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Big firms seeking partners that can prove staff diversity

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In recent years, large corporations have begun imposing work force diversity mandates on their suppliers. As a result, midsize organizations that want to win contracts scramble to prove diversity among their staffs.

Companies such as Starbucks, Pfizer, Ford, Wal-Mart, Apple and Sara Lee make diversity a central part of strategic planning and marketing, and they require it of their primary vendors, which can include medium-size companies.

Corporations checking on vendors. More large organizations are requiring primary vendors to periodically (quarterly, twice a year or monthly) report the amount, dates and types of “second tier” spending with companies run by minorities, women and the disabled.

For example, Microsoft requires vendors to report twice a year on their suppliers’ diversity. Microsoft sends e-mails to vendors as a reminder.

Subtle but strong message. Most vendor requirements don’t explicitly exclude businesses that lack diversity practices. Instead, corporations take a more subtle approach.

Example: Frito-Lay tells vendors, “We’re not suggesting that you establish a different (diversity) structure; we merely ask you to use these (questions) to begin thinking about how best to work with us.”

The questions: Does your company have a minority and women-owned business policy? Is there a designated individual to contact related to your minority business objectives? Are measures in place to monitor and report internally? Do you have minority sales dealers or franchisees?

The company suggests its vendors have an aggressive supplier diversity program, monitor progress and make minority businesses 5 to 10 percent of revenue from Frito-Lay.

More big companies also require vendors to improve diversity hiring.

Wells Fargo sends this message to potential vendors: “We strongly believe that Wells Fargo’s suppliers must reflect the diversity of our team members, customers and communities.”

Advice: Put your diversity efforts in sync with those of potential corporate customers by taking the following steps:

  • Adopt goals and establish measurable evaluation criteria.
  • Communicate diversity goals and efforts throughout the company.
  • Include diversity objectives in management performance appraisals.  

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