Diversity: Lessons Learned

–Audrey R. Goodman

During this our 20th Anniversary year, from time to time I will be inviting guest bloggers from our most successful corporate partnerships to share their take on diversity, talent management and creating a successful pipeline of women executives. Audrey Goodman currently an Organization Effectiveness consultant and, former Vice President Organization Development at Medco Health Solutions Inc., a WOMEN Unlimited, Inc. corporate partner since 1995, is our first guest blogger. –RLR

Throughout my career at Medco Health Solutions, I was actively involved in our commitment to diversity. From the CEO on down, we knew that in order for both our organization and our talented women to enjoy the benefits of a diverse pipeline, we had to be committed at every level to the process and the results.

I’d like to share with you some of the lessons learned from my over 20 year involvement in fostering diversity.

Find the new voices
Corporations must actively seek out new voices and dig down deep to find people who might not be heard in a business-as-usual environment. At Medco, two approaches proved especially successful. We determined who might have potential for our talent pipeline, and put them in our “Medco Diversity Mentoring Program.” It taught participants, often women, how to be seen and heard. It included networking and coaching by executives, where participants learned how to grow a wide range of skills that would help them step up and speak out.

Another of our initiatives, “Aspire,” was the brainchild of our President. He would talk to early-career employees such as customer service reps and pharmacy technicians and ask them about their career goals. Often they would reply that they’d love to have a long-term career at Medco, but feared no one would find them. It inspired us to reach out. As a result, executives at a local level would select nine employees, whom they believed were likely candidates for more senior positions. They would meet with these employees often and get to know them well, so they could advocate for them at the higher levels of the organization. They were no longer hidden talent.

Make Diversity Part of Talent Management
In order for diversity to become ingrained in an organization, it must be part of an over-arching talent management strategy. Talent management ensures that the right candidate is available at the right time. Diversity opens up the possibilities to a broader talent pool. By linking talent management and diversity strategies, a company makes sure they are always looking at all the qualified people available.

Include Metrics
Measurable results are an important aspect of maintaining and expanding an inclusive talent management strategy. There are different ways to measure. Metrics can be created around who got promoted…increased diversity e.g. how many more women…or what the executive succession pool looks like six, twelve, or 18 months out.

Forge Successful Partnerships
WOMEN Unlimited played a key role in our diversity initiatives. Our metrics showed good retention among the women tapped to attend WOMEN Unlimited programs. They are consistently enthusiastic about their participation and, as a result, have reached out across the organization to create a grassroots network for ALL women. Also, Medco’s highly-successful Diversity Mentoring Program, which I mentioned earlier, is modelled around the WOMEN Unlimited approach and includes mentoring circles and mentoring groups.

Finally, I’d like to wish WOMEN Unlimited a happy 20th Anniversary. All the best as you continue to help major corporations develop their talented women.