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Hilton Worldwide President & CEO: Resource Groups, Customer Service Keys to Our Success

Christopher J. Nassetta talks to DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti about ramping up Hilton Worldwide's diversity-management program.


A transcript of the interview is below the video.

Luke Visconti: You’ve been a visible proponent of diversity as a key driver of business both globally and domestically. Why do you feel this is so essential to Hilton Worldwide’s success?

Christopher J. Nassetta: At Hilton Worldwide, we have a very simple vision, which is to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality. Said even more simply, it’s about providing our customers with exceptional experiences.

When you’re operating at our level, which is 4,000 hotels in nearly 100 countries, and when you’re serving a very diverse customer base that is literally in the millions of customers a day, having diversity among our Team[A1]  Members is absolutely critical to delivering the service that these diverse customers require all around the globe.

Visconti: How are you working to invigorate the diversity-management program at Hilton Worldwide?

Nassetta: Ultimately, I have a very simple philosophy on diversity: It is what allows us to perform and deliver for our customers and, frankly, outperform the competition. In order to do that, it has to become part of the muscle memory of our organization.

There are a number of things that we do in order to help make sure that it does become part of that muscle memory. The first is starting with me: The tone at the top is critical to making sure that this is a very important priority for the organization, that it is mission critical to our being able to ultimately serve our customers’ needs and to our performance overall. Sponsorship at the CEO level in any organization is critical.

I chair an executive diversity council that is made up of a cross section of the most senior people in the company. I want it to be top of mind for the senior management of the company. This executive diversity council basically sets the tone for the hundreds of thousands of Team Members that we have around the globe, to make sure that this is a priority.

We also have Team Member Resource Groups; we’re up to 20 chapters. These Team Member Resource Groups really allow us to have great sightlines into the needs of our diverse population and to understand how we can help respond to those needs and develop greater diversity at higher levels of the company.

We’re also, importantly, building diversity into the compensation systems of the company.  There’s a portion of compensation of senior management of the company that is dependent on meeting our diversity objectives. Again, all of this is just the way we do business.

In my opinion, the big mistake that companies make—and I’ve seen it happen many, many times—is that diversity becomes a subset of different programs. Diversity, if done properly and reinforced properly, basically takes care of itself because everybody in an organization realizes that the organization is better, stronger and faster as a result of the diverse nature of its workforce.  This way people seek it out instead of it becoming just a series of programs that they need to adhere to.

When a company is recruiting, they might make the mistake not to focus on diversity because, for some cases and some positions, they may think it requires more work to find diverse candidates. My attitude is that the benefit in the end is well worth it.

Visconti: How are you holding your executives accountable for results?

Nassetta: We’re doing it through the talent-review process. Every time we’re assessing people in the organization, we’re looking at all layers of the organization for where we have talent.  Diversity is front and center in this process.  We want to ensure we have diversity throughout the organization, that we’re providing the necessary resources and training to people, and that we’re ultimately developing them with the best career opportunities. We know that we have greater success in serving our customers as a result of that.

Visconti: How are you ensuring global cultural competency in your teams?

Nassetta: We’re assuring global competency in our teams in the most basic way that you could, which is attracting the right talent. That means we’re attracting people with global sensitivities; we’re hiring locally in all of the places that we operate around the world so our Team Members understand the local customs; and we’re providing them, both those who are local as well as those that might be more international in orientation, with the resources that they need. We are also launching Culture Wise, which is a database of information on cultural sensitivities that our teams can read through our Hilton Worldwide University.

It’s really imperative that we have local people working at our hotels, that our international folks who are there have an unbelievable cultural sensitivity, and that they really are part of that community and understand the diverse needs of that community. If they don’t, we fail.

Visconti: You have a long history of community work, especially with underprivileged youth. Why is this important to you and how do you encourage your executive team to be active in multicultural communities and charities?

Nassetta: This is one of my priorities. I’m on the board of the International Youth Foundation, and have been very active with them. Youth employment and youth education are very, very important issues. At its core, from a societal point of view, given that we have 75 million unemployed youth in the world, there is a real risk of a lost generation. When you think about all the unrest that we have around the world, particularly in some of the hot spots, it is in large part driven by the youth of those regions not having a line of sight to something better. They don’t have an education in many cases, and as a result they don’t have jobs, and so there is no future for them and they look to other things to satisfy their needs.

