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Developing a Corporate Culture That Supports Supplier Diversity
Earlier in this series, we talked about developing a corporate culture that values not only supplier diversity, but supplier inclusion. As with most things in life, that’s easier said than done. Today, we’ll discuss some of the elements that need to be in place for a more diverse and inclusive culture to take root and thrive.
Before we do that, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a global shift taking place in the definition of diversity itself:
“There’s growing significance placed on creating environments where a variety of different voices are encouraged and heard. These voices come from people who may or may not be of the same gender, race, or ethnicity. Diversity in the workplace today can include… race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, generation, disability, personality type, and thinking style.”
Why is corporate culture so important to supplier diversity? Because the things people in your company believe, and the ways they behave, largely determine how they interact with outside suppliers, vendors, and customers.
What’s the “WIFM”?
Change is difficult in general. Changing the culture of a workplace can be even tougher, because employees come from all walks of life and carry their past experiences and biases with them. Passive resistance to cultural change can be hard to identify, because employees sometimes hide their true feelings and concerns behind a mask of compliance.
The key challenge for those managing workplace change is how to engage and inspire worried or cynical employees. You’ll need to explain how a more diverse supplier base will not only benefit the company as a whole, but also serve their individual interests. In other words, what’s in it for them?
Here are seven simple suggestions that can help you bring about cultural change in your company or organization:
- Analyze your employee base, so you can recognize potential allies and discover new ways to persuade the resistors to join forces with you.
- Help your workforce understand the rationale for change, through creative communications media and in one-on-one conversations.
- Design a structured change communication program that engages employees at all levels. Be prepared to listen and adjust the program in response.
- Dedicate enough resources, so that cultural change isn’t just the tenth item on everyone’s crowded “to-do” list.
- Don’t forget follow-up! The most critical time is immediately after a new program is implemented, when it’s easy for employees to slip back into old behavior.
- Celebrate your successes by sharing anecdotes, mini-case studies, and best practices at employee meetings and on your website.
- Don’t get complacent. Cultural biases are stubborn, persistent, and often unconscious, so it’s crucial to reinforce the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive supply chain with both new hires and long-term employees.
“No Silver Bullet”
According to the change experts at ProjectInclude.org, cultural transformation is as much an art as a science. Also, keep in mind that your efforts must be in sync with the “personality” of your workforce to be effective and long-lasting:
“There is no silver bullet, no one-size-fits-all solution. Efforts must be comprehensive and tailored to the unique needs of each organization. Implementing an inclusive culture requires always planning ahead and being able to evolve as a company grows and people change, new processes are added to operations, the number of teams increases, and coordination gets more complex.”
The payoff? By championing diversity and inclusivity within your organization and in your supply chain, you’ll strengthen your business, attract more talent, and benefit from new perspectives that help you spot new business opportunities and markets you’d otherwise miss.
STAY TUNED! Next time, we’ll explain how you can tell if your supplier diversity program is suffering from insufficient data.