Rockwell Collins' New CEO: Building on Disciplined Diversity Approach

Rockwell Collins’ emergence as a diversity leader in the past five years was because of a focused, disciplined approach to creating an inclusive workplace. Kelly Ortberg, who took over as President in 2012 and CEO last July, has been a leader in the company for decades. He plans to build on the diversity success of his predecessor, Clay Jones, to use D&I to achieve his three business goals: global expansion, focus on core values and innovation.


DiversityInc Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Barbara Frankel interviewed Ortberg at corporate headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this fall. A transcript of the interview is below the video.

Barbara Frankel: Rockwell Collins has established itself as a diversity leader through a disciplined approach to creating an inclusive corporate culture and increasing diversity of its talent pool. How will you build on that progress to make diversity even more of a competitive business advantage

Kelly Ortberg: I’ve billed our CEO transition as really a full-speed-ahead transition. So we’re not going to see a course correction in the strategic direction of our company. I think that applies to our diversity initiative as well. The fundamentals of our diversity activities are very sound. We’re focused on our people, we’re focused on our work environment, and the end markets that we serve. Right now, what we need to do is to accelerate the implementation of those strategies and continue to enhance the diverse nature of our company.

As I look forward, we’re going to need to continue to attract more diverse people from different backgrounds, particularly as we look to the international market. That’s going to require our company to look a little bit different, and we’ve got to cultivate the environment where those voices are heard, so that we’ve got an open and inclusive environment going forward. I don’t think that you’re going to see a shift in strategy, but more an acceleration of our focus.

Frankel: Are there any particular means or mechanisms that you’ve thought about putting in place to accelerate that focus

Ortberg: One of the things that we’re seeing great success with is our mentoring program. We’re doing speed mentoring, we’re doing targeted mentoring, and we’re finding a lot of good value coming from mentoring activities. We’re also seeing some really good results associated with moving people back and forth out of different environments—particularly that of international coming domestically, or moving some of our domestic people into international locations. And we’re using those international people to do cultural-awareness training within the organization. We’re seeing really good results. In the end, we have to immerse these people into these new cultures and new environments for them to really understand and learn.

Frankel: How does your increasing emphasis on global cultural competence help improve your business efforts

Ortberg: We have an overall globalization strategy, and if you look at our business over the next five years, we expect our global business to grow faster than our domestic business. So it’s really, really important to us. As a part of that strategy, we have a component that we call ‘gaining privileged insight,’ which is our ability to go into those markets and understand what the customers’ needs and desires really are, and to understand the processes and how things get done.

Much of that growth that we see is in markets that are not traditional to us. We’re going to have to move people that are domestically based into those new marketplaces. We’re going to need employees who are much more willing to take on an international assignment in their careers, but also bringing more boots on the ground and hiring more people in the regions. In some cases, we’ll bring those people into our company to help them better understand our culture within the company, and then redeploy them back into the field to help us really interface with those customers. I believe the only way we’re going to get that customer affinity is to really have people aligned with them who are similar to the customers, and who understand their cultures.

Frankel: As you move into different markets, like Brazil, how do you ensure that the company’s intrinsic values of inclusion are carried forward on a local level

Ortberg: That’s part of our strategy, to bring people into the company. When we’re hiring from Brazil, for example, we want to bring that Brazilian into the company for a while to get them immersed in our corporate culture, make sure they understand the core values of the company, and diversity and inclusion. An inclusive communication environment is fundamental to that, so they’ll get that understanding, and then we can move them back into the region where they can carry that forward.

Frankel: What about doing business in countries where there are issues with gay people, with women

Ortberg: There are challenges, there’s no question. Depending on what culture you’re in, diversity and inclusion means different things in those cultures. The best thing we can do is to make sure we understand that and deploy the resources in an appropriate way.

Frankel: The main pillar that you’ve discussed is innovation. How do you see diversity and inclusion both globally and domestically helping you to innovate

Ortberg: I’ve always talked about innovation really being the life blood of Rockwell Collins. The fundamental part of innovation is that it comes from novel thinking, and sometimes radical thinking. You have to have an inclusive environment, where people feel comfortable about thinking differently, taking ideas from different people and integrating those. We have this thing that we call ‘making a safe environment’ so people can actually fail. They can try an innovative idea and have failure. We like to call it ‘fail fast,’ where they can fail and the ramifications of that failure aren’t so great. They are more willing to bring forward innovative ideas.

A lot of people think of innovation just as building an innovative product, but it’s just as applicable in our core business processes. If we are to find ways to do things more efficiently and more effectively, we have to be open to new ideas and different ideas, particularly as technology evolves.

