GRAND RAPIDS — At a time when racial diversity in the workplace is a top issue within the business community, Tom Carnegie cited a report that shows Kent County is providing employment opportunities for all.
“I believe our numbers speak for themselves,” said Carnegie, an EEO human resources manager for the county, as he presented the annual Equal Employment Opportunity Report to the Legislative and Human Resources Committee.
Carnegie reported that the county hired 50 minority employees in the first nine months of this year, a number that represented slightly more than 24 percent of all county positions filled during that period.
Of those 50, eight minorities were added to the professional staff; seven were para-professionals; 15 were office and clerical workers; six were in protective services; nine were service and maintenance employees; and one was a technician.
A half-dozen African-Americans were hired or promoted to leadership posts in various departments, including corrections, the airport and information technology, and a Hispanic female was hired to manage Probate Court.
The report showed that minorities have filled almost 23 percent of all county positions over the past few years.
“I believe that the Kent County EEO policy is working,” said Carnegie. He added that he closely monitors open positions, recruitment efforts, employment applications and hirings on at least a monthly basis. He said population shifts are closely looked at, too.
On top of that, Carnegie said when the county fails to attract minority interest for a position, he tries to determine why the county wasn’t successful. The policy also includes a training program for all department heads.
Overall, minorities held 15.4 percent of the county’s 1,850 positions in 2000, a drop of a half-percent from 1999.
The effort to include minorities got a push from Kent Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio last winter when he helped initiate the Cultural Insight Council to address diversity issues within county government. Delabbio, along with Human Resources Director Frank Klus, Human Resource Manager Gail Glocheski and Carnegie, formed the CIC as a countywide, employee-based work group in January.
“Every county employee was invited to attend,” said Delabbio. “About 150 responded and were asked whether they would like to participate in this Cultural Insight Council. About 45 employees expressed an interest in joining.”
CIC training ended in June. Gaines & Associates, a human relations consultant, provided the initial training.
“The vision of this insight council is to have a culture where employees understand the value of sustained diversity and inclusion,” said Delabbio. “Because of the size of this council, it has developed into four work groups or subcommittees. The focus areas are diversity training, community outreach, daily operations and customer satisfaction.”
The CIC sprang from the Kent County Insight Committee, which was created by Steve Heacock, commission chairman, in January 2000. Heacock and then-County Commissioner Herschel Turner co-chaired the group, which included then-County Commissioner Jerry Kooiman, Carnegie, Klus, Purchasing Manager Jon Denhof and Delabbio.
The committee spent the better part of a year looking at how the county could become inclusive at each organizational level. Last November, the committee issued a report that showed Kent had made significant efforts to ensure that its employment and purchasing practices were open, competitive and offered equal opportunities.
But the report also noted that there was room for improvement, and that the importance of having a diverse employee population needed to be shared throughout the workplace. That is why the CIC came into existence.
Delabbio said county records show that there has been a steady increase of minorities in its workforce over the past four years. Carnegie said all but the smallest of county departments have minority representation. He said these departments only have a handful of employees and that the turnover in these units is low.
“This reporting year shows progress to our EEO goals,” said Carnegie. “And that goal, by the way, is to have a workforce that’s representative of all people at all levels.”