Recruitment, Retention, Advancement: What Works?
Workshop participants were assigned to one of four breakout groups and asked to discuss the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women and minorities in engineering careers, focusing on what works, how you can tell if it works, and the characteristics of success. The findings of each discussion were summarized and presented to the group as a whole.
Group 1 Summary
Sandia National Laboratories
We focused primarily on two areas. First, we had a healthy discussion about the positive and negative aspects of affinity groups, which were highlighted as a best practice. Second, we talked about the image of engineering and what needs to be done to change it.
First, we talked about the successes and failures of affinity groups. We agreed that they provide an internal mechanism for networking and acknowledging work. Affinity groups can raise issues that may not otherwise be heard. On the negative side, some people don’t want to separate themselves from the whole by being a part of an affinity group. We had a lengthy discussion about that.
We then turned to a discussion of the image of engineers and keeping young students interested in engineering. We concluded that it is important to convey a positive image of engineers through role modeling and to give young people examples highlighting what engineers do in their careers. Our focus should be on putting students in touch with people who do actual engineering work.
Group 2 Summary
Dow Chemical Company
Our group was able to distill our conversation down to four deliverables. First, when making the business case for diversity, you should provide the data both internally and externally, provide solutions, and then show sustainability. You have to make the best case for diversity. A lot of us who have been engaged in this activity for some period of time feel that the case has already been made and is overwhelming. But there are others who say, I am new to this particular area, and I really need to hear the case made. As a group, we could provide a very good business case for diversity that pulls in data from many different sources. Having participated in diversity activities for a long time, I am of the opinion that the case has been pretty well made, but I can understand that others could have a different point of view.
A Web site called diversityinc.com is an excellent source of external data; anybody can contribute information to this site if they are so inclined. Many people may not be aware of this particular source of information, which could provide external data to help you make the case for your company. In most companies, the diversity data is shared internally. But as we heard in our discussion of sharing data here, there are differences in the sharing process. Sharing information about your diversity activities, your diversity programs, the kinds of things you engage in is different from sharing your representation data, that is, the physical makeup of the company. That is a very important distinction. But let’s share information about what we do and how that impacts society. We can keep the representation data inside the company.
When our group discussed programs from kindergarten to college to coming to work for a corporation, we found that some really interesting things were happening. One company put up some corporate funding for employees to spend up to 20 hours at an elementary school, a middle school, or a high school. Once the program got under way, a lot of people began spending a lot more time, giving a face to engineering, and money flowed to the school. As someone pointed out, though, every school needs money and we may not be getting it to the right ones. The point is that a lot of people in the company are engaged in that activity, particularly women engineers, African-American engineers, and Hispanic engineers.
Our group also felt that we ought not to talk about “underrepresented minorities” here. We ought to say what we mean. We are talking about women. We are talking about Hispanics. We are talking about African-Americans. If we want to talk about them, we should say so.
To be sure that you can successfully recruit a diverse group of employees, our group argued that you have to start early, and you have to stay engaged. You
have to start in the school system by encouraging kids to take an interest in science and math. You have to be there when they are ready to enter the university to offer scholarships and other support. You have to stay engaged during their university years so you have an opportunity to recruit them into the corporation at the end of the day. Once they are in the corporation, it is very important to keep them engaged, inform them of the opportunities for growth in your company, and provide interesting work for them to do. That is a key message there. We are all doing a lot of the same things in terms of the kind of recruiters we use, the kinds of role models we provide, that is, people who look like me recruiting people who look like me, getting executives lined up with universities, and so on.
Finally, I will sum up our conversation about sustainability. We suddenly find ourselves in an economic slowdown—that may be a great understatement for some of us—and we may suddenly begin to lose support in companies for our networks, our African-American network, our Asian network, our Hispanic network, and our women’s network. We have to maintain the support of senior leadership for these activities. In these tough times, mentoring becomes even more important. Minorities need connectivity in the organization, not only with senior management, but also with each other, so they can reinforce each other during the tough times, as well as the good times. We have to be willing, and we have to have leadership, to keep these programs active and alive during times of slow economic activity because, historically, they have sometimes been the first to go.
