leaders who are one or two levels below the CEO. Carefully
select them for their passion and commitment to inclusion.
“You need people who are going to make the time to roll up
their sleeves” and do the work, says Jennifer Brown, author
of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to
Change (Purpose Driven Publishing, 2017) and president
and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting in New York City.
They need to be “a channel for communication” between
the rank and fle and the C-suite, and that includes advocating for inclusiveness in discussions with top executives
Ideally, the councils would be involved in goal setting
around hiring, retaining and advancing a diverse workforce and in addressing any employee engagement problems among underrepresented employee groups, Brown
says. Most councils meet quarterly to review organizational
feedback, troubleshoot challenges, and, most importantly,
carry messages about their work to their senior peers and
the C-suite, she says.
The councils should be as diverse as possible, with members representing not only diferent ethnicities and genders but also varying business functions and geographic
locations, for example, even if that means tapping individuals one or two grade levels below the C-suite. If this
is difcult due to the lack of diversity in the top levels of
your organization, make sure council members learn
about your company’s diversity strategy from HR, the
D&I team, and their colleagues in employee resource
groups (ERGs) or business resource groups (BRGs).
In this scenario, the pressing reality of the lack of
diversity in top positions will also become a stark
reminder that change is needed.
An inclusion council is diferent from ERGs and
BRGs, which are sponsored by individual executives
and typically serve as grassroots diversity business networks, usually for mid- and junior-level workers who
share common backgrounds. ERGs and BRGs might
be made up of veterans; new parents; or members of
an ethnic, racial or gender-based group. They are a
good D&I tool and provide a safe place for people to
express themselves. Sometimes discussions that arise
in these groups can even provide an early warning of
issues bubbling up within the company.
The onus for inclusiveness, however, should not fall
on the underrepresented members of your workforce,
whether they be women, people of color or members of
other minority groups. Those individuals often don’t
have the power or infuence to bring about change,
Brown says. That’s where inclusion councils can take
up the cause.
CELEBRATE EMPLOYEE DIFFERENCES
One of the most important ways to show employees
that you respect their backgrounds and traditions is to
invite them to share those in the workplace. For exam-
ple, the HR team at Bak USA, a manufac-
turer of mobile computers based in Bufalo,
N. Y., holds potluck parties to celebrate the
14 nationalities represented among its 100
employees. Many employees are new to the
U.S., and the events are a way to showcase
the foods of their home countries, says Eva
Bak, vice president of people.
The company promotes inclusiveness
in other ways, too. It has a meditation or
prayer room, for example. The need for a
refection space came to Bak’s attention
after she started giving up her ofce for
15 minutes every Friday so Muslim employees could use it to pray. It wasn’t an
inconvenience to her, she says, and the
gesture meant so much to those individuals. Creating a permanent space, however,
provided “that inclusion piece where people felt they could bring their ‘full selves’
to work,” she says.
The company’s HR team members also
make themselves available to more-iso-lated employees. They created a small HR
ofce to serve production team employees
INCLUSIVITY CHECKLIST FOR HR
T Make sure company leaders understand that inclusion is
about ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard, opinions
are considered and value to the team is evident.
T Train managers—and hold them accountable—to show
that inclusivity is a core competency.
T Form an inclusion council with genuine influence
T Value diferences and create an environment
where people can feel comfortable bringing
their “full selves” to work.
T Identify underrepresented groups’ needs,
and give them necessary support and
T Provide workers with a safe space to voice
T Benchmark key aspects of your organization’s
culture—and understand the employee
experience—before making changes to
T Remember that daily interactions are the most telling sign
of whether or not your company has an inclusive culture.