Frankel: On a personal note, you’re from Iowa and you’ve worked for this company most of your career. Why is diversity important to you

Ortberg: I grew up in Dubuque, Iowa. While it was a great place to grow up, it certainly wasn’t a diverse environment. I would say diversity wasn’t a part of my equation until I got into the workforce. Luckily enough, early on in my career, I had to do a lot of international travel.

When I got out of high school, I had no desire to travel the world. I was perfectly happy to stay here in the U.S. It’s amazing, once I got out into the world, I saw what I was missing by not having a more diverse background. So it’s been very, very beneficial to me to be able to get out and understand the cultures. I love to go into the international marketplace and understand and learn the different cultures. There is a lot we can take from those cultures and bring back into our company to make us even better.

Frankel: Any last thoughts

Ortberg: We’re going to continue to focus on diversity and inclusion within Rockwell Collins. We’re very pleased to be recognized as one of the leaders in the diversity-inclusion activity, but we’ve got a lot more to do as a company, and we see the opportunity.

The neat thing that I see now is that people aren’t asking the question about why. Why should we do this They are more focused on, how can we accelerate our diversity-inclusion activity within the company So that’s making me feel really comfortable about the direction that we’re headed in.

Latest News

AT&T

AT&T Celebrates the Aspire Accelerator Class of 2020

Originally published on ATT.com Immersed Games and Social Cipher win annual “Pitches with Purpose” competition; each receive $25K award Yesterday, eight education technology companies graduated from the Aspire Accelerator and competed in an all-virtual “Shark Tank” style “Pitches with Purpose” for two $25,000 prizes – one awarded by a panel…

NelsonHall Recognizes ADP as a Leader in the Efficiency Focused NEAT Graph for Cloud-Based HR Transformation Services 2020 Evaluation

Originally published on ADP.com ADP acknowledged for improving processes, lowering costs and providing better decision-making driven by analytics and automation for clients Industry analyst firm NelsonHall has positioned ADP as a Leader in its Efficiency Focused NEAT chart for Cloud-Based HR Transformation Services. ADP rated highly for its ability to…

Humana

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard Named Businessperson of the Year

Originally posted on Humana LinkedIn. Humana ranked No. 25 for The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020. We’d like to congratulate CEO Bruce Broussard on being named one of Fortune‘s 2020 Businesspersons of the Year. “Since being named CEO of the health insurer in 2013, Broussard has continued Humana’s push into…

Child studying to improve test scores

Test Scores Drop Dramatically for Black, Hispanic and Poor Children Due to COVID-19; Nasdaq Moves to Require Diversity for Listed Companies; and More

Math and reading test scores have dropped dramatically for Black, Hispanic and poor children due to COVID-19, new study warns. Results of lockdowns, home-schooling, and Zoom classrooms as a result of COVID-19 are starting to come in, and the numbers aren’t good. According to a review of more than 4…

Trump

The Platinum Plan: How Trump Increased His Black Vote by 50% and What We Can Learn From It

Do you know what Donald Trump’s “Platinum Plan” was? Most Black people I know do. Most white people have never heard of it. The plan — a two-page document released just weeks before the 2020 election — details the four pillars of Trump’s commitment to Black Americans (Opportunity, Security, Prosperity…

HIV, AIDS, Misconception

Fact Check: Misconceptions About HIV/AIDS

Similar to the coronavirus and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020, many of the misconceptions and stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS have been fueled by fear. Although information surrounding the disease is more accessible now that we’re months into the pandemic, many people still misunderstand the condition, the treatment options,…

President-elect Joe Biden with senior adviser Symone Sanders

Biden and Harris Announce All-Female White House Communications Team; After 9 Long Months, COVID-19 Hits New Peak; and More

Biden and Harris announce entirely female-led White House communications team. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House continues at a brisk pace. On Monday, Nov. 30th, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received their first daily Presidential intelligence briefings. A day earlier, CBS News has reported that the pair…

BASF Introduces Neutrol® MGDA, a Readily Biodegradable Complexing Agent for Personal Care Applications

Originally published on BASF.com. BASF ranked No. 14 on The Diversityinc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020. Highly stable over a wide pH range Eco-friendly and easy to formulate With Neutrol® MGDA, BASF’s Care Creations® is launching a highly stable, eco-friendly complexing agent (also called: chelating agent) for personal care applications….

Abbott Launches the First Infant Formula in Canada with an Ingredient Identical in Structure to Immune Component Found in Breast Milk

Originally published on Abbott.com. Abbott ranked No. 8 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020. 2′-Fucosyllactose Oligosaccharide†(2′-FL†) is now available in Abbott’s infant formula, Similac Pro-Advance® HMOs, like 2′-FL, in breast milk help support a baby’s immune system [1] HMOs, like 2′-FL, feed good bacteria in the…