“There’s nothing I can do about those people if they don’t want to show up for work,” a Chief Executive Officer remarked. The statement made me wonder if that were actually true. A leader may well feel there’s nothing he or she can do about the hire-ability of a group of people; however, after talking with a number of other community leaders, I learned that if a CEO is willing to create a pipeline for jobs (a training ground), they may be able to successfully employ a person from a different demographic and help their company too.

David Walters, CEO of HY-C said, “There’s work to be done in our factory. Starting positions won’t be highly paid but they are far better pay than a fast food chain can offer and can lead to a career.” David explained that, “What’s important to realize is the real work at HY-C happens on the factory floor. The person at the machine is why we have a business. This is where the rubber meets the road. Everyone else in the company has a higher paid, less repetitive and more comfortable job. At HY-C, it’s understood, and is actually a core belief, that the employees on the factory floor need to feel valued and respected. This respect and care is manifested in our low turnover rates, and why we don’t have attendance and tardiness problems.”

HY-C is a St. Louis-based manufacturer that has been protecting homes and families since 1947 with home improvement products. David explained that with the U.S. unemployment rate at 3.9%, labor will be scarce for at least another decade. Thus, he recognizes, “We’re going to have to go a little further and create a process that allows people who don’t have typical preparation to join the company. Rather than focusing on biases and stereotypes assigned to groups of people, HY-C is shifting cultural perspective and adapting their behavior to allow for differences to come aboard.

Diversity + Intercultural Competence = Inclusion 

  1. Diversity is the mix of differences that may have an impact on an interaction between individual and individual, individual and organization or organization and organization. Diversity goals are usually assessed by looking at the representation of people from various identity groups at the various levels of an organization (Hammer, 2016).
  2. Inclusion occurs when people from various groups, including those of majority culture, feel valued and engaged. The organization is encouraging people to bring to the table their unique experiences, preferences and strengths; without sacrificing or minimizing core aspects of their background and experience. Inclusion goals are measured by climate surveys, turnover rates, grievances filed, and conflict (Hammer, 2016).
  3. Intercultural Competence is the link; it’s what makes a diverse environment an inclusive one. By changing from a mono-cultural to multicultural mindset, individuals and organizations develop the capacity to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt their behavior to cultural differences and commonalities (Hammer, 2016).
  4. Bonus: The byproduct of intercultural competence is more productivity and innovation. Individuals and teams that communicate and collaborate increase profit lines for organizations by as much as 43% (McKinsey & Co., 2017).

David is not attempting to bridge these cultural differences alone. His company is working with Ferguson Youth Initiative (FYI) to create a pathway for people to develop the skills they need to be successful at HY-C.

Founded in 2011, Ferguson Youth Initiative is a nonprofit organization serving the youth of the Ferguson and surrounding communities, empowering them to become even more productive, positive, and contributing members of the community. Co-founder Dwayne James explained that FYI is looking for business partners, like HY-C. With their Next Steps program two teens will intern after school from 4 to 8 pm, two-three days a week in the e-commerce department at HY-C. This provides the teens with a job after school that can lead to a career. Dwayne explains that at the very least, the students will learn the language of business, develop basic work disciplines and have a strong line item for their resume. At best, the intern can develop a career with HY-C.

What Else Can a Leader Do?

Respect and care have to come from the top and be prevalent throughout the company. Supervisors and line managers on the factory floor need to know how to engage with and talk with people with a posture of compassion. Major Berry, Director of Business Development for St. Louis Community Credit Union, said, “Don’t strip someone even more of their power by just being an authority over them. It’s important for a manager to communicate care.” When Major first became a branch manager, he explained he had no idea the responsibility of running a profitable company. Learning about profit and loss, he suddenly understood the need to turn the lights off when a room is not in use. A manager shouldn’t assume their employees understand such issues. Supervisors need to clarify expectations for behavior and, equally important, why those expectations are in place. For example, Major suggested that a supervisor sit down with an hourly employee and explain the impact on the business when a person doesn’t show up or is late for work. Explain how much it costs the employee and how much it costs the business. When a supervisor takes the time to clarify expectations for behavior and why, they are communicating that they care about the person beyond the job. This will translate to lower turnover rates and more commitment to the company.

Four Steps a Supervisor Can Take

Sit down with an employee and…

  1. Clarify expectations for behavior.
  2. Explain why those expectations are in place; how they impact the employee and the business.
  3. Take time to communicate genuine care for the employee’s well-being by listening to their issues and discussing what barriers they may be experiencing either coming to work or at work.
  4. Work with the pipeline organization to remove those barriers that hinder engagement at work. Don’t attempt to work in a silo; there are many organizations that want to help.

By forging relationships with employees, we answer the question, “Do I bring value to this organization?” Whether a person is sweeping the floor or writing checks, at the end of the day, we all need to know we add value. Major reminded me that because the CEO at PepsiCo was willing to listen to his janitor and hear his idea, the company was able to bring Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to market with great monetary success, and today that janitor is an executive with PepsiCo and travels across the country as an inspirational speaker. -Amy Narishkin, PhD

To recruit and retain top talent from diverse backgrounds, leaders can create a culture of safety and belonging for everyone in their organization. With a PhD in Adult Education, Amy works with CEO’s, management teams and group leaders to successfully onboard new recruits by shifting from a mono-cultural to multicultural mindset by developing the skills for intercultural competence. Learn the skills in six 1.5-hour long Workshops