We recently sat down with Angela Thompkins, vice president of community affairs and chief diversity officer, to discuss her Crain’s Notable Leaders in DE&I recognition and what’s happening in the DE&I (diversity, equity and inclusion) space at Consumers Energy.

Thompkins said knowing her peers nominated her means a lot. “We don’t always know that we have cheerleaders, so to have my team write it in their own words – I know they mean it, and that feels great,” she said.

A highlight in Thompkins’ nomination was the launch of the company’s first DE&I strategy. Thompkins saw it as an opportunity to embrace the company’s cultural values, and she is proud of the speed and depth of positive change in the DE&I space for co-workers and customers. “Where we first struggled to get co-workers to talk, we’ve now built a culture of listening and learning that respects and values our differences and their power to make us stronger. We’re also embedding DE&I in our processes, from restoring customers’ power to interviewing and hiring talent and encouraging customer program signups,” the nomination read.

Thompkins echoed the sentiment. “We have more than 8,000 co-workers with different perspectives, and the same can be said of our customers. We want to take grassroots internal efforts and apply lessons learned to our customers,” she said.

The company’s DE&I strategy included a from-the-top learning model for all employees, starting with leaders. Employees across the company underwent unconscious bias training. By training all employees in core DE&I concepts, we’re building a solid foundation that makes DE&I an integral part of our work experience. We’re also setting common DE&I expectations that will positively affect our customer interactions.

Like most companies, our strategy focuses on people and culture, but the third pillar – process – is what sets us apart. “Our strategy is unique because in addition to people and culture we are also focused on processes,” said Thompkins. “We are starting to look at customer programs, shutoffs and contact center calls to understand where customers are most impacted and help deliver equitable outcomes,” she said.

Since the inception of our DE&I strategy, Thompkins and her team have continuously improved as she works to make DE&I part of everything we do at Consumers Energy. An excerpt from her nomination submission read: “Angela and her team are working to embed DE&I into our processes. From boosting K-12 and community college outreach to pique interest in journeyman opportunities to factoring minority populations and outage volume and frequency into infrastructure investment plans, partnering with nonprofits to break barriers to clean energy adoption and uncovering what DE&I data is compelling to ESG investors. We want our co-workers and customers to see, hear and feel DE&I’s presence and influence on their experiences with us, according to their needs.” And there is no doubt the forward movement and commitment to DE&I will continue.

Angela Thompkins participating in a panel discussion at the Girls Dream Big Summit last February.

As 2023 concludes, Thompkins said she is most proud of her co-workers. “They are owning DE&I and applying it to their work,” she said. “I see the work we’ve done internally and how it’s benefiting us and our approach to serving customers.”

Thompkins believes focusing first on internal DE&I education was the right move. “Going internal first helps us more deeply connect with customers. We are better equipped to have conversations and be more willing to see our own blind spots and learn from our customers,” she said.

She also said customers can expect more opportunities to engage with us in 2024. Our co-workers will engage with the communities we serve, informing customers about what we’re doing, the programs and incentives we offer and available jobs. But we won’t be doing all the talking; we also want to listen and learn from customers to better serve them. “Customers can look forward to more and more frequent engagements with us outside of outages and emergencies,” said Thompkins. “We want to partner with places of worship and other existing groups to inform customers about important and far-reaching initiatives like reliability roadmap. It’s about sharing information and listening to understand and better serve customers and communities,” she said.

For more information on DE&I at Consumers Energy, visit our website.