DVI Spotlight: Exelon’s Strategic Mindset

Energy provider Exelon Corp. has all the important features of an ambitious diversity strategy.

CEO Christopher M. Crane is deeply committed to maximizing the value of diversity as a driver for the Chicago-based company’s business. Janese Murray, vice president of diversity and inclusion, administers the function to make inclusiveness a core component in the employee experience, and its ERGs act as internal resources and as intellectual drivers for external value.

But what makes Exelon’s diversity strategy tick is the attitude and end goal of its primary leader. To Murray, diversity and inclusion at Exelon should be the price of admission, so embedded in the strategy and workplace experience that creating stand-alone programs and promoting diversity-related events is just icing on the cake.
“It’s like integrity — either you have it or you don’t,” Murray said. “… Diversity is a state of being.”

Making it that way became more important in March 2012, when the company completed a merger with Constellation Energy Group Inc. Under the Exelon name, the company claims to be the largest integrated energy provider in the United States, with annual revenues in the range of $33 billion and a stock market capitalization as of the end of 2011 of $36.8 billion.

Murray, who came from Constellation to lead the company’s combined diversity efforts, said integrating the function has been relatively seamless, in large part because both entities shared a similar infrastructure and values before the merger. The effort going forward, she said, is all about sustaining the integrated mission so it continues to add internal and external business value.

Exelon aims to accomplish this through five goals. First, it seeks to attract and develop talent of all backgrounds to reflect the realities of the markets and communities in which it does business. Second, the company strives to create an inclusive workplace culture. Third, it aims to achieve a “diverse range of suppliers, vendors and service partners.” The fourth goal is to ensure that Exelon’s leaders maintain relationships with community-based organizations. And fifth, the company aims to position its diversity and inclusion efforts at the top of the industry.

Murray said the core of Exelon’s diversity strategy is its ERGs. Together these groups act as a force for a host of diversity-related activities, from educating employees on important issues and driving employee engagement to hosting business-driving events in the community with potential customers.

Murray said what sets Exelon apart in its use of ERGs is the accountability and leadership the function aims to instill in each employee when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

“[Diversity] has got to be driven by the leaders,” she said. “I’m not a huge fan of stand-alone diversity programs. I think they tend to be tolerated more than adopted, and they dilute or dismiss the fact that diversity and inclusion is as much a strategic objective as other strategic objectives in the organization.

“… Events are great because they’re fun and they get people comfortable with [diversity]. They can be very educational and engaging, and you can build relationships and all of that. But [events] do not take the place of a leader being held accountable for his or her results.”

The company measures diversity leadership accountability through a quarterly scorecard that is presented at the executive level. Murray said the scorecard approach is taken for every other strategic function within the company.

Murray said a main area of the scorecard’s focus is how business unit leaders and managers promote diversity and inclusion — their attitude and dedication to the discipline. The same approach is taken for things such as cost savings, team performance and other business unit metrics. The design and interpretation of the diversity and inclusion scorecard is aligned with the function’s five strategic goals.

The apex of Exelon’s diversity strategy is still a work in progress. Murray said the change brought on by the merger is ongoing. Still, she said the company has moved swiftly and successfully thus far to jell the two cultures together.

The key moving forward will be for the function to continue to drive workplace inclusiveness — an area with the most potential to impact the business.

“Inclusion is really nirvana,” Murray said. “It’s ‘I can bring my whole self to work, I don’t have to hide who I am, who I am is important to the organization, and I see how it connects to the bigger picture.’ That’s when you’ve got people who are engaged, who are proud to work for the company, who will tell their friends that this is the type of place that you would want to work [for] and who will give the discretionary effort that frankly all companies look for.”