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Diversity at work: Public relations makes a difference for global giants

October 1, 2010

Tactics spoke with four companies who were leaders on this year’s DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. Here, representatives from Sodexo, Coca-Cola, Xerox and American Express talk about why a strong commitment to diversity is beneficial to their businesses and how public relations has helped lead their diversity management initiatives.  — Amy Jacques

Jaya Bohlmann,  APR,
Vice President, Public Relations

Why is a strong commitment to diversity important? 

Diversity is primarily a business requirement — without it, we could not respond correctly to our clients’ needs. Diversity and inclusion is an inherent part of our culture and business growth, and is one of Sodexo’s strategic imperatives.

What are the challenges of translating corporate values and maintaining equal rights throughout your offices?
Every country has its own culture and history, and we have to take that into consideration — so not every country will change at the same pace.  But to be a competitive company, we have to build a culture where we accept differences.  That’s why we’ve initiated training, mentoring, and global and country-specific advisory groups to help foster our diversity goals. 

How do you encourage your employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
We offer a LifeWorks benefit that [provides] free confidential counseling to all full-time employees and their family members, and helps them research information on a wide range of topics.  We also allow employees to take advantage of the company’s flexible work options, which improves their personal work-life balance, while maximizing their ability to contribute to the business.

How has public relations helped lead your diversity management initiatives?
We just announced a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board with seven external members.  We measure our progress systematically, using an objective scorecard that ties 15 percent of managers’ compensation and 25 percent of our executives’ compensation to their success [to ensure that] we continue to attract, develop and retain a diverse and highly skilled workforce.  We report on our diversity progress annually, posting the reports on our website. [The PR department] works with many departments to highlight our diversity successes and expertise.

What is the best way to foster an open and accommodating corporate culture? 
Sodexo’s Employee Value Proposition includes promises that help employees feel good about their working environment and work conditions, including:  providing an environment with strong and open two-way communication, and creating an environment that is inclusive and respects each employee’s unique diversity. 

What role is social media playing in Sodexo’s diversity efforts?
Sodexo has been widely recognized and honored for its use of social media to help give potential employees insights into the corporate culture, to communicate our values and to help promote the brand.  We also highlight stories of employee success and community involvement. 

Sodexo is a world leader in food and facilities management services, and was ranked No. 1 on DiversityInc’s list of  Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Find out more by visiting their website or follow Sodexo on Twitter: @sodexoUSA.

Gorki De Los Santos,
Communications Manager
The Coca-Cola Company

Why is a strong commitment to diversity important?
Diversity is an integral part of who we are, how we operate and how we see the future.  As a global business, our ability to understand, embrace and operate in a multicultural world — both in the marketplace and in the workplace — is critical to our sustainability.

What are the challenges of translating corporate values and maintaining equal rights throughout your offices?
The reputation of the Coca-Cola Company is built on trust and respect. Our employees and those who do business with us around the world know we are committed to earning their trust with a set of values that represent the highest standards of quality, integrity, excellence, compliance with the law, and respect for the unique customs and cultures in communities where we operate.

We value the relationship we have with our employees.  The success of our business depends on every employee in our global enterprise.  We are committed to fostering open and inclusive workplaces that are based on recognized workplace rights, where all employees are valued and inspired to be the best they can be.

How do you encourage your employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Finding a way to make work-life balance possible is easier when some of life’s routines and duties can be managed while at work.  That’s why  The Coca-Cola Company offers various services and resources to help its employees achieve a balanced life. From medical services onsite to flexible work arrangements to an onsite fitness center, The Coca-Cola Company is providing its associates with the necessary tools and resources to live a healthy active lifestyle.  And having free Coca-Cola products is a benefit that all associates enjoy.  

How has public relations helped lead your diversity management initiatives?
Our diversity workplace strategy includes programs to attract, retain and develop diverse talent; provide support systems for groups with diverse backgrounds; and educate all associates so that we master the skills to achieve sustainable growth.  We work hard to ensure an inclusive and fair work environment for our associates, all of whom undergo diversity training on a regular basis.  We find ongoing dialogue leads to better understanding of our colleagues, our suppliers, our customers, our stakeholders and ultimately, to greater success in the marketplace.

What is the best way to foster an open and accommodating corporate culture?
Our associates provide us with invaluable advice on how best to strengthen workplace diversity at The Coca-Cola Company.  Through reporting, employee surveys, diversity advisory councils, diversity speaker series, diversity roundtable discussions with associates and employee forums, we are working to implement and maintain programs that help assure our success in embracing the similarities and differences of our people, cultures and ideas.

What role is social media playing in Coca-Cola’s diversity efforts?
Every day, people discuss, debate and embrace The Coca-Cola Company and our brands in thousands of online conversations. We recognize the vital importance of engaging in these online conversations and are committed to ensuring that we participate in online social media the right way.  We have developed online social media principles to help empower our associates to participate in this new frontier of marketing and communications, represent our company, and share the optimistic and positive spirits of our brands. The company encourages all of its associates to explore and engage in social media communities at a level at which they feel comfortable.

The Coca-Cola Company is the world’s largest beverage company, and was ranked No. 17 on DiversityInc’s list of  Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Find out more by visiting them online or follow Coca-Cola on Twitter: @CocaCola.

