate/Revise/Monitor and Maintain Success




Source: Diversity Training Evaluation: How Does Your Initiative Measure Up?

Source: Diversity Metrics, Measurement, and Evaluation

In order to evaluate the efficacy of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, it is necessary to conduct internal organizational assessments covering behavior, attitude, and perception. Using an anonymous employee opinion or engagement survey to solicit feedback on diversity and inclusion efforts is the first step, and the surveyors should be prepared for both positive and negative critical feedback. It is recommended that those who conduct or facilitate the training are also those who evaluate the results, and to approach the process in stages.

Some examples of metrics that can be measured in DE&I evaluation:

-       increase in minority representation in staff

-       increase in minority representation in audience or membership

-       employee engagement surveys

-       fewer discrimination grievances or complaints

-       improved employee relationships

-       improvements in productivity

-       increase in successful grant applications

-       increase in program attendance

-       increase in positive social media mentions of the garden

-       more positive responses in exit interviews

-       lower level employees using bridge positions to advance to higher professional roles


Large scale surveys and evaluation can be a challenge for small gardens with fewer staff. In this case, it may be beneficial to have an outside party conduct staff engagement surveys and collect employee feedback on DE&I initiatives.


Resource link to Maturity Model: A Metric for Institutional Transformation




Report Communicate and Educate


Share the garden’s results with both internal and external stakeholders in annual reports, board meetings, membership meetings, volunteer newsletters, conferences, and other communication opportunities. It’s important to demonstrate to all stakeholders that their feedback, time, participation, and efforts have combined to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the organization. Being open with the results of demographic surveys, employee surveys, and satisfaction surveys will encourage further participation and contributions. Make sure to emphasize that this is a never-ending and continuous process of learning, sharing, re-evaluating assumptions, and self-examination that will go a long way to the future of the garden as a relevant, engaging, and sustainable site. 



Resources and Case Studies


The Association and The Duke Mansion Inclusion & Diversity Roadmap:

The Association Webinar Resource:

Secondary Data Sources for Demographics

The American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS)

Statistics Canada

Other Resources:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Critical Race Theory

LGBTQ Alliance Offers Welcoming Guidelines for Museums

US Department of Justice

UC Davis Campus Climate Study:

Strategic Planning Process and Guidelines for Implementation Planning:

Ethics and Best Practices:

Cultural Competency Resources and Tools:

Further Resources and Relevant Articles at Bottom of Page

The Public Gardens Sustainability Index Working Group is made up of diverse field-wide professionals. Does your expertise lie within an Attribute area? Help us build content for Principles and Best Practices. Have success stories? Let us collect your Case Studies. Contact Tommy Rosenbluth:


Case Study 

Montréal Botanical Garden

Completed in August 2001, the First Nations Garden was a three year project that the botanical garden and a committee of First Nations representatives completed together. The coalition worked closely to determine guidelines and criteria to be integrated into the project concept and design. Vital from a political perspective, the coalition worked to avoid the incorporation of stereotype. This contemporary garden, inspired by Amerindian and Inuit cultures, highlights not only Native knowledge of plants, but also First Nations activities relating to the plant world, from gathering food and medicinal plants to using wood to build their homes.

 Michel Tremblay

The Interpretation Pavilion in summer.   Photo:  Michel Tremblay

While the First Nations garden has been successful in fostering positive internal staff relationships and  visitor experiences, the gardenis considered to be a first step in the right direction. Even in light of the mandate issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, many Canadian cultural institutions have been hesitant to broach the subject of reconciliation due to its sensitive nature, which makes the Montréal Botanical Garden quite unique. To bridge the gap between garden and visitor, Native interpretation staff are trained to provide guided tours and encourage discussion about reconciliation. Indeed, the garden has served as a cultural crossroads and made space for necessary conversation surrounding the history of the First Nations, but not without challenges. For instance, budgetary constraints limit the number of interpretation staff as well as the on-site involvement of the initial committee of First Nations representatives, with whom the botanical garden consults regularly. Additionally, many First Nation descendants have elected to assimilate to their surrounding environments, weakening ties with traditional culture. Because transmission of culture from First Nations elders to youth is so highly valued, the First Nations Garden aims to provide space for cultural preservation and healing. This is interpreted in a number of ways including interactive terminals, visitor activities, shows, special events, and an interpretation pavilion. The pavilion also houses a permanent exhibition including movies by Natives on contemporary Native lifestyles, connecting the past with a bright future.

