In 2020, Lansing Board of Water and Light General Manager Dick Peffley made clear his stance on denouncing racism. His words stand out on the BWL diversity, equity and inclusion webpage:
“The BWL unconditionally denounces systemic racism and stands shoulder to shoulder with those who continue to suffer and lose their lives because of it.”
The committee supporting DEI is still going strong, and Peffley remains just as committed.
“The diversity, equity and inclusion committee’s purpose is to encourage a highly skilled and culturally intelligent workforce, which is crucial to professional development and our corporate performance,” Peffley said. “This is also in alignment with our corporate priorities, which are to maintain a workforce that embraces safety and is agile, diverse, engaged and prepared to support the BWL’s success.”
The utility’s DEI committee consists of bargaining and non-bargaining employees, and it has subcommittees focused on the DEI strategic plan.
“The DEI committee is actively coordinated by my executive assistant and has executive sponsorship from the executive director of strategic planning, which supports my ownership role of the initiative,” Peffley said. “I also encourage each executive director to actively support the initiative that’s authentic for themselves. Executive directors have taken active leadership, such as the development of employee resource groups, while others engage with DEI committee members within subgroups.”
The shared values of DEI are promoted through three key approaches, from creating a culture with the collection of beliefs, perceptions and values shared among employees to developing, attracting and retaining a highly skilled, diverse and culturally intelligent workforce and by cultivating employee engagement that promotes professional development, career growth and a positive work environment.
“One example of our recent efforts was focused around creating a space for connection and dialogue and meeting people where they are in their DEI journey,” Peffley explained. “Our DEI committee facilitated live, open discussion sessions where employees were able to come together to talk about what life’s been like during current events such as the pandemic, protests and civil unrest. The DEI committee also has dedicated channels for real-time sharing of educational articles, webinar opportunities, videos and other resources.”
BWL actively recruits members representing all aspects of diversity, and Peffley said he recognizes the value of diversity of thought, perspective and talent.
“Corporate performance is enriched and the resilience of the BWL is strengthened when we celebrate our differences,” Peffley said. “Our best outcomes come when we incorporate diverse ideas. Bottom line: Recruitment for all aspects of diversity brings diverse solutions.”
The company offers employee training that encompasses four core areas focused on respect and understanding: understanding generations in the workplace; cultural intelligence; identifying and removing stereotypes, biases and isms; and identifying and removing microaggressions.
While diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace comes from the top down, it also comes from bottom up. According to Peffley, inclusion doesn’t happen simply by having a diverse workforce. It also involves recruiting and promoting diversity of people and thought in order to foster an inclusive environment to attract and retain talented people. One way BWL does that is by supporting events that focus on celebrating diversity and culture in our community.
“Our goal is always to keep a balanced sponsorship of cultural events,” Peffley said, “so the diversity of our community is reflected in all that we do.”