There are many moving parts to creating a successful DE&I program. Contingent workforce managers need to secure executive support as well as buy-in from engagement managers and their supplier community. What it boils down to is education, training, communication and leadership are key components to the successful implementation of a DE&I initiative for your contingent workforce.

A prior CWS 3.0 article covered a panel discussion at the CWS Symposium Live event, held last month in Phoenix, which addressed diversity, equity and inclusion. The session, “DE&I Influencers: Moving the Words into Action,” was moderated by Subadhra Sriram, SIA’s editor and publisher, media products. Panelists were Allen Chilson — who is talent acquisition vendor management leader at Danaher but spoke about his recent experience as talent acquisition leader for strategic partnerships at chemical producer BASF Corp. — and Meg Ksenzakovic, director, global contingent workforce for Bristol Myers Squibb. Both are included in SIA’s inaugural Diversity Equity & Inclusion Influencers list.

Executive-level support was discussed in the earlier article as critical to success. But buy-in at all levels is necessary for a diverse and inclusive workplace environment.

Education, Training are Essential

Chilson faced some initial pushback from line managers who preferred workers with manufacturing experience; but diverse candidates with such backgrounds were hard to find. He said education and involving the company’s chief diversity officer helped sway them into accepting more atypical pools of applicants.

Getting people to realize and acknowledge their biases was also key. While some of those biases were for experienced manufacturing professionals, other biases were more gender-based and centered around the perceived inability of women to do the physical work involved.

“Getting people to realize they have those biases and to overcome them — that was a really big challenge,” Chilson said. He educated managers about BASF’s existing training that all new hires undergo regardless of experience, such as the organization’s unique standard operating procedures and safety protocols. This required working with site leaders, and the HR partners who support those sites, to help them “break their mold” for past hiring practices, he said.

At Bristol Myers Squibb, Ksenzakovic partnered with the organization’s training department to provide sensitivity training for her new neurodiverse program. Someone who had previously gone through similar engagement programs helped managers interested in the program “learn some of the ropes of what we need to pay attention to,” she explained. Some of the training focused on environmental situations, while other parts focused on interacting with neurodiverse talent.

“Having that training to help them get into the program and do it the right way is also very important,” Ksenzakovic said.

Working with Suppliers

Many staffing buyers are familiar with the benefits of working with diversity-owned staffing suppliers. However, just because a firm is owned by someone from a diverse ethnicity or background does not necessarily mean they will supply diverse candidates.

Ksenzakovic would like to see diversity candidates added as a measurement in Bristol Myers Squibb’s supplier scorecard, but the details and legal aspects of such a move are still unclear. Meanwhile, her program is partnering with suppliers’ diversity departments and having conversations about increasing efforts and measuring results.

“It’s bringing it from a different level down into the individuals coming into the organization,” she said, adding that the work is not done once the diverse candidates are in the door. And those diverse workers need to feel supported. “How can we better support those individuals and ensure that everyone is bringing their authentic self to work, and then bringing that down to our contingent workers as well — because if you are not doing that, then they end up feeling like ‘the other.’”

BASF also puts effort into educating its supplier network about its diversity program. The company’s talent acquisition and diversity branding lead spoke to attendees at its annual supplier summit meeting, held with its top suppliers. They also brought the message to BASF’s employer resource groups, which include contingents as well as FTEs. And including contingent workers into such support groups is paramount to inclusion.

“We can ask for the numbers, and the brand’s diversity, but I think that you want all the recruiters and the staffing agency owners to be confident that this is a company that has bought into diversity and inclusion,” Chilson said.

In addition to CWS Symposium LiveCWS Symposium On-Line will take place Oct. 20 and 21; it is an online event delivering content from the CWS Symposium Live and more.

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