The distinctive curve of the Interpretation pavilion roof at the First Nations Garden. Photo Michael Trembley

The distinctive curve of the Interpretation pavilion roof at the First Nations Garden.  Photo:  Michael Trembley


Smithsonian Gardens 

The Smithsonian Office of Facilities and Engineering and Operations (OFEO) recognizes that while a strategic plan is an essential tool to help guide work, the department’s true success is dependent on the willingness of employees to be creative, provide quality work, and commitment to serve over 25 million visitors and over 12,000 staff each year. With so much of the plan hinging on the performance of employees, including those of the Smithsonian Gardens, the OFEO has prioritized the cultivation of a highly motivated and dedicated workforce as a primary goal within the strategic plan itself.

The first objective associated with this goal is foster an organizational culture that is fair, inclusive, and team-orientated by understanding and addressing real and perceived equity issues, clearly defining performance expectations and measures of success, and making business processes transparent and involve diverse representatives of the workforce in their design.

The second objective associated with this goal is create a positive, challenging, and gratifying work environment. This will be accomplished by empowering employees to make decisions and take responsibility for their work, providing internal and external training opportunities„, and providing the resources to work effectively and in comfort.

The third objective associated with this goal is enhance leadership at all levels by demonstrating excellence in leadership, exemplified by open communication, a positive attitude, fairness, and forward thinking, „strengthening leadership skills of both current and potential leaders „, and continuously providing opportunities for staff to become leaders.

The fourth objective associated with this goal is foster a flexible, dynamic, and knowledgeable work force. This will be accomplished by conducting strategic staffing reviews to ensure recruitment of employees with skill sets that align with mission needs„, increasing cross training of staff to provide diverse learning opportunities, and recognizing and rewarding innovation and creative problem solving.

The fifth objective associated with this goal is to position OFEO staff as recognized experts by continuing to research, develop, and implement best practices in all OFEO operational, service, and business areas „ and sharing OFEO best practices with industry, peers, and other external organizations. With dedicated staff, a mission and vision for facilities excellence and this Strategic Plan, OFEO will hopes to achieve its highest goals and become known throughout numerous professional fields for its level of excellence.

Goal four of the strategic plan recognizes the department’s true success is dependent on its employees’ motivation.

Goal four of the strategic plan recognizes the department’s true success is dependent on its employees’ motivation.


Desert Botanical Garden

With a goal of furthering their progress in the three R’s (Recruitment, Retention, and Recognition), Desert Botanical Garden’s Cultivating Excellence Program is an initiative designed to develop employees and support inclusion. Initiating and continuing new practices in workplace culture revolves around a central aspect of the program: listening to employee voices, suggestions, concerns, and feedback. One example of an employee-driven initiative was a pay-for-performance evaluation system.  This new program was a direct result of meetings with each department and the Executive Director. Another example, under the “Recognize” branch of the program, gathered staff feedback in order to create consistent staff gatherings that celebrate individuals, garden accomplishment and milestones.

The Desert Botanical Garden has a history of weaving inclusion and diversity work into their garden mission. Their Monarch Council, now seven years old, was created as a way to gain the voices and perspectives of emerging professionals and provide them with influence and buy-in towards the garden’s future. Led by a voting board member, the Monarch Council aims to introduce a new generation of professionals to the world of board leadership, encouraging them to become board members in the Phoenix area, both in and out of the garden. All of this work follows their philosophy of “being as sustainable with people as with plants.”