There is, societally, a huge issue and a huge opportunity. It so happens that it matches up very nicely with our business.  We also are growing, both as a company and as an industry, and it’s coming disproportionally now from the emerging markets. These are the same markets where you have the most extreme problems with youth unemployment, where most of those 75 million people are, and so there’s an opportunity and a necessity for our company and our industry in those regions.

The opportunity is that we need to hire people of that age cohort in order to do the things that we do, and it provides an opportunity for us to be part of the process of giving people basic education on life and work skills. It becomes a necessity simply because we can’t do what we do in terms of serving our customers, and grow at the pace we’re growing, without being able to get a large segment of that population of unemployed youth into the system.

It’s estimated that in the next 10 years, travel and tourism is going to need to employ 73 million. That matches up approximately with the unemployed population of youth today.

Visconti: Do you see a connection between that and interacting with local regulators, legislators, people who approve or disapprove your permits to build or operate?

Nassetta: A large part of our success over a long period of time is being a part of the communities where we operate. We do this in many ways, whether it’s offering apprenticeships to young people in our hotels or providing donations from our food and beverage operations or collecting and recycling used soap to assist in the area of health and hygiene.  We believe being a good corporate citizen is a smart business practice and creates long-term value for our Team Members, hotel owners, guests and local communities around the world.

There are natural benefits. It’s one thing to come flying into town and say, “I’m a global brand and I’ve arrived on the scene and I’m here to help,” and have one type of relationship with the local municipalities or the broader governmental regimes. But when you literally have an active role within the community, and your people are part of the community and have been for long periods of time, you have a very different relationship. Hilton Worldwide is very much an international brand, and we’re a part of peoples’ lives all over the world.

Visconti: You’re under a great deal of pressure. You’ve got an outside sponsor [Blackstone]. How are you convincing your sponsor that diversity is a key part of your success?

Nassetta: When I got here, I laid out a plan for them that articulated what our vision of the future was in terms of the footprint, the growth and the bottom-line numbers, and diversity was a key component. To their credit, our sponsors are amazingly smart and recognize that in the end, our business is all about hearts and minds—hundreds of thousands of Team Members are on the front line interacting with our customers every day. Diversity plays a very large role in making sure that we have the hearts and minds of the people of this organization focused on our true north.

AT&T Reaches 10-Year Milestone of Celebrating Employee Resource Groups

The annual gathering is significant because it's the "life blood of the culture of our company," said Corey Anthony, senior vice president-human resources and chief diversity officer.

AT&T (No. 3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) reached a milestone this fall with its 10th annual Employee Resource Group (ERG) conference in Dallas. The company is committed more than ever to expanding its 12 ERGs, which grew in membership in 2018.

Read More Show Less

Best Practices in Identifying Talent to Lead ERGs

General Motors and Wells Fargo give insights into how they identify talent for critical roles in leading their ERGs.

05:11 – 07:15: GM's ERG Journey

07:16 – 07:44: GM's Values and Behaviors

07:45 – 09:10: How GM Identifies Talent to Lead Its ERGs

09:23 – 13:36: Wells Fargo's D&I Strategy

13:37 – 14:33: Wells Fargo's Team Member Networks

14:34 – 17:40: Matching Leaders to High Impact Development Opportunities

17:41 – 23:02: Leadership Support Framework

23:03 – 29:12: Community & Network Leader Support Site

29:13 – 30:03: Results: Reflections on Personal Experiences

30:04 – 46:05: Q&A

To view/download a PDF of the presentation click here.

Accenture's Rah Thomas: 'Bold Leadership is Really About Empowering People'

Thomas is a Managing Director in Accenture's Infrastructure Operations practice and a leader of the African American employee resource group. He gives his take on the value of diversity and inclusion.

By Alana Winns and Christian Carew

As a Managing Director at Accenture (No. 14 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list), Rahnold "Rah" Thomas' primary focus is Digital Workplace Transformation and Infrastructure Transformation to the cloud.

The 37 year old is also the national co-lead for the African American employee resource group. Thomas works across all inclusion and diversity work streams, meeting with senior executives to improve recruitment, progression and retention of top talent.

He is a graduate of Syracuse University.

