The trend toward implementing diversity and inclusion programs in businesses has grown stronger in recent years, especially as there has been a heightened focus on social issues and fairness. But the business case is equally strong. A McKinsey study of 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity are 25 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. “More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns,” McKinsey wrote.
Those results are only likely to become more pronounced as the makeup of customers becomes increasingly diverse. This is especially true for companies serving the restaurant industry, which has traditionally been among the most diversified sectors of the economy. According to the National Restaurant Association, 47 percent of industry employees are minorities compared to 36 percent in the larger economy, and 40 percent of restaurant owners and 40 percent of managers and supervisors – the groups most likely to make purchasing decisions – are minorities.
Having a diverse sales team can give distributors an edge when competing for restaurant operators’ business. A Harvard Business Review study found that when at least one member of a team shares a client’s ethnicity, the entire team is 152 percent likelier to understand that client than a competing team. Embracing diversity also has a direct result on how effective employees are within their organizations. A 2017 Salesforce survey of more than 1,500 professionals found that 73 percent said they were empowered to perform their best work when they feel they belong, are heard and are able to be their authentic selves at work.
Businesses that embrace diversity and value the contributions and perspectives of different employee groups also tend to have a more positive company culture. Employees who trust they and their colleagues will be treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age are 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work, according to Great Place to Work, a consulting firm specializing on workplace culture. They are also 5.4 times more likely to want to stay a long time at their company – a figure that is especially notable at a time when people are leaving their jobs for other opportunities at a faster rate than ever before.
The benefits can be found across the board. As noted in a Deloitte study of global mobility leaders and professionals, companies with inclusive cultures have 22 percent lower turnover rates, 22 percent greater productivity, 27 percent higher profitability, and 39 percent higher customer satisfaction. “Diversity and inclusion today is no longer about just ‘checking the box’ or ‘doing good,’” the professional services firm wrote. “It’s about driving strong business performance and results.”
Although the value to the bottom line is clear, many businesses are still struggling to make diversity and inclusion a meaningful part of their company culture. A Deloitte study of global mobility leaders and professionals found that only one in five reported having a strong understanding of and alignment with their enterprise D&I strategy and priorities. What’s more, only one in 10 said they participated in D&I discussions and planning.
A formal diversity and inclusion program is needed to truly cement those values into a company. This is why FEDA members such as ITW have spent years building on those concepts. ITW introduced its D&I strategy in 2013 with the goal of making its leadership look more like the communities where its employees live and work. Since then, the company has continued to find ways to grow a diverse workforce and provide more economic opportunities for a wider range of people. In 2020, it recommitted to diversity and inclusion with the adoption of its “Do More” agenda, which outlines specific areas of focus such as:
- Further deepening ITW’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and respect for everyone at the company
- Leveraging ITW’s capabilities and industry experience to create long-term skilled employment opportunities for candidates of color
- Expanding the company’s investment and engagement in organizations, programs and partnerships that improve access to high-quality education and to meaningful long-term employment opportunities for people of color
- Meaningfully expanding ITW’s commercial relationships with minority-owned businesses
For each of those areas, ITW formed steering committees that are responsible for the development and implementation of specific initiatives and action plans. Those plans are starting to see real results within the manufacturer. In 2021, Hobart Service, part of ITW Food Equipment Group, launched a national fellowship program aimed at providing long-term employment opportunities for students enrolled in technical colleges in underserved and disadvantaged communities. Students from the partner schools are accepted into the program as part-time employees and receive both classroom and on-the-job training to become foodservice equipment technicians. Participants receive both tuition support and are assigned an ITW mentor as part of their training. Upon completion of the program, the students are offered full-time jobs with Hobart Service.
“Skilled technicians are at the core of what we do,” said Stephanie Peters, vice president of operations at Hobart Service, in a statement. “From installation to decommission, they are responsible for the entire life cycle of a piece of equipment. It is important that we fill this critical talent need for our business. Leveraging our food equipment expertise, this program provides underserved individuals with the right skills and training to position them for success in full-time careers at ITW.”
Attendees of the 2022 FEDA Annual Conference will have an opportunity to learn more about the Hobart Services training program and the manufacturer’s other diversity and inclusion initiatives during a special presentation entitled Building Workplace Diversity and Inclusion. The session will feature Ellen Steele Kapoor, director, diversity and inclusion for ITW and will be moderated by Crystal Rinker, director of sales and marketing for Burkett Restaurant Equipment and co-chair of FEDA’s Young Industry Leaders group.