Leaders Discuss How Top Organizations Recruit and Retain a Diverse Workforce
Introducing the concept of diversity into a large organization can be tricky. On the one hand, people recognize the benefit of a diverse workplace, no matter what industry they're working in. But for a diversity initiative to truly take hold, it can't be just something that makes people feel good. "You can't really sell it as the 'right thing to do,'" said Aynesh Johnson, head of the office of global leadership and diversity at Goldman Sachs. "You need to show how it's going to impact the bottom line."
Or as Raymond Arroyo, chief diversity officer for Aetna, put it: "Money talks."
Johnson and Arroyo were joined by executives from Teach for America and Major League Baseball in the General Motors Room on February 16 to discuss how major organizations are trying to foster diversity. The panel served as a keynote for SOMunity, a series of events celebrating the diversity of the Yale SOM community. All four stressed that while diversity has become a central component of their organizations' strategies, hurdles still remain, both financial and cultural. "The old-boy network works really well," said Wendy Lewis, senior vice president for diversity and strategic alliances at Major League Baseball. She added that in a league where only one team is solely owned by a person of color, the path forward is not always clear to everyone. "We have to build the case for our strategies."
The four executives stressed that there is no one approach to diversity that works for every organization, in part because diversity benefits each organization in different ways. For Amanda Fernandez, vice president for diversity and inclusiveness at Teach for America, diversity is crucial as a way to better connect with students, who are mostly either Latino or African American. TFA has set a goal to make one third of the teachers its employs people of color by 2015. "When you go into the classroom and see the future of our country, you understand the importance of having role models teaching them," Fernandez said.
For Goldman Sachs, diversity represents a way to push the firm further into global finance. Johnson said that it's important for Goldman Sachs to be viewed as the employer of choice around the globe and a key to that is attracting the best people throughout the world. "We need to understand all those markets," she said. "It puts diversity front and center. We have to know different cultures, how business is done. We need to be not just global but local."
Johnson noted that Goldman Sachs has had success recruiting, and the firm is now focusing more on retention — making sure all employees have the same opportunities to ascend the corporate ladder. Aetna, too, is looking at the retention phase of its diversity plan, viewing it as crucial to the company's success. Aetna has created a series of "employee resource groups," which employees can join voluntarily and which are intended to provide a space for employees to support each other. Arroyo said there are now 15 "ERGs" spanning a wide spectrum, including groups for Latino, African American, LGBT, military, and Christian employees, as well as for various age groups. One third of Aetna's 35,000 employees have joined one. Said Arroyo, "We recognize that if people have the opportunity to express who they are, they are more engaged, more satisfied, and more likely to stay with the company. It's a strategy that works in the U.S. and around the globe."