How to Identify and Cultivate Talent in Employee-Resource Groups

Dell and EY outline how their ERGs are critical to their success in increasing employee engagement and finding and growing talent.


Dell and EY outline how their ERGs are critical to their success in increasing employee engagement and finding and growing talent. Dell gives insights into how their ERGs continue to drive employee engagement and positively impact the business. EY shares the strategic drivers of its employee networks, which includes empowering and developing talent.

• 02:48 – DiversityInc Data on ERG Participation and Mentoring in ERGs

• 07:07 – Overview of Dell's ERGs

• 09:05 – Dell's ERGs Drive Engagement

• 10:40 – ERGs Impact Dell's Employees and Business

• 13:31 – Formal Training Offered in ERGs

• 17:56 – Mentoring Offered in ERGs

• 21:00 – Leadership Development and Skill Building in ERGs

• 23:50 – External Engagement and Partnerships Through ERGs

• 28:54 – EY Introduction

• 31:18 – EY's Professional Network Journey

• 33:26 – Structure of Professional Networks

• 37:36 – Strategic Drivers for Professional Networks

• 43:54 – Priorities for FY2018

• 57:42 – Q&A

3 Case Studies on Leveraging ERGs for Talent Management

AT&T, Dell and Toyota Motor North America discuss how they utilize their resource groups for workforce skills transformation, increasing employee engagement and productivity and recruitment.


AT&T, Dell and Toyota Motor North America are three companies leading the way in evolving their resource groups and leveraging them in innovative ways, for business results.

In this panel discussion from the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Learning Sessions, the three companies discuss how they utilize their resource groups for workforce skills transformation, increasing employee engagement and productivity and recruitment.


• Janice King, Executive Director – Workforce Diversity, AT&T

• Erin Kitchen, VP of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Dell

• Adrienne Trimble, General Manager, D&I, Social Innovation Division, Toyota Motor North America

• Moderator: Shane Nelson, VP, Major Accounts, DiversityInc

Employee Resource Group Spotlight: CVS Health

CVS Health’s colleague resource groups help with recruitment, talent development and commerce.


Structure of ERGs:

Each of CVS Health’s Colleague Resource Groups has an executive sponsor and two co-chairs. The CRGs provide an opportunity for all colleagues to engage and contribute to their highest potential. Each CRG also offers several roles, which have specific roles and responsibilities, including communications and marketing. As the CRGs grow in size and members span the country, there are opportunities to form chapters, which also have similar leadership structures.

Example of an ERG Yielding Positive Results for Talent Recruitment or Development:

The CVS Health Talent Acquisition held a CRG-sponsored internal job fair to fill some critical open roles. The job fair led to eight roles being filled internally and saved significant costs by not leveraging external hiring agencies.

Our CRGs also manage our formal mentor program, which has 800 participants for the 2017-2018 year. The mentor/mentee guide includes goal setting for the relationship and templates to drive productive conversation, which connects to personal development and gives back to the business.

Example of a CRG Yielding Positive Results for Commerce:

In 2016, MinuteClinic launched a first-of-its kind initiative with the Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System to expand access to high quality and convenient care services for Veterans in California. When developing this pilot, we consulted a focus group with our own VALOR colleague resource group members to inform our VA Palo Alto launch. The feedback was exceptional and helped to derive service standards and program workflows that would best meet the needs of our veterans. The VA leadership team was thrilled to hear that we worked with our CVS Health Veterans to create the joint program. This past April, we began partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix to offer a similar service for veterans in that area, which Valor also consulted on.

Monsanto Leverages Business Resource Groups to aid the African & African-American Farmer

Between 2006 and 2008, Monsanto began working to strengthen the relationship between 1890s Land-Grant universities and Black growers. Dr. Dewayne Goldmon, then our Product Development and Marketing Manager, led the efforts to establish a Black Grower Advisory Council to advise the company on the unique concerns of Black farmers.


By Damion S. Jones, Ph.D., SPHR, Global Director of Inclusion & Diversity, Monsanto

It can often be perceived as challenging for a business-to-business company to take inclusion seriously through a commercial lens. The potential for this lack of focus is particularly high in U.S.-based agricultural companies where the broader market of growers isn’t as diverse as the country’s consumer product citizenship. In fact, while Blacks and African-Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population of consumers, they are only 1.4 percent of the total farm operators in the US per the last agricultural census conducted in 2012. This represented 46,582 Black or African-American farm operators. However, upon investigation into this customer base, we found many of the issues facing Black growers existed in areas we as a company could positively impact.

