In our annual look at how well diverse managers fare in corporate America, we’ve refined our focus to include companies that implement intentional strategies based on accountability, strong inclusion practices, and ongoing evaluation of retention/recruitment activities that allow and encourage managers of diverse backgrounds to excel and develop into leadership roles.
Our goals were to identify U.S.-based companies that seek to hire people of color and women managers because of the value they bring to the business, uncover companies that actively and intentionally recruit people of color and women, examine whether there are minority and succession plans, and assess whether companies hire and promote minorities with MBAs into senior management positions. Last, we wanted to identify companies with consistent results for representation among people of color within management based on their leadership and diverse programs.
What does it take to make the list? At least 18.45% of the management staff had to be people of color. A well-defined succession plan that includes intentional objectives to recruit and retain people of color had to be in place, as well as a process with built-in accountability. Companies were required to meet and/or exceed the mean for representation in the areas of women and people of color in management. Their focus on diversity had to be part of the strategic direction of the entire organization. A mandatory diversity training program and internal program that focuses on retention and development was also required.
Although we received roughly the national average response rate for our mail questionnaires, we tested our results with other leading publications that conduct similar research on “best of” companies. We noted firms that were on two or more lists, in addition to their company profiles on diversity, and used this in our ranking process. Not only did we supplement our primary research, but felt that benchmarking the work of other leading industry publications helped increase the credibility of our research. A selection committee of diversity and leadership experts validated the results.
Companies like AT&T, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Credit Suisse, Accenture, American Express, Comcast, Verizon, Bank of America, JP Morgan and PepsiCo usually rank in the Top 10. What did this list of corporate heavyweights have in common? There’s a lot of talking going on, for one thing. Employee networks and/or affinity groups engage monthly with formal and structured agendas or programs. Monthly think tanks are held, and everyone is involved in problem-solving and developing ideas. People get their “props,” with special emphasis on the accomplishments of people of color.
Concerning retention, formal coaching and mentoring at junior- and senior-level management is the norm. Employees don’t have to wonder how they’re doing; they get feedback at least quarterly. Succession planning has a unique twist in that strategies for diverse managers are likely different from the general process. These companies also upped their partnerships with professional association and organizations that have direct impact and access to development of the talent pipeline. Once people join the ranks, they aren’t left to fend themselves.
Pam McElvane, CEO/publisher of DiversityMBA magazine, says, “We learned that high-trust organizations are responsive to ongoing communication and integrated feedback, which ultimately supports an environment that facilitates and fosters innovative thinking and inclusion. This is the essence of diversity of thought and vision.