A panel of senior diversity leaders shared their succession-planning strategies on an interactive panel moderated by DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti. The key takeaway: People can only develop their true potential if there is proper organizational support and commitment—and that support and commitment has to begin at the top.
Eugene Kelly, Worldwide Director, Global Workplace Initiatives, Colgate-Palmolive Co.: “It is critical for us to manage our talent well if we are going to continue to be successful. We have 30,000 employees around the world, 8,000 in the United States, and today, 82 percent of our revenues are generated outside the United States. Those statistics alone will tell you why we must get this right and why we must manage our talent. It’s a discipline that enables us at any point in time to identify the next two leaders or successors for any key position. Having a diverse slate of talent to do that is really the key. For us, it’s really important to have discipline and the CEO’s direct commitment.”
Billie Williamson, Partner, Americas Inclusiveness Officer, Ernst & Young: “We have to ensure the talent is here to begin with, so hiring the right people and making sure they are trained and provided with the right experiences is key … A second thing that is key to getting diversity to the top of an organization is people have to learn to put their biases aside. Sometimes we think it’s risky to put a woman or an ethnically diverse individual or an LGBT individual in a leadership role, and it’s really not a risk, but somehow we have created that in our biases and our frame of reference. The third thing that is key is that [senior] leadership has to set this as a personal goal that they care about.”
Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President, Global Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo: “It’s really an end-to-end process. It’s about doing the diagnostics, understanding where the gaps are. For us, it’s about getting more women and people of color into operational … profit-and-loss kinds of roles, which is the career path to senior-level positions in our company, doing that early on and making sure we provide enough substantive career tracks. In terms of succession … having that accountability and commitment from the top is absolutely critical. It can’t only be a numbers piece. It has to be the behavioral piece. It has to be the commitment along with the metrics and the data so you get a holistic approach.”
Deborah Dagit, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Merck & Co.: “In the healthcare sector, on a global basis, 70 to 90 percent of all healthcare decisions are made by women … and people [from traditionally underrepresented groups] are disproportionately impacted by healthcare issues and are more likely to have chronic health conditions. So for us, when we publicly disclose that we have an objective to get to 36 percent female representation globally by 2014, it’s because we knew our shareholders and our customers … needed to know that we are serious about getting women into strategic roles. The important thing about setting objectives is to look at it from the business standpoint. There is a very compelling case to be made for each of your businesses to reflect your marketplace.”