Group 3 Summary
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering
We had a very interesting, very diverse group that did a wonderful job in terms of focusing on what I will call headlines. I am not an engineer. I am a reporter, a journalist, so I think in terms of headlines. In our group, we had representatives of corporations, precollege educators, university educators, a policy “wonk,” and not-for-profit groups. We also had representation from Poland and Austria.
Our first headline was how to translate the CEO’s commitment throughout the organization. We all agreed that support and commitment are not enough. In other words, a CEO’s commitment must filter down through the business units, through the general managers, et cetera. There are a number of ways of doing that.
Cordell Reed (senior vice president, Commonwealth Edison Company, retired, and chair, NAE Committee on Diversity in the Engineering Workforce) described taking top executives on a retreat to acquaint them with the issues. We have discovered that racism is a huge issue for a lot of people. But we think overt racism is much less of a barrier than ignorance of racism, the fact that
racism is invisible to a lot of people. They simply don’t know. So, we have to raise awareness about the continuing presence and pervasiveness of racism. Professor Klod Kokini (Purdue University) talked about the importance of an emotional pull. Once it is awakened, and we have got to work so that the people at the top feel it, they really do push it down through the organization. The awareness must be institutionalized through policy statements and practices. One suggestion was that diversity targets be linked to compensation, which is already being done at some companies. Motorola is a wonderful model. If a manager there is going to promote people, move people up, the manager must have people from diverse backgrounds in the mix, or explain why. Diversity targets are tied to compensation at Motorola, and people are held accountable. So the first headline is to translate the CEO’s commitment throughout the organization.
The second headline, and this also seems to be a “no brainer,” is to support scholarship and fellowship programs that reach the target audiences and are not territorial. All of us would like to have our own individual programs. For instance, we would like to know that, if we support a student, that student is going to come to work for us. But, as long as corporations think that way, we will not make the advancements we need. Commonwealth Edison hired a lot of students from Chicago State, rather than from Northwestern or the University of Illinois at Chicago, the schools you see in the literature. But you have to find where the talent is and go there. It’s very important that you not be territorial.
We heard about the wonderful programs at Lucent Technologies. One individual, for example, had gone from Lucent Technologies to Motorola and then to Georgia Tech, where he is working on a research program along with NACME. It is very, very important that companies support scholarship and fellowship programs that are going to have an impact not just on individual businesses, but also on the state of the industry. I am very proud of Sandra Begay-Campbell, the product of the NACME Scholars Program, and I’m proud of the corporations that support the program that don’t demand that NACME scholars go to work for them. She has done a great job at Sandia National Laboratories and a great job as the head of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
We also talked about the importance of mentoring, another very, very important way of supporting scholarship and fellowship programs. We need to change our idea of what constitutes the best and the brightest and where we can find the best and brightest. This is a huge challenge, I think, for all of us. We had a serious conversation about community colleges. Toni Clewell, from the Urban Institute, described the Lewis Stokes Program, an example of the importance of making linkages between community colleges, universities, and corporations. We should celebrate the fact that a large number of minorities and women who have reached high levels of achievement have come from community colleges. Richard Tapia, from Rice University, is a brilliant mathematician who started at a community college. We need to remove the stigma of community colleges. We can do this not only in our own organizations, but also by
supporting scholarship and fellowship programs that reach our target audiences, not just enhance our corporate images.
The third headline was another no brainer—that we build stronger links among business, industry, government, and educational institutions. It was interesting that our discussion went on for about two minutes before we realized that we hadn’t included educational institutions. We were talking about what business and government could do to improve education but not how better education could help business and government. It is very important that we build those linkages and that we come together as equal partners. It cannot be one handing down edicts to the other. People involved in education mentioned that they could really use industry support, for instance, in lobbying and particularly in support of their bills before Congress. These bills may appear to be simply politics, but they have an impact on industry, and education is the vehicle that makes industry’s success possible.
