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  • Discomfort, Listening Key Elements of Effective D&I Programs

    October 10, 2018 | By NACE Staff

    Special Populations
    A group discusses diversity and inclusion.

    TAGS: best practices, recruiting methods, branding and marketing, operations, diversity and inclusion, spotlight

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    Ellen Kapoor believes that in order to develop, implement, and manage an effective diversity and inclusion program, you must be uncomfortable. In this process, that feeling is a welcome positive.

    “Any time you grow and change, there is risk involved and with risk, discomfort,” explains Kapoor, director, talent acquisition and leadership development for Illinois Tool Works (ITW). “For real progress to be made with D&I, we should expect discomfort, change management, and at times failure. There will be unfamiliar situations and uncertainty that must be approached with courage and thoughtfulness, and lots of listening.”

    She says that as a human resources practitioner, she had always understood diversity, the business case, and tools used to build teams.

    “It is an easy concept to grasp and explain,” she says. “Inclusion, though, did not get nearly enough attention.”

    While looking for more research on the topic, Kapoor recalls coming across the definition of inclusion from an academic article titled “Inclusion and diversity in work groups: A review and model for future research” from the Journal of Management. In it, the authors define inclusion as “the degree to which an employee perceives that he or she is an esteemed member of the work group through experiencing treatment that satisfies his or her needs for belongingness and uniqueness.”

    “The foundation of D&I programs begins with a shared understanding,” Kapoor notes. “The concept of inclusion is paradoxical. How can someone both belong and retain characteristics that make them unique? Without belonging you have exclusion, but without uniqueness you have assimilation. This underscores how challenging it is to achieve both.”

    Kapoor finds a quote that has been attributed to the author Patti Digh—"The shortest distance between two people is a story”—as a powerful base that emphasizes the power of empathetic listening.

    “Listening is hard!” Kapoor says. “Leaders have a bias for action—for fixing, doing, directing. If they are curious, they will ask and listen. The conversation is of real quality. If they listen, they then may be motivated to take action. Long-lasting action and behavior change is tough. The three elements work together as a process, not an event.”

    She explains that ITW is undergoing this process as it strives to reach its diversity and inclusion goals. ITW, Kapoor says, recognizes the value in people who bring unique perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the team. The firm has an enterprise D&I framework rooted in four areas:

    • Leadership commitment and accountability;
    • Global, diverse talent
    • An inclusive workplace; and
    • Aspirations of being a best-in-class employer.

    ITW is open about sharing its strategy, data, and progress on its website. For instance, ITW reports its progress in achieving its 2020 goals to enhance the diversity of its leadership team to 30 percent global women leaders and 20 percent ethnically diverse leaders in the United States. ITW has increased its global women leaders to 24 percent, and its ethnically diverse leaders in the United States stand at 16 percent.

    “Our cultural bias towards action and results means that we are highly motivated by setting and meeting targets and goals,” Kapoor says. “We set targets, share broadly and transparently our progress and initiatives, and hold leaders accountable for results.”

    There are also strong efforts at ITW to retain its employees of color and women. In addition to onboarding efforts at each division, its employee resource groups (ERGs) support the development and retention of these groups.

    “In ERGs, a big company is made small and our locally driven groups are made up of diverse people who meet all over the world,” Kapoor says. “This provides the opportunity for them to learn from each other, and to bring in leaders from the business and external speakers to the benefit of participants.”

    Ensuring progress takes consistent effort and is a continuous journey, she notes. Along this path, ITW—like other employers traveling it—has encountered obstacles.

    “We are not unique in our challenges in recruiting in an environment with low unemployment and increased competitiveness,” Kapoor notes. “Having managers drive day-to-day change also means having the tools they need to be part of the solution. In a large, decentralized organization with diverse businesses and many locations, this will take time and patience.”

    To overcome these challenges, ITW employs the 80/20 principle: prioritizing the few key things that will get it the farthest. For example, ITW is a signatory member of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

    “This means we are not just internally focused, but we have a community by which we can openly exchange ideas to improve results,” Kapoor says.

    She has several recommendations for organizations looking to bolster their diversity and inclusion efforts, including:

    • Determining the “what” and “why” before moving to the “how”—"Speak broadly to groups that will be impacted and relevant voices in the development of programs. Make sure leadership is not just on board, but are visible sponsors of the change. Shifting practices takes years of commitment, so be prepared for the long haul.”
    • Start early!—"Focused efforts to engage students and early career professionals are key to building quality, depth, and diversity in your talent pipeline. It also exposes new audiences to your company and the things that make your company different.”
    • Get involved—"I joined the NACE Inclusion Committee, and I am really heartened and inspired by the ideas and practices shared by both other employers and universities. There is so much we can learn from each other.”