Re-energizing Your Organization's Diversity Council

by Linda Gravett, Ph.D, SPHR

A dilemma faced by many organizations after successful implementation of a diversity

initiative is re-energizing volunteers serving on Diversity Councils. Securing the commitment of employees to participate in order to get diversity efforts underway is challenging; sustaining enthusiasm after initial positive results are seen is also difficult. Too often, Diversity Council members want a short-term solution rather than the time-consuming culture change that's usually needed.

If you serve as the coordinator or leader of your organization's diversity initiative, you may be feeling the frustration caused by Council members' waning interest. I've been in the same position, and my mantra was: take people where they are, not where you wish they were. I found it helpful to periodically revisit the mission of the Council with members, remind them of the business reason for the Council's existence, and recognize successes.

I suggest re-chartering the Council at the end of each year and rotating the individual members' roles, such as Council Leader, Recorder, and Secretary, to avoid burnout.

I believe it's helpful to take stock frequently to ensure that your Diversity Council has the resources required to carry out its mission. Ask yourself these important questions:

Is there a suitable meeting place for the Council?

When data is necessary to analyze a problem and offer appropriate recommendations, is that data available?

Are Council members punished for attending meetings by having to stay overtime to accomplish their workload?

We may not like to admit this, but for most everyone I know the world revolves around "me, me, me". Given that, I believe it's important to let each individual Council member know what's in it for him or her to participate. Council membership can and should result in more interesting jobs; improved customer and coworker relationships; and more successful and profitable organizations. Council participants must understand the connection between the efforts they put in and the outcomes realized.

Think about Council meetings. Is there an agenda? Is the agenda distributed in advance? Do all Council members participate? Do meetings result in assignments for individuals or subcommittees? Are there mentors within the organization the Council can call upon for assistance in carrying out assignments?

Recruiting, developing, and retaining a diverse workforce is clearly an ongoing process. A Diversity Council can be a key contributor to your organization's success with these endeavors and is worth the time necessary to nurture and nourish.

About the Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D, SPHR

Linda Gravett, Ph.d. is a Human Resource Management consultant and educator with 22 years' experience in the field. She founded Gravett and Associates, a human resource development consulting firm, in 1991; is a lead consultant with Xavier Consulting Group, Xavier University; and co-founded, LLC in 1999. Dr. Gravett’s area of expertise is managing workplace diversity and linking diversity initiatives to the organization’s strategic objectives. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Resources Development, an M.A. in Labor and Employment Relations, and a Bachelor of Business Administration. She is also a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).