Retaining diverse talent became a focus of the Bakken Museum more than three years ago. “We want to be more than a place that just looks to hire a diverse staff; we want to create an environment where people can bring their full identities, where people want to stay,” says Joe Imholte, executive vice president at the museum.
The museum has adjusted policies to address such issues as paid parenting leave, transparent and accessible information for employees who are transitioning genders, floating holidays rather than predetermined dates set to a specific religious calendar, and broad inclusion of anyone who identifies as a girl or nonbinary in the Bakken’s girls’ camps. Staff have also created a monthly program to read about and then gather to discuss such topics as anti-racism, identity and bias, and colonialism and museums.
“We want a sustainable environment that supports all people, and we mean all,” says Imholte. “The more we talk equity, the more our comfort level and understanding grow.”
Imholte says that while there has been a growing sense of urgency for this work, leaders have emphasized its importance but not pushed for expediency. “We want coalitions to come to life from the ground up. We know that change comes from within, it doesn’t just get preached out. And it should outlast any one person.”
In developing a recent exhibit about the organization’s founder, Earl Bakken, staff leaders turned the focus from celebrating just one person to an exhibition about innovation. “We’re all innovators," says Imholte. "We applied a new lens to look hard at what new voices would be represented in the exhibition.”
Imholte says that this particular exhibit was a good example of the workplace becoming truly more inclusive. “Our staff are encouraged to speak up, and they do.”