Corporate diversity efforts are like the proverbial tree in the empty forest. If no one knows about your organization’s diversity efforts, their impact is diminished. Four corporate diversity leaders spoke to an audience of chief diversity officers and executives on a panel moderated by Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Barbara Frankel at a DiversityInc two-day event. They offered their advice for how to trumpet those efforts to maximize impact both in the organization and among customers/clients.
Manny Fernandez, Director, Inclusion and Diversity [retired], jcpenney, No. 35 in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity: “JCPenney used associate-resource groups (ARGs), particularly with Latino employees. The ARGs provided key insight into consumers, merchandising efforts and customer service. We also used the ARGs to reach out to customers with disabilities; people with disabilities have $1.4 trillion in purchasing power. Making stores accessible for people with disabilities also improved access for mothers pushing strollers and Latino customers shopping as a family.”
Marsha Johnson, Southern Company [retired], one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies: “I looked at it from the standpoint of the business. I spoke the language of business. People have heard the softer side of diversity discussions … we have to measure it. It has to be part of our operating goals and our performance plans. What are the bottom-line business goals? Then you demonstrate how diversity can help that.”
Mae Douglas, Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer, Cox Communications, No. 25: ”Unless you have a strong brand around diversity and inclusion, you’re not going to get the customers. We deliberately made the decision that our diversity efforts would not be contained in one department or office but distributed around the organization. It’s based around employees, products and marketing, suppliers and the supply chain and communications and public relations. Access to the CEO is critical. If you want to reach them, know that they listen to results. If you don’t have that direct access, get allies in the organization who do.”
Jackie Parker, Vice President, Global Inclusion & Diversity, Newell Rubbermaid, No. 10 in The 2010 DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Global Diversity: “We positioned diversity as a product that we sell—product, promotion, pricing and placement. What’s the value? How do you include the line managers? How do you present the values of the benefits? We’ve done this incorrectly in the past by just focusing on the human-capital piece. Your first job is to understand the business principles. Stop talking about representation. Talk about EPS [earnings per share] and ROI.”