How to diversify your company

Businesses, especially in south Florida, are making a major push for diversity and inclusion. They want to capture the millennial market for their workforce and enlarge their customer base.

Here’s pointers from “Diversity and Inclusion: A New Perspective,” an online forum by the Boca-based Hispanic Entrepreneur Initiative, co-founded by Mary Sol Gonzalez, Boca Chamber Diamond Awardee, and Valentina Moretti, with 15 years of global business experience. The nonprofit was started as a bridge between the U.S. and Latin markets.

Alexandra Flugel moderated. Speakers included:

  • Alex Price, national director of community investment, Office Depot, headquartered in Boca Raton
  • Carolina Lazarte, Beverages Pepsico, HR senior manager Latin America
  • Rafael Vazquez, Florida Blue, head of Consumer Channels

Q: How was diversity implemented in your company?

CL: It has been an experimental journey. Going into countries and making yourself available. Not until you bring that inclusion and have an open mind and open heart.

AP: It acknowledges we’re making progress but we’re not there yet. We’re really trying to move the ball forward. South Florida is an incredible melting pot. If you embrace this you can be a leader. If you don’t, you won’t. It has to permeate every part of your company.

CL: We got great support and sponsorship from our president and HR VP. It’s a top-down agenda.

RV: It starts all the way at the top. It has to be part of your culture. We have groups of employees and the No. 1 goal is investing in employees. Helping each other and wanting Latinos to move up in the company.

AP: We have LGBT, black men and women, a whole roster of 10 of these groups. It’s not a check-the-box category. There can be skepticism. If associates join diversity groups and don’t see higher levels that look like them, that can be discouraging.

Q: Give me two definite benefits.

CL: It gives the group better ideas, to learn faster and save time.

RV: Our customers are diverse. We need to serve them and listen to their ever-changing needs in health care. If we don’t put some real programs out… You have to have action behind your words.

Q: You have to understand the culture to influence that customer. How do you implement training?

CL: General themes touch every organization, like unconscious bias. You’re training to what your needs are. We went from in-person and now we’re going into podcasts. We’re adapting. Go with what your audience needs. You have to be creative.

Q: How would you convince somebody diversity is good for business?

RV: A very clear example is serving Miami. We recently launched and brought in new clinical partners. We hired people from the community that serve our customers better that are relevant locally and matter.

Q: How do you get more engagement?

AP: You need leaders on the inside who have skin in the game to create a culture like that. Create an organization within an organization. I have 65 people who represent every department. They rally the troops in each division and in the most grassroots way. It’s like community organizing in a company and trying to inspire what’s most important to our associates. It becomes contagious.

Q: What’s the first thing you should do? Your first move?

CL: Just listen. Listen to the needs of your client. Gather a bunch of ideas. Strategies can be a large number of ideas.

RV: Listening is key. What should inspire you is the simple notion of paying it forward. Whether its veterans or the black community, they’re trying to bring people up. It gives a sense of pride to bring motivation and determination to do more.

AP: Create a safe environment to have candid conversations, to fumble around and sometimes get it wrong. No question is off the table. We’re not going to stop having those conversations. That came out of the tragedy of George Floyd.

By Marci Shatzman



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