By: Tom Lambert

Noah Coleman was speechless after he received an unexpected phone call with an intriguing offer.

A smile crept over Coleman’s face. He was touched and honored, and graciously accepted. It was a position where he felt he could make a difference: joining our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) family in a new role.

It was Aug. 31, 2020, and Coleman immediately hit the ground running as an advocate for change. He was one of six newly appointed Inclusion Champions.

As a Fillet Welder and a union representative selected by the Michigan State Utility Workers Council, Coleman now has the opportunity to leverage his passion for education and inclusion.

Coleman was asked to help establish the company’s Inclusion Champion program to cultivate a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture in our company and for our customers.

“I thought it was a tremendous opportunity to shape our culture by having difficult conversations that needed to be had,” said Coleman. “DE&I is about bringing people of all different experiences and backgrounds to the table and creating an atmosphere of inclusivity so that they all feel welcomed.”

Our DE&I cultural stand amplifies the importance of working to include people of all backgrounds in our company and communities. This includes leveraging our voice as a force of good in advocating for social justice in our communities.

Coleman added that in his first year as an Inclusion Champion, he saw a positive shift when it comes to the core values of DE&I. However, DE&I is constantly evolving, requiring continuous improvement.

“We cannot become complacent if we truly want effective and sustainable change,” he added.

“It’s an area where trust and caring need to be built over time,” said Coleman, an eight-year company veteran. “Trust is like glass. It can never be placed back like it was before if it’s broken. There are cracks that you can see. We need to continue doing a better job of putting our differences aside and caring for one another so we all can go home safely to our families at the end of our shifts.”

Coleman said people can still hold true to their beliefs, but beliefs shouldn’t get in the way of how we care for one another.

“Agility isn’t just something physical,” he said. “It’s stretching your mind and being open to different perspectives. That’s what it takes to get to a culture of inclusiveness.”

Coleman compared this shift in culture to the successful safety culture. When an individual feels psychologically safe at work, they are less distracted, will contribute more to address safety concerns, feel comfortable speaking up and bring ideas forward that could lead to innovation and process improvement.

“Safety culture is about coming together for a common goal: to look out for one another and keep each other safe on the job,” said Coleman. “It didn’t matter what someone’s political beliefs or views were, or what their religion or race was. It is the same concept when it comes to DE&I, which is the next layer. It’s about giving people the opportunity to be heard and offer their ideas. That makes for a better, more well-rounded company.”

He added that intent should always be considered when there are disagreements.

“And there will definitely be some disagreements,” he said. “But you don’t have to be disrespectful to get your point across.”

DE&I isn’t just a moment – it’s a movement where everyone’s input is needed and valued, Coleman stressed.

“It isn’t a flavor of the month; it’s here to stay,” Coleman said. “I want to do my part to help create a culture that makes things better for the company and every single co-worker.”

Learn more about our DE&I efforts here: