"Tracey’s Takeaways" is a regular feature that focuses on employee development, management issues, leadership and organizational culture.

This article offers strategies for building an inclusive organization from Delaine Orendorff, NRECA's director of human capital planning. Delaine works with cooperative leadership to align workforce strategies with business goals.

Our last Tracey's Takeaways discussed the traits and competencies of inclusive leaders. This article focuses on strategies and tactics for leaders who want to make their workplace more inclusive. The five areas highlighted in this article are not exhaustive; however, they provide practical starting points on the path to greater inclusion in your co-op or public power district.


Culture is the starting point for inclusive behavior in the workplace. During the most recent PowerXchange, Simon Sinek quoted a colleague's simple equation that defines culture as "Culture = Values + Behavior." To create a more inclusive culture:

  • Engage your employees in developing value statements that support inclusion.

  • Work together to describe the behaviors that support those values so that employees can better understand what behaviors they should be demonstrating.

For example, a value statement may focus on having a workplace culture in which employees demonstrate mutual respect and inclusion. Behaviors that support that statement could be:

We treat each other with courtesy and actively encourage everyone to express their opinions and ideas before expressing our own thoughts. We seek out others to include in conversations, meetings or initiatives where they may play a role. The goal is to create or cultivate a culture where all employees can contribute their ideas, unique perspectives and experiences and feel a sense of belonging.


We all understand the importance of communication. Lack of internal communication is one key issue that often rises to the top in NRECA's culture survey.

  • Develop an internal communications plan for your co-op.

  • Be transparent and communicate the importance of inclusion; what your goals are; how you're going to achieve them; and how employees can contribute.

  • Use your employee communications channels to share how things are going and include a session on inclusion in your employee meetings.

  • And don't forget to celebrate wins—no matter how large or small—across your organization.

Engaging Your Workforce

Change starts at the top. Ensure that the co-op's leadership team demonstrates inclusive behaviors. For suggestions on how to go about building these skills, refer to the first article in this series: Tracey's Takeaways: What It Means to Be an Inclusive Leader and Organization Part 1. Since leaders set the tone for the organization, it is up to them to demonstrate inclusion every day. That is the first step—but in order to experience true inclusion, you need to go beyond just this team.

  • Educate employees on your goals around inclusion and explain why this is important for your co-op.

  • Empower and engage employees in your diversity and inclusion efforts.

  • Create a team of employee volunteers passionate about this topic—and let them provide you with suggestions and ideas that are actionable.

One caution here: Make sure you act on their suggestions to increase the likelihood of success. Show employees that inclusion is a critical factor in the success of your co-op, not a “flavor of the month” initiative. One method of ensuring success for these initiatives is to include goals around inclusion in your strategic plan or goals, and add an inclusion metric to your balanced performance scorecard.


We've all been in meetings where some individuals speak up frequently, and some voices are less heard. Unfortunately, when this happens excellent ideas and thoughts can be left unsaid. While this may be a personal preference on the part of the individual, it is worth going around the room and letting everyone have an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Call on those who may not be speaking up. Alternatively, if some individuals just generally do not want to speak in front of others, pass around notepads, collect them and then report themes to encourage participation.

Policies & Practices: Recruiting and Development

Review your employee policies and practices—do they support inclusion? Two critical areas in particular are recruitment and development. First, educate your human resources manager and/or hiring managers and help them understand your goals for inclusion. Often it is easier to keep doing the same thing, obtaining talent from the same places, hiring people we already know.

  • Reach out beyond your typical recruitment sources to find diverse candidates.

    • Are you posting jobs on sites that focus on helping you recruit diverse candidates? Some examples: the American Association of Blacks in Energy and Women in Energy. NRECA’s Vets Power Us initiative can help you find resources for attracting veterans to your workforce.

  • Some questions you may ask your hiring team:

    • Are the job requirements truly reflective of the minimum needs of the position?

    • When you review résumés, are you looking for people who have gone to the same college as you, for example, or are you looking for those who might have chosen a different path to get where they are?

    • When you interview candidates, are you focusing on those who can bring fresh, new, diverse ideas, or individuals who think the same way as you do?

    • Are you involving diverse individuals in the hiring process?

  • Are you equitable and inclusive across your organization when preparing your employees for potential promotion or future positions?

    • Look at your data: Does it show that all employees are encouraged to attend training or development?

    • Do you offer opportunities to all based on their needs and aspirations?

Having an individual career plan for each employee can help you build a more inclusive employee development program, and another benefit is building the skills your co-op needs for the future. An individual career plan helps employees plan and implement action steps to achieve their career goals. The plan is a foundational tool to use when having development discussions. It typically includes a self-assessment and specific goals the employee needs to achieve and/or skills the employee needs to learn to move toward the next step in their career, whatever that may be.

Developing strategies and action plans in these five areas will help you get started on your path to greater inclusion in your co-op. We would invite you to develop additional ideas that will build inclusion in your unique environment.

Want to learn more?

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Delaine Orendorff is recognized as a results-focused executive known for driving organizational excellence by aligning workforce strategies with business goals. Prior to joining NRECA in 2019 as director, human capital planning in the Business and Technology Strategies group, Delaine worked for a distribution system. She has over 20 years of experience in leadership roles and specializes in high-performance cultures, workforce and succession planning, change management, organizational development, performance management, 360-degree assessments and compensation plan design.

Tracey Steiner is NRECA's senior vice president for education and training. Her 29-year career at NRECA has spanned a variety of roles starting in communications and marketing positions, then 15 years as an attorney focusing on cooperative governance and public policy issues before moving to Education, Training & Events in 2012.