Diversity & Inclusion Highlight: Facilities Services Add Evening Time Slots and Live Interpretation at Team Meetings

Facilities Services (FS) has practiced diversity and inclusion in their daily work in many different ways. At their June 2022 all hands meeting they incorporated new practices to add to their efforts which they plan to continue.

First, they decided to host the same meetings during the day and in the evenings to give day and night shift workers the opportunity to be present. In addition to this, Facilities Services enhanced their interpretation and translation efforts.

According to Larrimie Gordon, FS employee engagement program coordinator, Facilities Services has been doing ASL for years.

Most recently, Facilities Services introduced English to Spanish interpreters for Spanish monolingual workers at their meetings. Interpreters attend the meetings and provide live interpretation to Spanish speakers via headsets. This gives Facilities Services more insight to who their team is and what their needs may be.

“Transparent communication is very important to me,” said Darren Hale, director of Facilities Services. “In past meetings, I have seen people whispering to neighbors to make sure their colleague understood what I was saying.  Some of the best questions I would get were from those who were more comfortable speaking in other languages.”

“When people are more engaged, they ask more questions,” said Laura Illanes, communication specialist at Facilities Services. “When staff feel included, it makes our teams stronger.”

Although providing interpretation and translation at meetings presents its own obstacles, mainly in the form of funding and technological issues, there are resources in place that make it easier to provide these services in tandem. In working to keep in line with the FAS Core Value of Diversity, Facilities Services has also been working on translating existing documentation and training materials. According to Gordon, their website is currently capable of translating materials to 30 different languages.

Efforts like these, fortunately, do not go unnoticed or happen in vain.

“People got more and more comfortable asking for resources and help,” said Debra DiMeo, assistant director at Facilities Services. “We want to enable them to fully participate.”

To further ensure language is not a barrier, and to support interpreters and translators when discussing important information, Facilities Services plans to incorporate visual elements like images and video into their presentations.

“We’re trying to make people feel more comfortable asking questions,” said Gordon. “In a lot of those meetings, we’re talking policy.”

Looking to the future they have learned that sometimes more is more based on their first use of English to Spanish interpreters in June.

“The number of headsets we needed was initially lower than what was requested days before,” said Sandra Gallegos, administrative services officer at Facilities Services. “Thankfully, the vendor was able to accommodate.”

As Facilities Services becomes a multi-lingual division beyond English and Spanish, the team plans to incorporate other languages into their practices.

“We are really becoming a multi-language division and it’s going to be a challenge of ‘how do we improve and include more people,’” said DiMeo.

With a little over 200 people at June’s evening meeting, it was clear to see how the new use of headsets for Spanish to English interpretation impacted the way people engaged during and after the all-hands meetings.

“I think that comfort came across in the use of the questions box,” said Gordon. “There was a lot more questions in Spanish than in years past.”

Many of the FAS Core Values aligned with this effort. Integrity, Teamwork, Innovation, and Stewardship were highlighted as pillars of these procedures, new and established.

“Our people are our biggest resource,” said Gordon. “However we can make them feel like they belong is always worth it in our book.”