Ernest Hicks,
Manager, Corporate Diversity Office
Xerox Corporation

Why is a strong commitment to diversity important?
Because we gain a competitive advantage by drawing on the experience, insight and creativity of a well-balanced, diverse workforce, diversity enables Xerox to attract talent from the broadest possible pool of candidates. It creates more diverse work teams — facilitating diversity of thought and more innovative ideas — and it positions Xerox to attract a wider customer base and to address the needs of diverse customers.

What are the challenges of translating corporate values and maintaining equal rights throughout your offices?
To develop, support and promote leading-edge workplace strategies and programs that: meet the requirements of  U.S. and international governments and social norms, support the core values of the company and create a pluralistic environment that leads to bottom-line business results.

How do you encourage your employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Xerox has long fostered a respect for work-life balance and consistently ensures that such a balance is embedded in our culture.  To us, this year-in-and-year-out consistency sends the strongest message that Xerox is a company where your performance and results matter most — more than how much face time you might have.

From the CEO down, there is strong management commitment and reinforcement that ensures the Xerox workplace respects how employees need to and choose to negotiate the balance between work and home. Xerox’s approach provides the majority of employees with flexibility opportunity and control over decisions and scheduling that will impact their families. We have several programs that support the concept of work and family, such as:  job sharing, flexible working hours, virtual offices, childcare assistance programs and life cycle assistance, child care subsidy, child care resource and referral, and an employee assistance program.

How has public relations helped lead your diversity management initiatives?
Xerox, historically, has taken a systemic approach to diversity by including it as a component of internal processes like management succession planning, and by pioneering innovative programs to support diversity. Externally,  Xerox has programs to encourage minority and female-owned businesses as suppliers. Internally,  Xerox was the first major corporation to recognize and support employee caucus groups, which have benefited from the counsel of senior executive champions. Work-life programs address the range of needs that employees experience at different points in their careers, like help with paying child-care expenses.

What is the best way to foster an open and accommodating corporate culture?
At Xerox, we are able to accomplish this by promoting understanding and inclusion through our actions — not just our words.

We do this through a comprehensive set of diversity initiatives and strategies such as our balanced workforce strategy, our minority/female vendor program, our work-life programs, executive commitment, communications, training and competency, operations strengthening and strategy development.

What role is social media playing in Xerox’s diversity efforts?
Xerox is increasingly exploring how social media can empower employees as global professionals, innovators and citizens. It is in our interest to be aware of and participate in this environment of information, interaction and idea exchange.

Xerox Corporation is a global document management company, and was ranked No. 48 on DiversityInc’s list of  Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Find out more by visiting their website or follow Xerox on Twitter: @XeroxCorp.

Kerrie Peraino,
Chief Diversity Officer
American Express

Why is a strong commitment to diversity important?
Creating a diverse work force is a business imperative at American Express. It enables us to attract top talent, retain important employees and their rich experiences, create a culture of inclusion, and most important, we are able to better understand our diverse customer base and drive business success.

What are the challenges of translating corporate values and maintaining equal rights throughout your offices?
American Express is a global organization with a long history that is rich in heritage. We are committed to the principles of integrity, teamwork and good citizenship that have continued to shape the company since its founding.  We are able to translate that corporate value by acting ‘glocal.’  We are a global company that acts with local views.  Those local views understand our many customers and allow us to better serve them and always strive for excellence.

How do you encourage your employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
American Express has learned that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important to the overall well-being and happiness of our employees.  We have implemented programs to help our employees better manage their personal and professional lives including Healthy Living, an employee wellness program that supports physical, psychological, social and financial well-being, and we offer a variety of options that allow for flexibility in work styles including telecommuting, shared positions and remote access to technology.

Talk about your diversity management initiatives.
We understand that diversity comes in many forms: gender, age, race and ethnicity among others.  As such, we have established a program that addresses the many needs of our diverse employee groups.  That plan is based on three core objectives: talent segmentation to attract, hire and develop diverse talent; market segmentation to engage our employees to drive profitable growth in key customer segments; and workplace transformation to create a work environment that creates a culture of flexibility.
Public relations plays a vital role in communicating the diversity initiatives to both American Express colleagues and external audiences.  We are able to educate the employees on the programs and opportunities that American Express offers including employee networks, special guest speakers and more.  We work with trade and business media to highlight the many awards and recognitions that American Express has received as being a leading employer for diversity.

What is the best way to foster an open and accommodating corporate culture?
At American Express, we aim to create a culture of inclusion and opportunity through our corporate value of commitment to customers, quality, people, integrity, teamwork and good citizenship. That culture is created through open dialogues between staff and leaders, extensive insight and story sharing through our Intranet site, the creation of employee groups to respond to the needs and opportunities for diverse employees, and a corporate-wide drive to create a workplace that has depth in experience, backgrounds and knowledge. Creating an accepting culture has to be rooted in your corporate values and driven through communication.

What role is social media playing in your diversity efforts?
American Express understands that social media is especially important in attracting, hiring and developing a diverse pool of talent.  To address that need,  American Express recently launched a new careers website.  The number of jobs searched has doubled and the site is enabled for social syndication to allow visitors to share job postings via Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, and others. Users may also opt in to receive RSS feeds via iGoogle and My Yahoo. This change allows visitors to share and retain information unlike ever before.

American Express Co. is a diversified global financial services company, and was ranked No. 12 on DiversityInc’s list of  Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Find out more by visiting them online or follow AmEx on Twitter: @AmericanExpress

Bonus Online Article: “A look at Campbell Soup Company's inclusive culture
Sheri Oppenheimer shares how Campbell Soup Company has built an inclusive culture and maintained a focus on women.



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