Between 2006 and 2008 Monsanto began working to strengthen the relationship between 1890s Land-Grant universities and Black growers. Dr. Dewayne Goldmon, then our Product Development and Marketing Manager, led the efforts to establish a Black Grower Advisory Council to advise the company on the unique concerns of Black farmers. Additionally, Monsanto helped the council to develop and implement an Agricultural Apprenticeship program, which provides a unique hands-on farm experience to select students from these land grant institutions to help prepare them for future agricultural careers. This was to gain access to viable talent and better understand the needs of Black growers. Historically, the challenges facing Black growers have hinged on: lack of access to land, lack of access to technology and a lack of voice on Capitol Hill. In exchange for their perspective, we provided these growers access to new technologies via field trials and candid information on marketing programs. In 2008, a two-day planning event was conducted as the group formed, and Monsanto’s Africans & African-Americans in Monsanto group (AAIM) helped to form bonds with the growers.

By 2009, what began as an advisory Council became their own independent organization and the National Black Growers Council (NBGC) was established. That same year, Dewayne and nearly a dozen members of the NBGC visited various leaders of USDA agencies, and select members of the U.S. House and Senate, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus. In more than 20 meetings, the group reinforced their newly minted mission to “improve the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of Black row crop farmers.” Specifically, these meetings gave voice to the issues impacting Black farmers from Maryland to Texas who were providing food, clothing and feed on approximately 60,000 acres and the important role that Monsanto’s technology had played in helping them create and maintain their operations.

The relationship of sharing technology for perspective and advocacy continued and in 2012 Monsanto even donated $100,000 to the Washington DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Foundation Project on behalf of the Council. Monsanto engaged with NBGC and featured some of their members in national ad campaigns that focused on the contributions of America’s farmers, an effort which helped to highlight the diversity in American agriculture. In 2014, AAIM and the Council began hosting Farmer Ride-a-longs to provide Business Resource Network (BRN) members access to farming experiences to better orient them to customer needs — as many of them hadn’t grown up on farms. This helped to build business acumen among the membership and enhance advocacy for Black agriculture. The impact of this partnership on Black farmers was also global. That same year Mike Frank, Senior Vice President and our global commercial lead, attended an AAIM event to address the Council, AAIM membership and all employees regarding our reorganization efforts to make Africa a separate commercial region.

Over the years as Monsanto further solidified its commitment to the region, the NBGC had also partnered to engage African farmers and was hosted by AAIM to hear Monsanto’s direction for the region from Frank at the event. Additionally, the council participated on a panel to provide insights from the Black grower perspective. For Monsanto Africa, this was just one initiative among others to improve grower productivity, such as Water Efficient Maize in Africa (WEMA). Here Monsanto targeted our technology to improve the lives of African growers to which AAIM provided perspective — many of their members being from the region.

This relationship continues, and on June 28th, 2017, AAIM hosted a special panel discussion featuring members of the National Black Growers Council on the topic of “Farming with a Purpose.” This event took a closer look at the issues affecting Black farmers and how the NBGC is providing mentoring and technical support to struggling farmers. The event was moderated by Bill Jolly, Vegetable Global Supply Chain Lead and past president of AAIM. This partnership has been ongoing between Monsanto, AAIM and the NBGC over the years and has involved fact-finding trips to Africa, collaborations to obtain disaster relief and congressional testimony on the importance of GMOs to Black farmers. In fact, AAIM and the NBGC will be heading to D.C. again in the coming weeks. The relationship Monsanto has with our Black farmers is strong and just as we are intentional in our inclusion strategy, business resource group model and sustainability efforts, it will continue.



EY’s Resource Groups Connect Members With Its Culture, Community and Clients

DiversityInc caught up with Chris Crespo, EY Director, Diversity and Inclusiveness, who shared her beliefs on why everyone should join their company's resource groups.

On Friday, June 9, EY hosted an Employee/Business Resource Group Leaders' Summit at the National Association for Black Accountants (NABA) annual conference in New Orleans. The forum was led by the firm's Black Professional Network. The firm's vision for this forum was to support and enhance the dialogue around the value of resource groups to a business, its members and building a better working world.

