How to Start an Executive Diversity Council

January 12, 2014 2:59 pm

By Barbara Frankel

1. Make the case to your senior executives to do it right.

  • Have an executive council with teeth—that means the CEO chairs it (and is invested in its success), and senior leaders and critical stakeholders are members (heads of HR, Procurement, Communications, Law, etc.).
  • Make sure your council members are diverse in terms of areas they represent and their own demographics.
  • Establish ground rules for the council—what’s usual is four meetings a year (at least two in person) and formal assignments for council members.

2. Set goals from the start and have metrics to follow them up.

  • The most effective councils have corporate-wide goals (for human-capital demographics, supplier diversity and participation in training, leadership development, mentoring and resource groups).

3. Link results to council-member compensation.

  • Increasingly, executives on the council have portions of their bonuses or evaluations tied  to the council’s ability to drive corporate-diversity goals and their ability to meet personal goals (effective executive sponsor of resource group, cross-cultural mentor or sponsor, member of board of multicultural nonprofit).
  • Don’t make compensation an easy pass-through that everyone gets.

4. Make the council inclusive.

  • Add rotating spots (usually two-year terms) for two or three resource-group leaders.
  • Invite external and internal guest speakers to each meeting to add other perspectives, benchmark and understand the council goals.

5. Establish infrastructure to accomplish council goals.

  • Most larger companies have lower-level councils, sometimes at the business-unit level, to actually implement the goals set by the executive council.
  • It is important to have a D&I staff member who works with the councils and facilitates communication.

6. Set up a strategic communications plan.

  • From the start, communicate the support of top leadership in aligning the council’s goals to business goals.
  • Make sure council activity is known at all levels throughout the organization.