Driving Inclusion Excellence: Insights from BMO Financial Group's Chief Inclusion Officer

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp's Eric Davis and Nina Holtsberry, along with Jacqui Robertson, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Cleveland Clinic, facilitated a conversation with special guest Vanessa Lewerentz, Chief Inclusion Officer at BMO, and member of i4cp's Chief Diversity Officer Board. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • By way of introduction, Lewerentz shared that BMO (Bank of Montreal) is North America's 8th largest bank, with around $1.3 trillion in assets. They have been serving customers since 1817 (over 206 years!). They have three operating groups: Personal and Commercial Banking; BMO Wealth Management; and BMO Capital Markets. They have over 55,000 employees.
  • The values of the company include:
    • Integrity: Do what's right
    • Responsibility: Make tomorrow better
    • Diversity: Learn from differences
    • Empathy: Put others first
  • Lewerentz started her career in Total Rewards, in the entertainment industry. She has worked at three different banking organizations, and this is her second stint at BMO.
  • At BMO they have focused on aligning self-identification processes with their organizational values and purpose while considering the entire lifecycle of a candidate and employee.
  • Lewerentz said one impact of the self-ID program, which is branded "Count Me In," has been increased psychological safety for employees, so that they can show up as their best selves at work.
  • The self-ID program involves a voluntary questionnaire, which 86% of BMO employees have used so far. The program is called "Count Me In" in part because employees have the option to have their data included in the aggregate data collection that the organization does. In the past year, they've seen a 30% increase in employees willingness to share in that way.
  • Some of the goals of the program include:
    • Deepen trust in the use of personal data
    • Inspire all to speak up, self-advocate, and share their stories
    • Build awareness of the changes to the CMI approach, Workday system, and options
    • Reinforce the importance of counting yourself in and consenting to share responses
  • Overall, BMO's approach with this program includes:
    • Technology: enhanced existing technology; candidate data and onboarding; people
    • Leader-led / Employee-driven: extensive story-telling; employee resource groups
    • Change management: communications plan; centralized information hub; leader discussion guides
    • Governance: data management; regional compliance
  • Their measurements of program success include: participation (YoY growth), employee feedback and queries, and data governance
  • The core identities that they include are gender (both assigned and gender identity), race and ethnicity, indigenous status in Canada, disability, sexual orientation, and military status. Each is a separate question, so employees can choose to answer any or none--and can also multi-select in some cases where relevant.
  • Their Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have been critical in helping them to define further the sub-segments in some of these identity areas. This further helps employees' psychological safety at the organization.
  • For those who might be starting a self-ID program at their organization, Lewerentz advised to take the process one step at a time, and to emphasize transparency with employees: what data is collected, why and how it will be used by the organization, what the process is, and where there are options.
  • To market the program, BMO has made available signature lines for emails, has created multiple informational videos, and has created guides that leaders can use to incorporate awareness of Count Me In into their town halls and similar events. ERGs also play a role, as their websites' have information on the self-ID program, and it gets mentioned at the end of their over 170 ERG events (from 11 ERGs) annually.

Links to resources shared on the call:

To ensure open discussion, this event is exclusively for HR practitioners. Vendors and consultants are not permitted to attend.