Corporate Eye

Corporate Diversity


I invited Alice Williams, who has a particular interest in corporate communications, to write a post for us about diversity, and how best to communicate this on your corporate website.

What Corporate Diversity Means for Your Company — and 4 Companies Doing It Right

If you’re looking to foster innovation and cooperation in your company during the coming year, it may be time to examine your corporate diversity culture.

For those unfamiliar with the term, corporate diversity simply means emphasizing inclusivity throughout a company. Basically, if your business employs workers from various walks of life — different ages, cultures, genders, orientations, economic classes, etc. — then you’ve got the foundation for a great diversity culture.

Corporate diversity has a wide range of benefits. As Anthony Carter, Vice President of Global Diversity at Johnson & Johnson notes, diversity encourages innovation. With a wider number of perspectives to draw on, companies can tap into previously unexplored ideas and solutions.

Additionally, for many millennials, an inclusive culture is vital to a company’s backbone. If you want to attract and retain up-and-coming talent, you can’t overlook the importance of a strong culture of corporate diversity.

Keep in mind that real diversity means more than just hiring a few token employees. To maximize the benefits diversity can bring, you should highlight inclusivity throughout all of your business practices. If you need some inspiration, check out these four companies that have successfully developed highly diverse corporate cultures.

1. Kaiser Permanente

Year after year, Kaiser Permanente tops lists of corporate diversity rankings. At Kaiser, 60 percent of the staff are people of color. Additionally, its employees come from 140 cultures and speak more than 100 different languages. The health care organization recognizes the critical need for a diverse medical team — “Lack of cultural knowledge is a key reason racial and ethnic minorities often receive a lower quality of healthcare than non-minorities,” Kaiser’s research points out.

At Kaiser, diversity goes beyond skin color, too — the company works to include a variety of genders and orientations. The Oakland, California-based company has also played an active role at San Francisco’s annual Pride Parade, showing its support for LGBT coworkers and the community at large.

The company’s other diversity initiatives include a leadership advancement program for women and a push for hiring people with disabilities.

2. GE

In a recent spotlight (pdf) by “Diversity MBA Magazine,” GE Foundation President and Chief Diversity Officer Deborah Elam explained, “Diversity is essential to our innovation and success, enabling us to connect engineers, scientists, teachers, leaders, and doers with different experiences and talents to help GE make a better world.” As a result, GE’s “Diversity Game Plan” focuses on hiring employees that reflect its customer demographic. The company also takes pride in the fact that a full 25 percent of its board members were born outside of the U.S., and 25 percent of board members are women.

The GE Affinity Network is another of GE’s major diversity initiatives. These voluntary networks provide mentoring and coaching for employees. The networks include an Asian-Pacific American Forum, Hispanic Forum, African-American Forum, People with Disabilities Forum, and a Veterans Network. Overall, there are more than 440 chapters across 45 countries.

3. Starbucks

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says, “One of the primary reasons that Starbucks has succeeded throughout all these years is the diversity of people who work for the company.” A diverse culture is an empowered culture, Starbucks believes, and it has spent the last several years working to back up that belief with powerful action. For example, it has provided health benefits to same-sex partners since the early ’90s.

The company was also honored as the 2014 Disability Employer of the Year by the US Business Leadership Network. Its diversity initiatives involve eight partner networks, including networks for the Armed Services, Pride Alliance, and India Partners.

4. Wells Fargo

Diversity is an asset at Wells Fargo, where 44 percent of the board of directors are female and 31 percent of the board are minorities. Wells Fargo actually has a long tradition of cultural inclusion — during its early days, the company’s publication of bilingual materials made them a favorite bank among Chinese immigrants. Nowadays, an Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion Council — chaired by Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf — meets regularly to establish diversity and inclusion goals and champion the company behaviors that already promote diversity.

The bank is also in the top ten list for best places to work for veterans, having recently donated $49 million to help military service members and their families find homes and jobs.

Diversity takes time to build, but you can start now. If you already have a strong culture of diversity, publicize it. Follow in Frontier’s footsteps by publicly empowering your star employees on your corporate website, or take a leaf from AT&T’s book by promoting community outreach efforts. Whatever you do, just make sure to focus on the various people that make your company thrive.

Did we miss anyone on this list? Leave a comment if you know any other businesses with diverse corporate cultures.

Alice Williams has an MA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on organizational and corporate communication. She writes extensively on business, tech and social media and is a regular contributor to BusinessBee.

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