Valdosta Awareness Training Unites Employees
In 2021, the City of Valdosta held cultural awareness and anti-discrimination training for all City of Valdosta employees. The training was titled "Reaching New Heights Together" – because it's true, we can't do it alone.
“The City of Valdosta values our employees and the many on-the-job and personal contributions they make. As City Manager, it’s imperative that I make every effort to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for each of our employees. We all must be committed to keeping the City of Valdosta a great place to work to be successful. This is why I am so proud to put on training programs such as this and look to expand them in the future. When an organization is inclusive it makes it more dynamic, energetic, and productive. True inclusion removes all barriers of discrimination and intolerance,” said Mark Barber, City Manager.
The recent training, moderated by Sheba Phillips, DSW (S), LCSW, Owner/Therapist of Hedera Counseling Center, focused on defining workplace diversity and inclusion and discussing the value of a more diverse and inclusive workplace organization.
"From the beginning of the training, the presenter, Sheba Phillips, had my attention, and my enthusiasm just grew throughout the class. Phillips started with simple examples to inform the class on common biases, problematic biases, and discrimination. As the class progressed, she delved deeper into the topics and provided actual everyday examples that we may encounter or even practice ourselves," said Budget Manager Amy Hall.
Phillips also provided employees examples of how the diversity of characteristics, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives can increase an organization's success.
She explained the stereotypes and biases that one brings into work and how these can fuel microaggressions that harm a respectful workplace. Each class concluded the training by identifying ways workplace diversity and inclusion are advanced through specific behaviors that leaders and employees take.
"I believe information is important, but it must be delivered in simple and understandable terms to be useful. The goal of this class may have been to educate staff and make improvements in the workplace but if the information is taken in and used it not only improves the workplace, but it will also improve our interactions with family and friends and ultimately has an impact on improving our community," said Hall.
"I am a firm believer that it takes all of us here at the City of Valdosta to deliver great service to our wonderful citizens. I also believe it is important that our employees understand we are all different, and because of all of our differences, we collectively are better together," said Deputy City Manager of Administration and Human Resources Director Catherine Ammons. "It is known that when an organization's staff feels respected and included, they are motivated to contribute. Cultural competence encourages the acknowledgment and acceptance of differences in appearance, behavior, and culture. Our first training was named Reaching New Heights Together at the City of Valdosta. We used this title because as we develop our levels of cultural competence, we begin to have a greater appreciation for our coworker's journeys."
There are no two municipalities that are identical to one another. Every city has characteristics that make it unique. However, one thing that brings us together is the need for consistent efforts to embrace and promote inclusion and cultural awareness.
"The Inclusion and Cultural Awareness training encouraged employees to develop an awareness and ability to communicate and interact with employees of varying beliefs and backgrounds. I also feel that the Inclusion/Cultural Awareness training educated Valdosta's employees on how a diverse workplace can be an attributing factor to the growth, success, and development of a healthy municipality. This is imperative because I feel that more can be accomplished and attained when we all are working together," said Valdosta Fire Lieutenant Marcus Haynes.
Looking ahead, the City of Valdosta plans to expand employee training to create the opportunity for true culture change.