OEM initiatives provide dealers with a model to foster a more diverse and inclusive work environment.
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Inclusivity and diversity are buzzwords that have permeated every workplace across every industry. However, putting those buzzwords into action in the workplace in a meaningful way can be a tricky endeavor. Under constant pressure to top last year’s financial results, diversity and inclusivity can fall pretty low on the priority list for many companies. But as employee retention and staffing continues to be an underlying challenge in the office technology universe, addressing inclusivity and diversity may be an important key in unlocking more productivity and revenue.
According to Paul Schwartz, president of Copier Careers, dealerships aren’t necessarily looking to create diversity, they are most focused on filling a specific need or finding someone with a particular skillset. With zero unemployment in the industry, however, diversity is naturally beginning to occur on its own.
“As the channel gets more diverse in the solutions it’s providing, I think it’s opening the channel up to more people,” said Schwartz. “And more people inherently mean more diversity in the workplace.”
Given these evolving workplace dynamics, for dealers looking to best develop their employees and company culture, considering how to support an increasingly diverse employee and customer base is poised to become a more significant factor.
Just as dealers look to their OEMs for information on how to best market products, understanding their nuances, and train their staff, they can also look to their manufacturers for ways to encourage and foster a diverse workplace.
From the Top
For Xerox Corporation, building an inclusive workplace and business strategy began with the efforts of one man—Joseph C. Wilson, the first CEO of modern-day Xerox—in the 1960s, as a social revolution took hold of the United States. To spark change in Rochester, New York, Wilson sought to expand the company’s supplier base by purposefully sowing relationships with businesses owned and operated by people of color. Subsequently, the company founded its Supplier Diversity Program, which plays an integral role in supporting sales by acquiring new client deals and securing annualized productivity.
“Xerox recognizes that doing business with diverse suppliers is a business imperative,” said Beverly Stallings-Johnson, manager of global diversity and inclusion at Xerox. With the Supplier Diversity Program in place, Xerox has been able to obtain over 40 commercial and federal accounts that specifically request diverse supplier participation. According to Stallings-Johnson, these diverse suppliers have provided cost savings and innovation of the company’s customers.
In addition to reaching across ethnicities among suppliers, Xerox has adopted what it calls the Wilson Rule, aptly named after its forward-thinking former CEO. This global rule requires that for domestic hires, women, and minorities be among the final pool of qualified candidates for open management and senior-level positions. Outside the U.S., the rule dictates women must be among the finalists for any open position. According to Stallings-Johnson, women now account for more than 31% of the company’s global population.
Ears on the Ground
When it comes to customers, dealers deeply understand the importance of listening to uncover pain points and present solutions that can help drive productivity and revenue. The skill of listening is also essential in supporting a dealership’s employees.
In 2015, Konica Minolta, Inc. heeded its own employees’ advice when the company founded Step Forward, a grassroots-led effort initiated for both men and women to encourage the advancement of women by helping to develop leadership skills through sharing experiences and best practices. Presented as a monthly luncheon series held on the second Wednesday of every month, Step Forward welcomes guest speakers and hosts workshops led by local, regional, and national experts in various industries.
“When we come to these meetings, it’s men and women,” said Kay Du Fernandez, senior vice president of marketing at Konica Minolta, who was recently recognized as an honoree by Tribute to Women of Influence (TWIN), an initiative of YMCA Bergen County (New Jersey) that recognizes women who have excelled in their fields and made significant contributions to create cultures in which women can thrive.
“Some women’s groups start out very focused on women and only have women participate in the conversations, but when we started, everyone was invited to come and learn from each other, and understand women’s issues,” said Fernandez. “If you’re a man and you understand what we’re going through in the workplace, you’re certainly more conscious of it and you can change your behavior.”
For Fernandez, mentorship is an important component in a diverse and inclusive workplace. She encourages employees to seek out mentors within the Konica Minolta organization to help guide and support their careers. She also believes sponsors have a strong role in advocating for diversity.
“Mentors are people who talk with you and sponsors are people who talk about you to ignite your career,” said Fernandez.
Providing a Forum
For any company looking to create an inclusive environment for its employees, being intentional about how they develop a diverse team is required, especially for an industry that has long been predominantly white and male.
With the help of the company’s human resources team, Lexmark International, Inc. has been trying to strategically expand its workforce by paying attention to diversity and inclusion. Today, the company boasts an eight-person executive leadership team that includes three women, two of whom are women of color. Lexmark has also been recognized by numerous organizations for its inclusive and diverse workplace, including Working Mother 100 Best Companies, NAFE Top Companies for Executive Women, and the Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work.
“One of the ways we’ve established this team is through succession planning,” said Clair Hart, engagement, diversity and inclusion internal consultant at Lexmark. “Within our succession planning, we had some intentional targets for identifying diverse talent and developing them to be ready to take over these roles, because we are not promoting people into leadership roles who are not the most capable, talented, intelligent and not the right fit for these roles.”
One of the ways Lexmark has been able to encourage and support engagement among its employees is with what the company calls Diversity Network Groups. Xerox also has similar groups known within the company as Caucus Groups. These groups are mainly ethnicity based, but they also can include groups focused on women, supporting gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender employees, and veterans. They are led by employees to specifically foster a culture of inclusion.
In addition to providing an open space for discussion and networking, these groups actively work with the company’s leadership teams to identify gaps in diversity and promote initiatives to develop a more inclusive environment. Engaged employees tend to have a greater sense of feeling valued and belonging.
When these groups work well, the results can be powerful. In late 2017, on the recommendation of its internal veterans’ group – VALORR (Veterans Association of Lexmark Organized to Respect and Recognize) – the company launched its free, online printer service training program exclusive to U.S. military veterans and soon-to-be-separated active-duty personnel. The company currently has 10 veterans enrolled in this program.
“Veterans typically have a hard time finding job positions, and one of the barriers is the fees associated with education,” said Hart. “This provides veterans with a skillset to walk in the door of a dealership and allows them to say they’ve already been trained and certified by Lexmark.”
Both Xerox’s and Lexmark’s internal diversity groups work not only on bolstering the internal culture of the companies, but they also reach out to their communities. At Lexmark, the Diversity Network Groups attend career fairs, work closely with organizations that support young people in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mechanics), and volunteer in high schools and colleges to help encourage development in the technology field, which can provide Lexmark with a future pool of employee applicants and future leaders.
Regardless of the initiative, all three of these OEMs – Xerox, Konica Minolta, and Lexmark – have one primary goal: to develop and foster a respectful work environment for everyone. This is a concept that every business should be incorporating at every level of the organization.
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