A few years ago, my best friend, who is gay, contracted stomach cancer. Serendipitously, the day after I learned of his condition, a member of Campbell's OPEN network (our human resources network — a.k.a "affinity group" — which supports the LGBT community), offered me a rainbow-colored bracelet to wear in support of "gay pride." I am not gay myself, but I vowed to wear the bracelet and not remove it until my friend was fully recovered. He is much better now, but I still wear the bracelet to visibly support his community.
?I believe that when a CEO visibly stands for openness, diversity, and inclusion, it sends an essential message to the organization. In too many companies, the managerial ranks lack role models for women, people of color, and the LGBT community. But in my company's (Campbell's) case, diversity is about more than breaking glass ceilings — whether color, sexual, or generational. It's about mirroring our consumers, 80% of whom are women from all ethnicities and walks of life. How can we possibly serve them well if the managers in our company don't viscerally understand them?
Here are some of the things that we did to improve diversity and inclusion in our workforce. Perhaps these steps can be helpful to your company, too.
?1. Confront the brutal facts.? In 2002 and 2003, partnering with Catalyst, we took a hard look at ourselves. The brutal facts were that our products were on the shelves of virtually every American home, but our workforce was insufficiently representative of the diverse people we were serving. Also, if we maintained a narrow recruiting framework, we would be also be missing out on some terrific talent. We simply had to do better.
2. Create a disciplined plan.? We built a comprehensive plan for advancing diversity and inclusion. We challenged leaders to strengthen their understanding through our recruiting and training, following best practices and by example. Hiring managers had to make sure that every position had a diverse slate of candidates, and they were held accountable for advancing our performance in this regard. Their performance on this front affected their bonus payouts.
3. Declare yourself. ?I am a big believer in "being the change you want to see" in your organization, no matter whether you are a middle manager or a CEO. I began every staff and global leadership meeting with the topics of diversity and inclusion. I actively supported our human resources network groups and several novel ideas that came from the nooks and crannies of the organization.
4. Educate the organization.? We developed a suite of courses, such as "Micro-Inequities" where people learned about common behaviors that could undermine our efforts. (For example, too many male managers may rely too heavily on sports analogies — a habit that might not be inclusive for women and non-athletes.) We wanted to make sure that people learned to listen, speak and act more inclusively.
?5. Deploy mentors and support networks. ?We put in place consistent and sustainable support mechanisms in the form of six human resource networks for women, people of various ethnic backgrounds, generations, and sexual orientations. Moreover, leaders were expected to mentor and help develop people of all backgrounds and persuasions — even people who didn't report to them.
So how have we done since we began this journey? Over the decade, our diversity profile has improved across the board. Our culture has clearly become more open and candid. Our employee engagement has been operating at world-class levels for years. And as I retire, I am proud to say that my successor, Denise Morrison, is the first female CEO in the 140-plus year history of our company. Clearly, we've come a long way. We still have a long way to go, but I believe we are on the right path.
This blog first appeared on Harvard Business Review on 7/28/2011.