We compete for the best talent from all cultures and genders,” saysOssie Reid, director for diversity at United Technologies. The company strivesto be rated on business magazine best-employer lists. To achieve that, it has tooffer a culturally diverse environment. In response to changing employeedemographics, United Technologies introduced diversity programs in the early1990s.
Affirmative-action laws demanded that the company employ people from avariety of races and religions, he says. The diversity programs, which includementoring, forums for women and minorities, and training, ensure that everyonefeels appreciated and supported in the UT culture. And Reid is not justconcerned about diversity related to cultural makeup. Intellectual diversity isjust as important, he says. “People with varied educations and philosophiesbring different experiences to the table. It makes the company more flexible.”
To create an environment that accommodates cultural, religious, andintellectual diversity, his department’s primary focus is on inclusion. “Wewant to make sure everyone has an opportunity to participate in theorganization, regardless of their gender, background, or race.”
The diversity group is involved with succession planning and performanceappraisal training. It offers scholarship programs, relocation services, and ahotline for help with personal and family issues through the EAP. It alsosponsors forums and symposiums for women and minorities throughout the companyto celebrate employees and create mentoring networks. Because of these efforts,UTC received the Department of Labor’s Opportunity 2000 award for advancementof women and minorities in the workforce. “We’re proud to have created anenvironment that draws upon the experiences of so many individuals, and that canonly expand the possibilities for our customers and employees alike,” Reidsays.
In the future he hopes to add diversity modules to the emerging-leaderstraining program that employees take at the University of Virginia businessschool. “It’s a big opportunity for leaders to have the right discussionsabout what is expected of them.”
Reid sees all of these programs as critical to the company’s success. “Wework our people pretty hard, so they need to be in a place where they feelcomfortable.” It isn’t an easy task in a conservative New England city. “Hartfordis tough, especially for single people. It can be very cliquish.”
As part of its diversity program, UTC contracts with FCWDC’s Life Choiceshotline. Employees can use the service for information about places to go afterwork or perhaps to learn about an alumni group in the area. It’s all part ofthe effort to create a supportive and diverse environment.
“When we lose people because they aren’t happy, it costs us a lot ofmoney,” Reid says. UTC’s scholarship program, for example, covers completetuition for degree programs and gives employees $10,000 in stock options whenthey graduate. “If they leave, we lose that investment.”
Union workers are skeptical
Employee reaction to the programs has been promising. Utilization rates ofthe Life Choices program range from 13 to 25 percent, two to three times betterthan the established “best-practice rate” for this kind of service, Reidsays. The higher you go in the company, the more likely employees are to takeadvantage of the diversity programs, he says. Utilization by corporate personnelis 25 percent. “There’s a lot of pressure on corporate, and they will takeadvantage of any service that they think will benefit them.”
Union employees, on the other hand, are more reluctant to use the programs.There is still a fear that if they use EAP services of any kind, “corporatewill know their business,” he says. “It’s a very macho environment,especially for a technology-driven company.”
To increase use among union workers, Reid stepped up marketing efforts,better explaining what the program offers and how it works. He also sent homeinformational postcards to employees’ spouses. “Some employeesdon’t take materials home, so spouses have no idea that the service isavailable.” Reid says in the weeks following the postcard mailing, calls tothe Life Choices hotline went up dramatically.
Workforce, February 2002, pp. 68-69 — Subscribe Now!