Should Employee-Resource-Group Leaders Have Rotational Spots on Diversity Council?

July 17, 2014 3:23 pm

Best Practices From KPMG, BASF, Kellogg Company, Ameren and Hilton Worldwide

By Barbara Frankel

Patricia Rossman, BASF

Pat Rossman

When BASF Chief Diversity Officer Pat Rossman was helping her company start its Executive Diversity & Inclusion Council three years ago, she decided to include employee-resource-group leaders.

“I had read in DiversityInc about the benefits of including them because it gives the council different perspectives from people who are living it. I saw the aspirational quality of how it would change the nature of your conversations on the council,” she recalls.

KPMG started its Diversity Advisory Board (DAB) in 2003, two years after its Women Advisory Board. Resource-group leaders have been full members of the DAB from the start, and they ask critical questions and are essential parts of the decision-making process.

“They give us ideas that can be leveraged into opportunities. I don’t know how advisory boards can operate without having the national leader of the ERG at the table. They live it, they breathe it, they strategize it,” says Kathy Hannan, National Managing Partner, Diversity & Corporate Responsibility.

While KPMG, BASF and Kellogg Company, Nos. 21, 26 and 31 in the DiversityInc Top 50, have had significant success with resource-group leaders on the council, Ameren, No. 3 in the DiversityInc Top 7 Utilities, has a different approach: Employee-resource-group leaders actually report to the executive diversity council. And Hilton Worldwide, one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies, has had success putting its employee-resource-group leaders on select business diversity councils, instead of on the executive council.

Why include employee-resource-group leaders? All companies cite the value of the ideas and the on-the-ground knowledge of employees, customers and clients. Here’s advice from these five companies on how—and why—to do it:

1. Include as many resource-group leaders as possible

Kathy Hannan, KPMG

Kathy Hannan

KPMG’s DAB is chaired by Kathy, with Chairman and CEO John Veihmeyer as executive chair. All of the internal full members are partners, including the employee-resource-group chairs of the women’s, African-American, Hispanic/Latino, disability and veterans groups. Says Kathy: “Some companies only have business leaders [on the council] but then you are missing a whole perspective.”

At Kellogg, the Executive Diversity & Inclusion Council (EDIC) includes rotating seats for all seven of the employee resource groups, a change that occurred in 2013. “We made the change to increase the connections and touchpoints between our EDIC leaders and our ERGs. At the same time, we changed the format of our quarterly EDIC meetings to include a standing EDIC/ERG roundtable segment [at the beginning of each meeting],” says Global Head, Diversity & Inclusion Mark King. The roundtables enable the resource-group leaders to interact more with Chairman, President and CEO John Bryant, who chairs the EDIC.

Kellogg has both rotating and fixed positions on the council for its resource-group leaders. Kellogg also includes the executive sponsors of the resource groups. Mark says it “proves beneficial for increased senior-leader engagement, cross-ERG sharing and collaboration at the highest levels of the organization, and new perspectives being shared during the EDIC meeting and beyond.”

BASF started with the presidents of its African-American and LGBT resource groups. “We picked those groups because they were longer tenured and well established in terms of their membership. … They have done everything we have asked and more. They participate in setting our goals, formulating our plans and implementing our plans,” Pat says.

2. Be flexible about how often they rotate

Michael Ford, Hilton Worldwide

Michael Ford

It’s important to keep resource-group leaders who are doing a good job on the council for a while longer.

Hilton Worldwide, where the resource-group leaders are on business diversity councils, has a maximum of two-year rotations. “We want to ensure that we have fresh perspectives on all council matters to further creativity and innovation,” says Michael Ford, Vice President, Global Diversity & Inclusion. They each serve for at least one full year, but have the option to serve for a second year. Hilton Worldwide also has a succession-planning mechanism to select the next group of leaders, which includes HR and line-of-business partners input.

“Those selected are high-potential, high-performing individuals, typically directors and above, as reflected in the most recent annual-talent-review cycle,” Michael says.

Kathy at KPMG says the average tenure of resource-group leaders on the DAB is about three years but “we are continually assessing the members. There isn’t a mandatory rotation, but a mandatory assessment [which includes Kathy and the CEO] to assure rotation.”

At Kellogg, the resource-group executive sponsors usually rotate off the EDIC every two years, but can remain longer “if deemed necessary for continuity,” says Mark, noting that their selection and confirmation requires the approval of Mark, the Chief Human Resources Officer and the CEO.

Pat at BASF says it can be hard to get anyone to leave. “People don’t want to leave our D&I Council. We are not in the business of turning off the spigot of people who want to work,” she says.

3. Task them with specific business-related goals

Sharon Harvey Davis, Ameren

Sharon Harvey Davis

With Ameren’s model, the resource-group leaders are directly responsible to the council for goals. Those goals start in October with a strategic planning meeting. “We give them a template and spend an entire day telling them how to draft the goals. If they don’t meet them, they are sent back to the drawing board and asked to return with more improved goals that align with the council,” says Sharon Harvey Davis, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer.

The goals need to align with the council’s three focus areas: to support the business of Ameren, to educate the employees, and to build community partnerships. For example, Sharon says the LGBT group helps review benefits annually to ensure they are addressing LGBT needs, especially around transgender issues. And the disability group works with a local organization to go through all the corporate buildings to determine accessibility.

Ameren’s had this model in place for the past five years, since it started its employee resource groups. The resource-group leaders include officers, non-union staff and union members. “Sixty percent of our workforce is union. If we didn’t involve our union workforce, it wouldn’t fly,” Sharon says.

At BASF, the employee-resource-group leaders on the council have helped organize and mobilize activities like employee-resource-group showcases at various sites to find speakers and support external partnerships.

At KPMG, they have helped develop opportunities for people from underrepresented groups to rise in the pipeline for partners. Kathy cites a recent African-American leadership summit held in Napa Valley for “rising stars,” with a similar event being planned for Latino rising stars.

4. Make sure their contributions are evaluated and appreciated

Mark King, Kellogg Company

Mark King

At BASF, the resource-group leaders’ participation is known to their superiors and is included in their personal goals for the year.

Kellogg regularly polls EDIC members, including the resource-group leadership-team representatives, to ensure the “process is adding value and meeting expectations,” Mark says.

Hilton Worldwide tracks participation at the council meetings and ensures HR and business partners are aware of the resource-group leaders’ involvement. “We have analytics associated with the return on investment, especially for our marketplace focus. We also have celebrations to highlight milestones and reward success on our diversity journey,” Michael says.

5. Give them training to do the best possible job on the council

At Kellogg, employee-resource-group leaders receive internal and external professional workshops and coaching to ensure they are “prepared and comfortable for the EDIC meeting and beyond,” says Mark. Workshops have been on executive communications (presentation skills), strategic planning and influencing. Kellogg also often identifies topics for the roundtable discussion (such as retention or marketing) to help the employee-resource-group leaders solicit member feedback in advance.

At Hilton Worldwide, the resource-group leaders receive cultural-competency training “to establish a foundation for the diversity council experience,” says Michael.

6. Treat them like all other council members

“We do not do this with an asterisk by their name. There’s no hierarchy on the council. They are very much a part of every discussion,” says BASF’s Pat.