Chris Crespo, EY Director, Diversity and Inclusiveness, kicked off the interactive session and gave background on the forum. The firm started the forum two years ago and included a few of its clients. A discussion ensued on how the companies could work with each other and learn from each other. The session went well and everyone walked away wanting more, suggesting that EY should do it again.

Crespo gave a brief background on the firm's professional networks (PNs) and how they started out as affinity groups years ago, progressing to resource groups and ultimately evolving to professional networks. The groups are aligned with business strategy and with business purposes to help members grow and succeed.

Bridgette Long, Senior Manager for EY's Indirect Tax practice in Indianapolis, IN, moderated a panel featuring EY Partner and co-chair of the Black Professional Network, Angela Spencer-James and two other companies, including Hilton, Inc. The panel addressed topics such as aligning resource groups with the company's business strategy and effectiveness of the alignment and how those groups keep members engaged.

Following the panel discussion were five breakout sessions focused on:

• Establishing and advancing resource groups to align with the company's business strategy and values

• Understanding what resource groups own vs. what resource groups can influence

• Engaging executive sponsors for resource groups to strengthen inclusive leadership

• Developing members of resource groups to promote leadership and advancement

• Measuring the effectiveness of resource groups

Among the valuable insights attendees walked away with was the critical role resource groups could play in their organizations. In particular, many attendees reported that they had limited resources but were inspired that they could do more and be successful.

I was able to catch up with Crespo after for an interview about the firm's professional networks.

Shane Nelson: Your Professional Networks (PN hereafter) have three objectives: culture, community and client. Can you elaborate on the three and give an example for each?

Chris Crespo: Our strategic drivers of culture, community and client align with our EY Vision 2020 goals.

Culture has to do with the environment we create at EY to support attracting, retaining, developing and advancing great talent at EY. One of the best successes we've seen this year by PNs includes promoting access between PN members and firm leaders — it's taken different forms via local activities, breakfasts and virtual calls. However, the main element is always a leader talking authentically (unplugged) with a small group of PN members about his or her career and advice for others. Meanwhile, it gives our leaders the opportunity to hear about challenges, questions and successes from PN members and provides visibility to the great talent in our PNs.

Community strategies focus on building a sense of community in our workplace, but also in connecting externally with community-based organizations. An example of this is how BPN (EY's Black Professional Network) led EY teams in volunteering for CyberChase in several communities this year. Connecting with EY Corporate Responsibility, the BPN leveraged resources for a sponsored project, solicited volunteers from EY and then worked with elementary-aged children in disadvantaged neighborhoods to encourage a love and understanding of the importance of math and the many ways we use it every day.

Our client initiatives take many forms, providing opportunities for EY PN members to build their brands and connect with the marketplace in various ways. Hosting executive roundtables and leading practice sessions have been key ways for many of our PNs to connect with others in the marketplace. These often have an element of development (culture) baked in, as PN members gain experience organizing, leading and often presenting materials. They can also connect with community strategies as we host events in conjunction with specific communities. For example, Unity (LGBT+ network) has led several workshops each year at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, while the Pan Asian Professional Network hosted a leading practice forum at the Ascend convention.

All three strategic drivers are about connecting — connecting our people, connecting communities and connecting with clients. Our initiatives are about connecting us as individuals and teams to build successful relationships and careers.

Shane Nelson: What kind of programs does EY have in place to train PN leaders and members on achieving the three objectives?

Chris Crespo: Two key tools are the PN Americas Steering Committees and our PN guide, Together we make things happen. When PNs began at EY, they were formed locally with different names and little consistency. That created a lot of duplication of effort and an inability to talk about them collectively. Today our PN guide sets out a road map for PNs, including guidance on how to start and run a successful PN at EY. The guide has tools, tips and roles outlined that can then be applied in each market as needed. As our offices vary in the number and diversity of people, industries served, and market initiatives already in place, our PNs have the framework of shared guidance with the flexibility to develop programming as best suits their needs.

