Top 5 Tips for Upping Diversity and Inclusion

by Liz Stevens, writer, Plastics Business

America’s population is becoming increasingly diverse – so is America’s workforce. Manufacturers know that broadening their hiring horizons to be inclusive and diverse – in terms of gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, political beliefs, education, military service and physical ability – is a key factor in finding much-needed new employment recruits. It is, of course, also key to adding fresh experience, perspectives and approaches to a business’ human capital toolkit.

PwC and The Manufacturing Institute explored the diversity and inclusion (D&I) issue and queried industry professionals. Their 2018 report, “All In: Shaping Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Workforce through Diversity and Inclusion,” offers five main areas of action for employers who seek to diversify the workforce and embrace valuable talent.

1. Lead with D&I: Set the tone – and culture – from the top

With any business initiative, the probability of success increases dramatically if there is buy-in from the top.

Manufacturing leaders have a natural affinity for the D&I mindset because running a profitable plant calls for thinking outside of the box, searching for innovative ways to tackle a problem and recognizing the value of a solution no matter where that solution originated. Modeling a culture of diversity and inclusion is squarely in a manufacturing leader’s wheelhouse.

Executives and top management can signal their endorsement of initiatives through company-wide announcements, by setting company policies and rolling out training, by creating D&I targets to strive for and by offering incentives to reward achievement.

2. Measure the state of D&I and set goals

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” – Peter Drucker

Drucker’s point applies to both diversity and inclusion, though measuring the former is more prevalent than the latter.

Diversity can be measured by tracking recruitment, hires, retention, promotions and employee exits. The metrics are objective and simple: Headcounts reveal a company’s diversity. But diversity without inclusion is incomplete.

For rating inclusion, headcounts just won’t do. Inclusion is a subjective issue that stems from employees’ feelings of being valued, respected, welcome and understood. Gauging success at being inclusive requires a deeper dive to examine what inclusion means, what it looks like in practice in the workplace and how the “included” employees rate their satisfaction. Employee engagement surveys are a way to tap into how well a company’s inclusion efforts are paying off.

Once a company’s state of diversity and inclusion is ascertained, leaders can identify target populations that are ripe for improvement. Managers then may be tasked with improving the D&I for a targeted group.

3. Organize – and empower – D&I employee groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are created so that members can share experiences and advocate for D&I changes, but also so that management can seek additional insight to drive company-wide change.

Offering employees a chance to advocate for themselves by participating in an ERG can give them an immediate “inclusion” boost and also can help the company identify operations or policies that could be improved to accommodate the needs of particular populations.

A group might be geared for women, for military veterans, for a particular ethnicity, for people with disabilities, or for any population identified as in need of greater diversity or inclusion in the company.

4. Cross-pollinate the high-impact D&I efforts

Sharing D&I successes among the far-flung locations of a large manufacturer is one way to share insights, to cross-pollinate and to drive improvement.

Successful D&I practices also can be migrated from upper-level management to the supervisory level and then to the plant floor. Some companies roll out efforts first to the executive level and then, when the results prove out the idea, roll out the efforts elsewhere.

Or a company might develop a targeted initiative that pertains to new hires or to promotions, and then have supervisors take a “refresher” D&I course prior to each new round of hiring or promotion reviews.

5. Partner with workforce intermediaries

Companies that partner with colleges, federal and local employment agencies and other organizations in an effort to seek out more diversity among job candidates will surely be rewarded for their efforts. They also may find themselves reaping an additional benefit; these networks can be a pipeline of candidates with the advanced skills that are increasingly required in digital manufacturing.

National and regional organizations – such as the Society for Women Engineers, the National Society for Black Engineers, the Urban League and the Urban Hispanic League – are additional groups with which to connect for seeking diverse employment applicants.

Want extra food for thought? Read more of the PwC and Manufacturing Institute’s report at