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Supplier Diversity and Sustainability: Key Building Blocks to Responsible Sourcing

[Forbes] The Next Business Revolution: Diversity

[FORBES] The Next Business Revolution: Diversity

Author: Geri Stengel

Mass production changed business and society. So, too, did technology. Now it’s diversity’s turn. Diversity is a critical factor in market growth, according to research undertaken by The Center for Talent Innovation. While workforce productivity gains always improve earnings, continued innovation is required to increase market share and open new markets. And mountains of research now confirms that unlocking innovation requires diversity of thought and diversity of people.

In a world that is increasingly social, interdependent and transparent, feminine skills and competencies – empathy, flexibility, openness and collaboration – are coming to the fore, not just as nice-to-haves but as business imperatives. John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio revealed this finding in their book, The Athena Doctrine How Women (and the Men who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Futurewhich was based on research conducted among 64,000 people surveyed in thirteen nations.

As expected, women excel in collaboration, teamwork, building relationships and mentoring. But the big surprise is that they do better than men when it comes to  initiative, follow-through and focus on results, according to Jack Zenger in Forget the Glass Ceiling Build Your Business Without One. He is CEO and cofounder of Zenger Folkman.

The new valuation of these “feminine traits” is reframing women’s leadership, not as a fairness issues but as vital to “innovation, growth and prosperity for companies and society alike,” Gerzema concluded.

Making Diversity Happen

Like the major societal shifts before it, diversity can cause anxiety among those who do not want to change the status quo in hiring practices or don’t know how. Changing minds may take awhile but for those who want to become part of the Innovation Age, the tools are here. Just as algorithms and technology changed the products and services businesses offer, they now enable businesses to change the way they hire.

SAP has purchased and partnered with companies that help other companies open their doors to greater success through greater diversity. The company’s own gender diversity has had a direct impact on its ability to see business opportunities that it might not have seen before, according to Anka Wittenberg, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Office at SAP. Diversity forces the company to go beyond the everyday to find new ways of doing things, she said.

Finding diverse suppliers can be a challenge for corporations and government agencies. It can be equally challenging to minority- or women-owned businesses to unlock these opportunities.  SAP Ariba has partnered with ConnXus to produce software that tracks diversity spend by categories – function, department, geography, commitment to local communities, meeting unique requirements in different countries, etc. Companies with supplier diversity programs can share their list best of diverse vendors with each other.

Another SAP product, SuccessFactors, helps companies eliminate bias in HR decision making. SAP SuccessFactors solutions include HR Analytics, such as a Digital Boardroom/Diversity Dashboard and mentor matching algorithms based on skills sets, not the characteristics of individuals. Job Analyzer, bias-free job descriptions to attract women and men alike, will be out next year.

“Creating a diverse, inclusive and bias-free culture makes us a better company. Inclusion fuels our innovation, enhances our engagement with both customers and employees, and helps drive business success in this rapidly changing, digital world,” said Wittenberg.  In 2011, SAP set a goal that 25% of its leadership to be women. Moving forward, SAP has committed to an increase of 1% each year to 30% by 2022

In short, men and women, entrepreneurs and investors all benefit when gender equality is achieved.

Is your company ready to join the diversity revolution?

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Developing a Corporate Culture That Supports Supplier Diversity



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:

  1. Analyze your employee base, so you can recognize potential allies and discover new ways to persuade the resistors to join forces with you.
  2. Help your workforce understand the rationale for change, through creative communications media and in one-on-one conversations.
  3. Design a structured change communication program that engages employees at all levels. Be prepared to listen and adjust the program in response.
  4. Dedicate enough resources, so that cultural change isn’t just the tenth item on everyone’s crowded “to-do” list.
  5. 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.
  6. Celebrate your successes by sharing anecdotes, mini-case studies, and best practices at employee meetings and on your website.
  7. 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, 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.