As companies go global and diversity increases, organizations find it more crucial than ever to train and promote understanding and acceptance of all cultures, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. Many have begun some kind of effort to use training to address diversity. But these Top 100 companies are doing much more than that. Many have special positions and teams for the sole purpose of creating and implementing new curricula, and others are carrying out unique community initiatives to address and embrace differences in truly creative ways.
New York-based Verizon Communications (ranked 71) ensures that its programs and courses are appropriate and applicable to all Verizon employees though its Multi-Cultural Institute for Excellence, which is within the Office of Diversity and Business Compliance. And like Verizon, Tempe, Ariz.-based Avnet Technology Solutions (ranked 44) has established a Diversity Council, a cross-functional team of six executives that represent different business units. A Diversity Action Team acts as a liaison between Avnet employees and the Council. The Council sponsors a Diversity Salute Award, recognizing employees who further diversity processes and exemplify the principle of diversity as well as work-life balance.
An ambitious, outreaching group of individuals at Minneapolis-based General Mills (ranked 51) recently formed a grassroots organization of volunteer diversity educators. The organization, called The Diversity Cadre, is comprised of 28 members who conduct training on race, gender, sexual orientation and style awareness for all of GM's technology employees. The Cadre also sponsors diversity celebration and awareness events.
In Bridgewater, N.J., AT&T's (ranked 7) Business Resource Group, which includes active and retired employees, works on advancing strategies and advocacy for Asian/Pacific Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, women, people with disabilities, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals.
The most basic diversity training addresses the diversity issues specific to a particular organization, and for many companies, this is now standard curriculum for frontline employees as well as managers. For example, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard (ranked 81) has implemented a new course, Diversity and Inclusion at HP, which dispels myths and stereotypes and defines the link between diversity and success: diversity drives creativity and productivity; creativity and productivity drive invention; invention drives high performance; and high performance drives profit and success.
Likewise, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM (ranked 1) has a blended program called Shades of Blue, which can be taken by individuals or teams to develop cross-cultural competence. One component of the program, the Shades of Blue Cultural Navigator, helps individuals obtain and analyze their own cultural profile and then learn about potential cultural gaps between their profile and others.
Columbus, Ga.-based AFLAC (ranked 42) includes two courses in its leadership curriculum: Managing a Diverse Workplace and Becoming a Diversity Change Agent. "The Leader," a quarterly publication, is distributed to supervisors and above and carries a regular column addressing diversity issues.
For some Top 100 companies, diversity within the organization means crossing the globe or paying special attention to a specific customer or client. Dayton, Ohio-based NCR (ranked 73) has a variety of courses available online, including Around the World in 80 Cultures and Crossing the Dateline: Japan, China, India, to help U.S.-based employees work with their colleagues overseas.
Likewise, for working with its Indian counterparts, San Diego-based QUALCOMM (ranked 22) offers Cross-Cultural and Business Skills for India, which has three main objectives: to help employees understand the Indian culture better; to measure and manage culture gaps; and to learn strategies that will increase the credibility, relationships and communications between the two cultures. A similar program is also available to help with QUALCOMM's Japanese business.
Pfizer's (ranked 2) Japan Passport Program is an online community of practice and collaborative workspace in which U.S. and Japanese colleagues can share knowledge and ideas. The program has been so successful that New York-based Pfizer is considering creating similar communities for other countries.
In Atlanta, John Wieland Homes & Neighborhoods (ranked 53) provides translators for all of its training sessions if necessary. English as a Second Language and Spanish, levels one through four, are also available to employees to help interact with Wieland's growing Spanish-speaking customer population.
With more than 25 percent of its staff possessing some prior military training, and government clients representing a large portion of its customer base, Booz Allen Hamilton's (ranked 4) Military Transitions program helps military men and women transition from the military to positions with the Mclean, Va.-based firm. To help hire individuals with hearing impairments, a number of Booz Allen recruiters learned sign language through training at Gallaudet University.
Cleveland-based Ohio Savings Bank (ranked 15) has an Adult Sensitivity course that provides a feel for some of the challenges the company's older customers face. Participants wear glasses that show vision through cataracts, and they also wear special gloves that simulate writing with arthritis. Ohio Savings Bank has found this course particularly helpful in Florida and Arizona where there are large older populations.
Among the companies engaging in the most extensive diversity initiatives are New York-based Ernst & Young (ranked 8) and Washington, D.C.-based Marriott (ranked 36). Ernst & Young has an Office of Diversity Strategy and Development as well as an Ethnicity Diversity Task Force. All employees attend the Respect at Work training, and a sexual harassment Web-based series is also available. Sponsored by the Center for the New Workforce, a women's leadership development program is offered in efforts of activating leadership for women, coordinating national alumni activities and enhancing the overall workforce culture. More than 70 percent of the women who have participated have advanced in position. A Minority Leadership conference is held annually for the minority leaders within Ernst & Young, the number of which has doubled in the past year.
On its intranet, Marriott provides a Diversity Toolbox with diversity activities and exercises, including a calendar with 35 cultural and religious celebrations covering 85 countries. Work Specific English is a classroom program designed to teach spoken English to limited English-speaking employees. Pathways to Independence is a six-week welfare-to-work program that helps individuals on public assistance transition to a hospitality career. More than 3,000 individuals have participated, 80 percent of which have been minorities. The Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities sponsors the Bridges from School to Work, providing disabled children access to work. And in an effort to promote supplier diversity, Marriott spent more than $177 million on products and services from 10,000 businesses owned by minorities and women.
Through creative teams, programs and curricula, this year's Top 100 companies are clearly daring to be diverse. —H.J.