General motors commitment to diversity

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MANAGING TALENT: General Motors’ Commitment to Diversity

Back in the 1980s, valuing diversity was far from the minds of the leadership at General Motors. True, GM had established a program to promote minority-owned dealerships, but there were problems within the company. Women and minorities complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the carmaker was discriminating against them. In 1984, the EEOC and GM reached a $42.4 million settlement in which GM promised to promote women and minorities into management positions. Since then, the company has never swerved from that effort at inclusiveness. Today GM garners praise as a company that far exceeds legal standards for equal employment opportunity.

For GM, this commitment to diversity is a way to better serve its customers in the United States and around the world. A diverse workforce, supplier base, and dealer network show GM how to serve a diverse marketplace. And openness to diversity—what GM calls a welcoming Workplace of Choice—gives the company access to the best talent in the world, without regard to such differences as race, sex, and nationality. In the words of Alma Guajardo-Crossley, director of GM’s diversity initiatives, recruiting and hiring minorities is “business sense,” because in the United States, minority groups “are pretty much going to be the majority here pretty soon.” They have an impact because the company does not merely hire minorities, but also develops them, trains all employees to value diversity, and expects all its people to be fully engaged in helping GM “design, build, and sell the world’s best vehicles.”

Guajardo-Crossley is just one member of a team of managers dedicated to promoting diversity at General Motors. She reports to Eric Peterson, GM’s vice president of diversity. Others on the team include managers of diversity communications, diversity advertising, minority dealer development, and supplier diversity. In addition, employees are welcome to form employee resource groups, which bring together employees with shared backgrounds or interests to support one another’s career development and be available to consult with others in the company. GM has employee resource groups for women, Asian Indians, Chinese, people of African ancestry, Hispanics, young employees, Native Americans, Mideast and Southeast Asians, people with disabilities, veterans, Vietnamese, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees.

One sign that GM is succeeding in its commitment to diversity is the representation of various groups in leadership positions. Among public companies in Michigan, for example, boards of directors average about 10% women. But at GM, over one-third of the directors are women.

GM managers who have benefited from the company’s attitude of inclusiveness assert that this environment frees them to contribute fully. Sabin D. Blake, a dealer organizational manager, said seeing gay and supportive straight employees in the executive ranks gave him the courage to reveal to his colleagues that he is gay. (Courage is necessary because no national laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.) Coming out, in turn, freed up a lot of energy Blake had spent on hiding his identity at work. Diana Tremblay, GM’s vice president of manufacturing and labor relations, is sure that her experiences as labor negotiator, wife, and mother have together shaped her into a woman who succeeds both at work and in family life. For example, after three decades of marriage, she had a deep reservoir of experience in talking out issues rather than letting the conflict drive the couple apart. That same attitude has made her a successful negotiator with the United Auto Workers. In fact, Tremblay has found an advantage of being a woman in a male-dominated industry: when she succeeds, people notice her.

QUESTIONS:

Read the vignette “General Motors’ Commitment to Diversity” at the end of Chapter 3. Imagine that you are a consultant to GM and have been asked to help them identify ways to avoid discrimination. Write a 500-word business memo to GM leadership answering the questions found in the Assignment Rubric below (not the questions at the end of the case study). Follow the memo format found in the Business Memo example provided. APA style is NOT required for business memos.

Reference no: EM131143829

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