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KeeleyOne: Empowering Every Voice

By: Claire Sauer

On Thursday, August 13, during Rusty’s Semi-Annual CEO Address, we announced the launch of our sixth cultural pillar, KeeleyOne which focuses on Diversity and Inclusion with the mission to empower every voice across the Keeley Companies and beyond:

“With a full committee and a strong vision for the future, KeeleyOne is the missing puzzle piece and it starts at the top. KeeleyOne has been in the works for some time and we knew that we wanted to start a movement. Not just any movement, but a sustainable movement that would impact our business and our communities in a positive way.”

-Rusty Keeley

KeeleyOne’s mission and values speak to that impact and the change we want to make.

KeeleyOne champions a culture of diversity and inclusion supporting the equity of our People. We will recruit and develop diverse talent while listening, educating, and engaging in conversations for a better tomorrow.

With the help of KeeleyU, KeeleyOne will provide various educational opportunities for team members who want to gain understanding from various perspectives. This allows Keeley’ns to grow and have meaningful conversations with the people they love and care about which creates an environment where team members feel safe and heard.

One educational opportunity, in particular, will be VOICE chats. These chats will be similar to Safety Ray’s Awkward Conversations and will also include panel discussions and conversations with outside experts. These sessions will take place virtually in large group settings or within individual teams. Our hope is that these chats will encourage Keeley’ns to listen, get out of their comfort zone, and engage with those that may be struggling and check in to see how they can help facilitate this change and educate themselves.

During our Semi-Annual CEO Address, we invited Fred Falker from Chapman & Co. to facilitate a panel discussion with four of our amazing Keeley’ns who are passionate about bringing Diversity and Inclusion to Keeley Companies – Ricky Fowler, Aric Kreeger, Ramona McCook, and Kristin Mosley, who joined us virtually. During the conversation, Fred discussed four things that we can and need to do on this journey to ensure that we are successful. While the first three seem easy, the fourth is a challenge that every Keeley’n needs to embrace if we want to improve our culture and ensure that everyone feels seen and heard:

  1. Talk about the issues at hand

  2. Commit to our Diversity & Inclusion program

  3. Recognize our social responsibility and help our communities of people that are suffering

  4. Connect with each other on a new and deeper level to extend the Keeley Companies family culture so it is something that every single Keeley’n feels

“Although it largely is, please understand in the D&I world that it’s not just about race. There are people in this organization right now who may not have the confidence or trust to believe that they can have that conversation with somebody else at the Keeley Companies. This effort is about all of those people so that every brother and every sister that are a part of this family feels that they have people who care about them and that they also care about.”

To begin the panel discussion, Fred asked each Keeley’n to explain what they want to get out of being a member of the KeeleyOne committee and what their hope is for the future.

Kristin Mosely has been with Keeley Companies for three months as the Diversity and Inclusion Outreach Coordinator along with working on diversity for the MLS stadium project here in St. Louis. She said:

“Keeley prides themselves on being a family. My hope is that eventually Keeley will get to the place where we are a blended family. My vision for Keeley is that it will become second nature and a way of life without having to think hard about it and without having to be so focused on the metrics. I want Keeley to have diversity in their leadership roles – it’s not just a race thing, it’s an all-encompassing thing. I am so excited for what’s to come. It’s going to be hard work, but that is a part of growth, expansion, and change, and change isn’t always comfortable, but we will grow to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Aric Kreeger has been with Keeley Companies for ten years and currently serves as a Senior Project Manager at ADB. As the only white individual on the panel, he had a different and valuable insight:

“I’m very thankful to be a part of this conversation and in all reality I’m nervous and scared out of my mind. This is the key about having these conversations and what’s going to make us better as a company in general is that it’s going to be uncomfortable for everyone to get out of their comfort zones and get into having these talks. What I have always tried to do is recognize my own bias. The intentional acts of racism are the ones that we can unify against, but it’s the unintentional ones…how do you change that? One of the most important ways to make meaningful change is to take a hard look at yourself and say am I afraid of something or do I not even realize what I am doing? This is a must in order to get to a point where you can realize that you have to have these difficult and uncomfortable conversations.”

Ricky Fowler has been a part of the Keeley Companies family for 24 years and is a Project Manager for the L. Keeley Paving Group. As an African American male, he has experienced acts of racism his whole life. He, more than anyone, realizes the need for this change and shared his experience with everyone:

“I don’t come to work and speak to my friends and family here about how my day was or what transpired while I was at a gas station, on a plane, or walking into a meeting. I’ve learned just from growing up that I have to keep my head up and walk a fine line all the time. It’s difficult and stressful and what really hurts the most and makes me feel it is that when I go through all of that and I come back to the company, I still see nothing but white. So, I love the fact that when I had these conversations with my team and with HR, they understood how I felt and two days later I’m getting a call from Rusty that he wanted me on this committee and this panel. I felt great about the fact that people were already thinking about doing something to make a difference. This is a serious issue and it bothers me all the time, but I just want all of us to be willing to accept and embrace the needed change, have the difficult conversations, and think about putting yourself in my shoes for one day.”

Finally, Ramona McCook has been with the company for five years as the User Experience IT Director. As a Hispanic woman, she brought a different insight, specifically to the inclusivity aspect of KeeleyOne:

“I do want to highlight that this is also about the inclusivity portion. We want everyone to come to the Keeley Companies and feel that they can be their authentic selves and that they do have a voice. Personally, I have a very diverse team and it is disheartening to me that their first conversation with me during a one-on-one is centered around Keeley Companies’, diversity and acceptance. It doesn’t just span from having minorities, but it is also from the women and the males and how they treat their women counterparts. I’m super passionate about the inclusivity portion of this program as well as driving the diversity and ensuring that everyone truly does have the opportunity to feel confident that they can go to leadership, or even just another Keeley’n, and have that conversation. We are not always going to agree or understand each other, but having those conversations is going to allow us as Keeley’ns to really come together and understand that many of our people are struggling. If we can understand what those struggles are, we can come together to grow and make meaningful change.”

After these introductions, the panel began to answer audience questions. With Keeley’ns tuning in from all over the country, there was a lot of great conversation and excitement for the future.

How are We Promoting Inclusion of the LGBTQ+ Community?

As Fred stated, Diversity and Inclusion is not solely about race. It is about all communities of people that feel like they can’t bring their full selves to work and can’t voice their beliefs and opinions. It is so important to not only our company, but to our entire world to embrace and make the LGBTQ+ community feel valued and respected. Ramona started by saying:

“This movement really includes inclusivity. We don’t have those set groups but that is part of those VOICE chats. We are going to open up that dialogue to see what is needed from the LGBTQ+ community in order for them to feel safe, empowered, and that they have a voice here.”

Fred added:

"I think what’s really important about this idea of having an inclusive culture is that you can’t know what any of us are struggling with. To the extent that the culture becomes that, we are better able to express that and feel that we are wanted and cared about. It is really about how we treat each other, and we know that there are groups of people that we are going to need to provide more attention to. To have an inclusive environment, everyone needs to feel like they are a part of it.”

It is going to take dedication and hard work to make these changes, but KeeleyOne is just getting started.

How Do We Start Discussions and Embrace Those Who Are Uncomfortable with this Topic?

The first way to really start making these changes is by recognizing that we will have to participate in uncomfortable conversations. Embracing the awkwardness will only help us continue to grow and thrive. Ricky had a simple piece of advice to everyone who wants to start making changes, but doesn’t necessarily know how:

“Conversation is key.”

Fred’s insight showed that if we start these conversations now, we will be able to have them forever:

“Establish a framework of respecting each and every individual, valuing his or her story and their truth as they know it. If we can do that and maintain that, we can discuss literally anything.”

Kristin’s advice was a little simpler and included suggestions of things that people can start doing today:

“Build relationships that will eventually flow into your background and beliefs. Start with baby steps towards the conversation of who I am as far as my diverse background. It can be as simple as setting up a lunch or even just an email.”

These difficult conversations are long overdue and KeeleyOne is here to help get them started.

What Are We Going to Do Differently When It Comes to Recruiting & Hiring Diverse Talent?

Recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse talent is a large part of KeeleyOne and one of our main priorities. As Aric explained, it all starts with relationships:

“Being mindful of where we are building our relationships, how we are building them, and who we are building them with, not just in our professional network, but in our personal network. Being cognizant about that is ultimately a way we can make changes.”

Kristin and Ramona both recognized the needs for us to get out there, outside of our walls to meet the right people:

“We need to find out the organizations and networking programs that these diverse people are a part of and how do we get into the mix and talk with them and understand what they are looking for. Get outside our walls and start networking and take what we learn from others and bring it back to our recruiting strategies.”

“Immerse ourselves into those cultures and communities.”

Finally, since Ricky works primarily out in the field on paving jobsites across the country, he provided a unique insight when it comes to recruiting:

“From my point of view being out in the field, reaching out and finding out what is going on with the AGC or union halls to try to get some more diverse talent in the field. Figure out what part of the networking will actually bring the diversity to the jobsites and field aspects of the companies.”

Thank you to our amazing panel members for taking the time to have this discussion and get vulnerable and honest. We are grateful for your dedication to making Keeley Companies more inclusive for all.

KeeleyOne is off to a great start and we are so excited to make needed and meaningful changes across the Keeley Companies and across the nation. We can’t wait to see what the future holds! Click here to learn more about KeeleyOne and follow our journey.

“Nothing is going to change overnight. It’s not the committee’s job to the change the culture. The committee is here to help, but it is everyone’s job to embrace and make these changes. We believe that we are divided by the lines of difference and we immediately decide that based on that difference that we can’t like another person. Those lines don’t exist in nature – we keep ourselves from moving forward and shield ourselves from others because we don’t want to be uncomfortable. We have to start thinking about each other in a different way and this will only make us stronger as a family. The foundation is here, but how do we look around and find the people that may not feel as if they are not a part of this family.”

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