To sum up, our three headlines are: (1) to translate CEO commitment throughout the organization; (2) to support, in a nonterritorial way, scholarship and fellowship programs that reach target audiences where they are; and (3) to build stronger linkages between business, industry, government, and educational institutions.
Group 4 Summary
We had a very focused discussion, maybe the most focused discussion in which I have participated in a breakout session. We came up with categories that mesh with the categories of the other groups. As I was listening to the other summaries, it occurred to me that we are mapping out the features of a report that would be structured in such and such a way. Then I thought, well, no, we are mapping out the site design for a potential Web site. Then I thought, well, wait a minute, maybe we are doing both. The report can’t be too long, so we could use certain exemplary best practices, and it could have a bang-up argument with some illustrations and pointers to a data-rich Web site for people to use as a source of further information.
We divided our conversation into three categories: recruitment, retention, and advancement. Under recruitment, we talked about the recruiter’s authority, the recruitment process, ongoing efforts, rewards for candidates, best practices, and indirect action. Under recruiter authority, we had one only entry, that the recruiter must have the authority to seize control of a situation and hire strategically. Therefore, recruiters must have certain characteristics. They must all have deep personal commitments. The recruiter team must be diverse. The recruiters must be trained to think about hiring in a way that brings in criteria
that maybe were hidden before. Also, rewards and empowerment must be provided for successful recruiters.
What about the recruitment process? Recruiters should look beyond the candidates who have signed up for interviews, consider nontraditional pathways, and develop focused relationships at selected schools. They should make their current diversity initiatives known to attract candidates from wider populations and, finally, apply the principles of diversity across the entire organization. In addition to individual recruiting processes, each organization should structure an ongoing program for mentoring undergraduates and graduate students and employees.
What about the candidates themselves? A company should provide incentives for the candidates, including financial incentives. There might also be actions that may not have immediate benefits but may help over the long term. Precollege-education outreach programs fit into this category.
On to the second large category, retention. First, a company must conduct internal research, for example, to measure the retention of individuals, and then they must share that data. One way to do this is by actively soliciting feedback through the focus groups we heard about this morning. A company should communicate its visions and values, actively survey employees, and, in short, routinely research its own organization. Finally, a company should develop and share metrics for analyzing and following cultural changes, climate changes. If you can put together a reasonable amount of material, you might not be able to bring everyone in the company on board, but you could go a long way in that direction.
In terms of professional development, employers should consider the first five years of a new employee’s company career as an extension of the recruiting process. Mentors should be provided from outside of the immediate chain of authority, and the company should provide social activities. Finally, employees should be aware of possible career paths in the organization.
As for formal personnel practices, a company should have zero tolerance for harassment and other unacceptable behavior. Other practices could include providing an ombudsperson to resolve disputes, establishing an “on-boarding” program to help new employees adapt to the company, analyzing job competencies, and having a good system for posting jobs. A company can build visibility through employee recognition programs, for example, and recognize positive contributions. A company can build horizontal networks by strengthening local diversity networking groups inside the company and supporting other kinds of informal programs for building relationships across the organization horizontally. Finally, a company should also build vertical relationships, for example, by encouraging connections between new employees and individuals in upper management.
Our last major category is advancement. In our discussion of leadership development we discovered that mentoring means something different in the first few years than it does later in one’s career. Early on, the focus is on gaining admission, getting a sense of fit, of belonging, a sense of connection. Later on, the focus is on building organizational knowledge so that one can advance.
Mentoring outside the group becomes important here. Another good practice involves tours of duty, rotational assignments that develop an employee’s knowledge of different parts of the organization. Companies can also use other strategies to build organizational knowledge and make career paths visible. Finally, a company should develop and share its metrics for success.
The very last category, and probably the most important overarching category, involves making the management commitment to diversity visible through programs inside and outside the organization. One example is Motorola’s succession-planning program.