The Americas steering committees then bring that road map to life with interaction across our geographies on goals, problem-solving and knowledge sharing for each PN. These steering committees provide succession planning for those who were local and regional leaders to expand their sphere of influence, while helping to support local chapters and collectively address challenges. Those in Americas and regional PN roles (along with Talent team support) provide insights and tools to transition new leaders and connect regional leaders for sharing challenges, questions and successes. While it encourages sharing of institutional knowledge, it also encourages opening positions for new leadership to bring fresh ideas to the PN and benefits individual with development opportunities.

Each year, our PN steering committee members present to the leadership teams that attend the related conferences. Each year I see not just individual improvement, but also overall steering committee improvement.

Shane Nelson: What is EY's objective for hosting an ERG/BRG Summit at NABA?

Chris Crespo: Originally, the objective was really around the PN steering committee executing on our culture, community and client strategies. The session hosts multiple organizations discussing a few key questions on strategy, measures, membership development and executive sponsors — we hoped to learn from this knowledge sharing while also sharing what has worked for us.

Inevitably, it helps our EY team to reinforce their understanding of our PN leading practices and processes as they prepare to present and facilitate. With so much happening across our almost 300 chapters, it gives everyone the chance to get exposed to more of what is happening in other offices and organizations.

An unintended benefit this year was that many walked away with a better understanding of why we rank well on the DiversityInc ERG specialty list. I think we sometimes are our own worst critics, as we always have ideas on how to make things better or get frustrated by all that seems to not work as well as we'd like. Hearing the challenges and questions from others also reinforced for EY team members that we are doing many things well.

And, of course, we are in the business of helping others strengthen and grow their businesses, so we also walked away with new friends and colleagues and a better understanding of challenges others are having.

Shane Nelson: Has EY found that its PN members are more engaged than associates not in networks? If so, how does the firm promote that internally?

Chris Crespo: The most noticeable benefit we've found is that our PN members have larger networks to engage with. Those network span across natural work groups to allow greater integration of work. A staff once told me how his manager had come to him to identify people who could help them with a question outside their specialty because he knew someone everywhere. The staff was excited that there was a recognition of the strength of his network to help the team. Unity (the LGBT+ network) has joked about their strength in getting things done because of their LGBT+ connections, which extend into most business units as well as outside the firm. This is incredibly powerful in a business like ours when one's external network is somewhat equated to their future book of business.

Additionally, PN members have been highly engaged in providing insights and suggestions for improvements at EY. A more recent example of this was when the firm expanded benefits to support infertility coverage. Both the Today's Families Network and Unity Network identified shortcomings to their members that were shared and led to expanded benefits for those needing Assisted Reproductive Technologies when starting families.

Shane Nelson: What career advice would you give to people unsure about joining a PN?

Chris Crespo: Everyone should join a PN — if not one that you identify with, then one that you would like to learn more about. Members often have varying reasons for joining that span across developing leadership skills, expanding networks, supporting others, wanting to connect with “others like me," or simply learning about something different.

It is important to keep it in perspective as well — leverage it to help supplement your career, but ensure you are still doing well in your day job. As with most things, PN members often get more out of PNs the more they are involved, but not if it impedes your “day job." While they can be a lot of fun as well, that fun should be used to help you build your network of people that will help you develop in your career.

PNs are often more organic and innovative in solving those challenges that often impact PN members the most — allowing each of us to use our uniqueness to improve things overall. We each bring unique perspectives, backgrounds and experiences that collectively can bring stronger solutions to complex problems, which makes PNs a safe way to be disruptive and innovative.

Analyzing Deloitte’s Plans to Phase Out Business Resource Groups

In my expert opinion, Deloitte’s phasing out of its business resource groups is a big mistake.

By Shane Nelson

Bloomberg Businessweek posted the article “Deloitte Thinks Diversity Groups Are Passé" on July 19 about Deloitte's plans to do away with its “employee affinity groups." My first thought was, were they referring to the firm's business resource groups (BRG)? That was confirmed as I read on and the article mentioned that the firm will end its women BRG, known as the Women Initiatives (WIN). My second thought was that this is a huge mistake. I sought to understand the rationale so I read on and finished the article.

Deloitte's rationale for doing away with business resource groups is that it wants to get a broader buy-in, specifically from white males. The firm will move to set up “Inclusion councils," which will include a mixture of people to tackle diversity issues. The firm's managing principal for inclusion, Deepa Purushothaman, explains, “By having everyone in the room, you get more allies, advocates and sponsors. A lot of our leaders are still older white men, and they need to be part of the conversation and advocate for women. But they're not going to do that as much if they don't hear the stories and understand what that means."

