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Making Diversity Work: Outstanding Corporate Programs

By Laura C. Steele

Given today’s global economy and marketplace, it shouldn’t be surprising that most Fortune 500 companies have instituted diversity policies. In many successful companies, diversity incentives are implemented as a business initiative, with clearly stated goals, and measurable milestones that track the company’s progress. Managers that meet their goals may be offered financial incentives or promotions.

But, the fact is that while most major companies have implemented diversity policies, not all of these companies are able to make their minority employees feel valued and supported at all levels of the organization. That’s because diversity initiatives must originate from the company’s top executives and extend through all levels of management, with consistent efforts to promote and retain the best and brightest employees, regardless of color.

Various studies, including one from Harvard [PDF] have shown that companies that hire a diversity manager, or institute mentoring programs and other support systems are significantly more successful in retaining a highly motivated and diverse workforce than companies that simply give a training session once per year. Several companies, including Campbell Soup Company, McDonald’s, and Hilton Hotels, have worked hard to make their employees feel included by providing resources and networking groups that offer support, mentoring, and opportunities for advancement.

Here’s how these winning companies made it work.

Campbell Soup Company

Campbell Soup Company has been successful at building a diverse workforce that includes 45% women and 35% people of color. The company website states, “Creating and marketing products effectively to an increasingly diverse world requires a strong commitment to diversity in every aspect of our business. Our company-wide diversity efforts encourage all employees to bring their uniqueness and individuality to work every day.”

To help promote an inclusive environment, Campbell has established a number of diversity-oriented affinity networks for its employees that allow for networking, professional development and community involvement. More importantly, these networks help Campbell retain their minority employees, by creating a true sense of belonging. Each network is sponsored by a member of the CEO’s Executive Leadership team, and include:

  • Women of Campbell
  • Campbell African American Network
  • Hispanic Network de Campbell
  • Asian Network of Campbell
  • Our Pride Employee Network (OPEN), Campbell’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employee network
  • The Bridge, an affinity network that brings together four generations of employees from Millennials to Traditionalists

Campbell was recognized for their successful diversity initiatives when they received the 2010 Catalyst Award for success in advancing women to leadership roles.

McDonald’s

McDonald’s has expanded around the world and currently has more than 31,000 restaurants in 118 countries. The company’s “Celebrating our Diversity” [PDF] document quotes Pat Harris, Global Chief Diversity Officer. She says, “Diversity is who we are at McDonald’s. It’s about valuing and respecting our employees, operators and suppliers, and all those we serve on both sides of the counter.”

To retain its minority employees, McDonald’s has created programs that specifically address the issue of minorities in management, and as franchise owners. Today, 37% of all franchises are owned by women or minorities, and 60% of the home office workforce are of a racial or ethnic minority, or women. There are several affinity groups, like the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association, the McDonald’s Hispanic Operator Association, and the Global Women’s Initiative that have websites, blogs, newsletters, and host regular meetings to provide members with a sense of true belonging. These groups also provide their members with opportunities for community outreach and professional development. The McDonald’s Hispanic Operator Association is a major supporter of the Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resource scholarship program. The goal of McDonald’s Global Inclusion and Intercultural Management program “is to have people within our organization working and living to reach their full potential.”

Hilton Hotels

Hilton Hotels Corporation has an extensive diversity policy that covers all levels of hotel operations, from management and staff, to suppliers and franchisees. Hilton boasts 60% minority workforce representation, and 30% minority representation in management positions, with goals to increase that percentage.

In addition to diversity training programs, Hilton has a corporate mentoring program that has proved successful in retaining minority employees. All upper management staff are required to participate as mentors, and all team members who want a mentor are accommodated. This program allows for development of a one-on-one relationship that contributes significantly to an employee’s understanding and appreciation of the company’s values. In turn, the employee has someone to help them solve problems appropriately, seek advancement opportunities, or listen to new ideas, all of which contribute to a feeling of inclusion. Hilton also sponsors an internal Management Development Program that specifically targets promotable candidates with diverse backgrounds, skills and abilities.

It is no longer the goal of progressive companies to comply with a legal or corporate mandate that enforces diversity. Rather, there is a broader understanding that diversity is essential to the bottom line, and that each employee has a right to feel comfortable and included, with ample opportunity for advancement.

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