Diversity Council Success: Getting Started

by Dorinda A. Capole, Maxine Carpenter and Julie Pierce Williams.

Over the past several years, we witness more and more that:

  • Labor pools and markets are growing more diverse.
  • The economy is becoming more global and national boundaries more fluid.
  • Technology is transforming how we work and relate to each other.
  • Alternative work arrangements and telecommuting are becoming the rage.

These changes in the business climate are forcing organizations to change the way they do business. Diversity is at the heart of these changes and it needs to be managed effectively.

Because the purpose of diversity management is to accomplish business goals, success is not achieved through a one-time initiative. Employees must learn to work together more effectively, which can mean questioning the status quo, being flexible and taking risks to enhance their own and the organization's performance. Many companies are using employee groups to develop, monitor, and implement their diversity initiatives. Formed to support the organization's mission and goals, these groups are called Diversity Councils.

Diversity council members are typically representative of all the levels and functions in the organization and are expected to act as change agents, role models, educators, coaches, and organizers of a variety of diversity programs and services. Some councils are composed of senior managers.

Making Your Council a Success

Operating with visible executive management support better equips you to meet the common challenges that diversity council's face. Senior-level allies can help you communicate the importance of your work more effectively and promote participation in your programs and initiatives. Though many councils continue to struggle to gain executive-level support, senior managers have a large stake in the diversity council's work. Effectively managing diversity helps organizations to:

  • Gain support for the organization's mission, values, and business goals, as well as the organization's change management initiatives.
  • Become an employer of choice by actively supporting diversity initiatives.
  • Attract, select, recruit, and retain the best and brightest in the labor market.
  • Be more competitive in a global marketplace.
  • Increase stockholders return on investment.
  • Increase the productivity of diverse groups of employees.
  • Reduce conflict and encourage teambuilding and collaboration.
  • Meet performance goals.

Create a Council that Supports Your Organization

To achieve their goals, councils need to consider all employee groups in their work. One strategy to ensure this happens is to create a council that supports and draws from the strengths of your organization's diversity.

  • Multi-Site Organizations

    One of the common issues that come up with multi-site organizations is that some sites feel under-represented on the council. Though often unintentional, unequal site representation can send the message that the organization values some sites over others. Some companies address this issue by organizing a council at each site. These Councils meet periodically to plan, network, and learn from each other.

  • Cultural Diversity

    Like their organizations, diversity councils should strive to be culturally diverse. Take gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, and disabilities/abilities into consideration as you select members. Many organizations have affinity groups based on these diversity dimensions and their leaders are council members.

Reprinted from The Diversity Council Companion written by Dorinda A. Capole, Maxine Carpenter and Julie Pierce Williams.