Leave no talent behind: Inclusive Team Culture event is critical

New data about Michigan’s shrinking workforce confirms that we cannot afford to exclude any segment of our workforce, and that practicing inclusion is a critical component of our talent strategies.

The time is right for our Cultivating an Inclusive Team Culture event, 8:30-10:30 a.m. June 6 at Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids. Join us for breakfast, networking and insights.

This event is designed for leaders of every level frotline supervisors, managers, directors, and the C suite. (Because TalentFirst is an approved SHRM Certification Credit Provider, this event is eligible for 2 professional development credits.) We also will be releasing the aggregate results of our latest D&I benchmarking survey, an important measure of West Michigan’s progress that informs our strategies for talent attraction and retention.


Keep reading for a look at the powerhouse lineup of speakers who will share strategies and insights as we take on this topic as a region.

Why this is important

Research has consistently shown that diversity is simply good for business. Increasingly, employers see the value in emphasizing an inclusive environment, where all employees are valued. Employees who feel valued are more likely to stay.

This takes on greater meaning in light of sobering findings in a recent report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan and Altarum:

  • For the past 50 years, Michigan’s population growth has lagged the rest of the nation
  • Our population is aging and retiring. Neither our birthrate nor in-migration is keeping up
  • With anemic population growth – ranking 50th out of all states and District of Columbia from 2000-2020 – Michigan is projected to losing 150,000 working-age people by 2030

Clearly inclusion will be an important factor in offsetting the demographic challenges we face.

Strategies for West Michigan

Our Cultivating an Inclusive Team Culture event offers an opportunity to engage with peers and to hear from some of the region’s leading practitioners:

Our keynote speaker is Kenneth James, chief diversity officer for Muskegon Community College. Ken has nearly three decades of experience across a multitude of industries, including non-profit, health care, and higher education. He is driven by his passion to initiate cross-cultural dialogue and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Our panel discussion will be moderated by Marlene Kowalski-Braun, associate vice president for the Division of Inclusion and Equity at Grand Valley State University, where she also serves as deputy inclusion and equity officer. She began her career 29 years ago and continues to see education as a pathway for justice.

James will join the panel discussion along with:

  • Valissa Armstead, NDCCDP, senior director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Corewell Health. She is a champion, consultant, bridge builder, strategic leader and partner, empowering leaders to identify and execute initiatives to effective organization transformation. She has certifications as a diversity practitioner, an unconscious bias facilitator, and as a certified cultural intelligence facilitator.
  • Bradford Mathis, vice president of Community Development & Inclusion for Rockford Construction. With more than 15 years of real estate experience, Brad has been building sustainable communities while improving the well-being and quality of life for neighbors. He has worked in all facets of real estate, including construction, development, finance and sales.
  • Kolene R. Miller, PHR Miller, director of DEI and Talent Acquisition Strategies for Global Perrigo. Kolene is passionate about bringing people and process together in a creative way that respects diversity and promotes equity and inclusivity. She previously served as an organizational development consultant at Perrigo and as a human resources leader in the Japanese automotive industry.

The program will include ample opportunities to engage with the speakers and panelists, so come prepared with your questions.



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