Posts Tagged ‘diverse communities’

Diversity Councils and Employee Resource Groups – Not “either / or,” but “both / and”

Blog author Stan Kimer enjoys facilitating the Employee Resource Groups and Diversity Councils best practices sessions at the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST certification classes.

This past July, the large global public accounting firm Deloitte caused quite a stir in diversity circles when its chairman shared that it was going to disband its employee affinity groups (often call employee resource groups – ERGs or business resource groups) and replace them with inclusions councils. The logic is that the inclusion councils can still focus on underrepresented groups but also involve many more white men in the diversity and inclusion discussion. (Link to an article about this announcement from Diversity Inc.)

A few weeks after Deloitte’s announcement, Erika Irish Brown, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Bloomberg LP wrote a rebuttal titled “Why employee resource groups still matter” (LINK). Ms. Brown shared that their ERGs add significant value to their business and focus on Bloomberg’s five key pillars of commercial impact, recruiting, leadership development, marketing and communications, and community engagement.

I myself now serve on the faculty of the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST Certification Class and two of the modules I facilitate are Best Practices in Employee Resource Groups and Best Practices in Diversity Councils. I have now added a discussion about Deloitte’s recent actions to the class.

I strongly believe that diversity councils and ERGs are complementary, and both structures can co-exist and work together. It does not have to be one or the other. Here are 5 reasons why both structures are needed and should co-exist.

1) Diversity Councils are management sponsored and led with supporting the corporate business goals through diversity and inclusion as it main objective. ERGs are employee led, and though ERGs very often support the business, the primary impetus is addressing the workplace needs of the various diverse constituencies.

2) There are still many issues around underrepresented groups within American business, and so a focus and “safe space” for diverse communities to discuss their issues and collaborate to grow professionally are really needed.

ERGs can very effectively represent companies at constituency events like “OutRaleigh!” where I celebrated my 60th birthday.

3) You do not need to dissolve ERGs and form new inclusion councils if the goal is to increase involvement of white men. One best practice is to have a Men’s ERG so everyone is included in the ERGs structure. And white male leaders can be advocates, advisors, mentors and executive sponsors of the ERGs. (See my past blog from 2016 “Diversity and Straight White Men – 4 Key Thoughts.”)

4) ERGs are still a very effective may to connect a business with diverse community outreach and philanthropic activities and constituency markets.

5) Structured properly, ERGs and Diversity Councils can cross-pollinate and work closely to assure their goals and activities are aligned.

Often leaders make errors in trying to replace one structure or solution with another when actually the two co-exist and support each other. And so it is with Diversity Councils and Employee Resource Groups.

The Shift of Diversity to Being a Key Strategic Initiative

I recently completed a proposal for diversity services for a prospective client, and was reviewing some of the materials I wrote. A key point I made is that the need for a diversity strategy has been rapidly shifting from a “we need to do this because of legal requirements” or “this is something nice to do” to “this is truly an important strategic business initiative.” Instead of diversity being a “defensive” strategy, it needs to be an offensive strategy to win in the workplace and marketplace.

A team participating in a strategic planning discussion . . . but they don't look very diverse, do they?

Today’s economy is changing rapidly; it is become much more global and internet-based. Commerce can easily be transacted globally and even small work teams are becoming more culturally and internationally diverse. To survive in today’s environment, a growing company needs to easily know how to sell to a global diverse marketplace as well as successfully manage geographically spread diverse teams.

Here are just a few of the questions I posed to the perspective client in terms of getting them to think about the importance of diversity:

• Are you recruiting the very best talent from the widest possible candidate pool?
• Is every single employee valued as a member of the team for their unique talents and contributions so that each of them can perform at their peak capacity?
• Is each employee engaged such that there is not threat of them leaving the company because they feel isolated, disenfranchised or not part of the “in group”?
• Are you reaching all the diverse constituents you seek to serve and sell to?
• Do you have an excellent reputation across all the diverse communities in which you seek to sell, serve and recruit talent?

Most companies today have web pages that espouse corporate core values such as focusing on all customers, valuing all employees, contributing to the community, respecting all cultures, etc. Now they must expend the effort to develop and execute a strategic diversity initiative that truly supports these values within the context of the changing business environment.

Check out my diversity expertise (deep expertise in LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender as well as ability to handle comprehensive diversity strategy) since I could assist you in your diversity venture. And be looking for my next blog were I will discuss various types of diversity.

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