I'd like to give Deloitte my perspective on this, but first let me preface by saying the firm is really good in managing diversity and inclusion. The firm ranked No. 12 on our Top 50 list this year and has ranked on the list 13 of the past 16 years.

Inclusion in Resource Groups

When I first came into this space 13 years ago, most companies were not effectively utilizing their resource groups. The groups at many companies were operating as “affinity groups," in which they celebrated a culture (Black History Month) or worked to spread awareness about a particular area (including LGBTs or people with disabilities). As the years went on, companies sought to gain more insight from these groups and leverage them for talent management and business objectives. Many companies changed the name of their groups, moving away from “affinity groups" to “resource groups" to “ business resource groups."

The underlying reason for forming specific resource groups is to leverage the backgrounds and experiences of those group members to tackle problems specific to that cohort. For example, the Black resource group would be leveraged to tackle problems such as regrettable loss of Black high potentials, recruiting Black women or further penetrating the Black consumer market. All of the companies on the DiversityInc Top 50 and Noteworthy lists have employee resource groups.

Comcast NBCUniversal has eight ERGs, which include more than 20,000 employees across 118 ERG chapters. The groups have generated incredible results for the business, communities, culture and members' careers. The company uses the 4C Model, which focuses the groups on four areas: Careers, Commerce, Community and Culture. Its ERGs have been successful in all four areas, especially Commerce. Its Black resource group was instrumental in shaping the company's African American business strategy.

Companies that are most effective in utilizing their business resource groups came across the issue of inclusion years ago. Those companies encouraged inclusion of other race/ethnicities to the Black, Latino or Asian groups. In fact, many companies require a senior executive from a different race/ethnicity sponsor the groups. For the LGBT and people with disabilities groups, a best practice was to add “A" for allies or “Friends" on the end of the acronym to signal that the groups were inclusive of others.

Inclusion of senior executives, majority of which are white men, was critical to elevating the importance of the resource groups. It demonstrated that the company's commitment to leveraging resource groups for talent management and business objectives was real. Executive sponsors of the resource groups have a responsibility not only to lead the group in completing talent development and business objectives, but to also guide the group to be as inclusive as possible.

While debriefing a global company last month, a white European senior leader who chairs the Black resource group explained to me how fortunate he was to have gotten the opportunity to do so. He spoke about how critical the group was in producing insights and action plans to help the organization recruit, develop and retain more of its Black employees. Inclusion in the group also helped him grow as a leader, widening his lenses and understanding on a number of issues.

Diversity Top 50 data shows that participation in resource groups has significantly grown over the past six years for the DiversityInc Top 10 and Top 50. Since white people are the big majority at all of these companies, we can deduce that the inclusion of whites in ERGs have grown. In fact, we encouraged companies to track race/ethnicity and gender of resource group members. Our data shows that whites are the majority of resource group members.

Over the past five years, we've seen a boom in companies finding diverse high potential talent in resource groups. Participation in resource groups allows talent to flourish. Members work closely with executive sponsors and senior leaders and get noticed. Resource groups provide leadership opportunities for their members. Half of the DiversityInc Top 50 have rotational positions on the diversity council for resource group leaders. Resource groups have been a haven and incubator for diverse high potential talent. Without specific resource groups, how will diverse talent be noticed?

Resource groups are also critical to increasing employee engagement. Companies routinely find that members of resource groups have higher engagement than non-members. Dell went a step further. When the company included ERG membership as part of its employee opinion survey, it found that the most active ERG members are the most highly engaged. At the 2017 Top 50 Event, Erin Kitchen, VP of Global Diversity & Inclusion, stated, “We found powerful correlations from team members that were the most engaged. They have higher customer satisfaction, which the sales folks loved. They are higher promoters of our products and services, outside the company. When they refer candidates, those candidates are more likely to be hired. And they're less likely to leave voluntarily."

Without specific resource groups, how will diverse voices be heard? Without specific resource groups, how will older white men learn about the specific challenges to women, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, veterans, LGBTs, people with disabilities, millennials…you get the point.

Deloitte is going about this the wrong way. The firm should be focusing on increasing inclusion of white males and others in its business resource groups rather than abandoning them.


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