Friday, February 22, 2008

Corporate Profiles In Diversity - IBM

As the Diversity Talent Strategist for IBM America, Jamila A. Petite oversees diversity recruiting efforts for the top technology corporation. She recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with LatPro about the value of bilingual and multicultural employees, and what IBM is doing to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.

First, can you tell us a little about your own background and history with IBM?

I began my career with IBM in December of 2003 – fresh off a career in Supply Chain Management with General Mills after receiving a Master’s degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota. I joined IBM in an entry-level HR role in Rochester, MN. Several roles and opportunities later, I am the Diversity Talent Strategist for IBM America - which includes the U.S, Canada and Latin America. In this role, my team and I manage the diversity talent acquisition strategy for IBM.

How do you define and meet your diversity goals and objectives? Are minority hiring and retention metrics tied to your professional recruitment staff? How does your department measure success?

At IBM, our goal is to mirror the marketplace we operate within. To that end, our objective is to have a workforce population that is as diverse as the marketplace we serve globally. We measure success by having a workplace that embraces people and their individuality, as that is what makes us unique and stronger as a team.

What challenges have you encountered in recruiting Hispanic employees? What methods have you found to be most effective for recruiting multicultural candidates?

I’ve found it particularly difficult to recruit some candidates to opportunities that are farther away from home and their families than they would typically like. We’ve been successful in changing hearts and minds when we show how much we care about this impact. In fact, there have been instances when we’ve talked to parents about IBM and the various benefits we offer so that they could take comfort in their loved one moving far from home to join the IBM ranks.

How does your employee on boarding process help promote an inclusive atmosphere for diverse employees, right from the start?

We educate all new employees on the internal diversity programs and processes on day one. EVERYONE in IBM makes up our diversity mosaic – so everyone has a plethora of diversity inclusiveness options at their fingertips.

What do you say to those who feel that diversity programs are more about complying with EEO requirements and public image, rather than a real dedication to finding diverse candidates?

We have found that a commitment to diversity in the workplace lends itself to diversity of thought. This is the stuff that builds empires and sparks revolution in the technology and business realm. This is the bread and butter of our organization, so we encourage diversity at all levels.

What programs and initiatives exist to help your current workforce value diversity?

We believe it takes more than a simple diversity initiative to show commitment to employees that you value diversity as a company. It’s more than our rich history of diversity recruiting programs. More than our years of supporting diversity constituency network groups. This is the fabric of what IBM is – for us this is NATURAL. We operate in more than 160 countries globally. This exposes our employees to a multitude of cultures and co-workers. This is the rich diverse arena we work within.

Many companies struggle to bring diversity to all areas. Has IBM been successful in achieving diversity in upper management? How were you able to achieve this?

We certainly have. We hire the best and brightest talent into IBM and from that, we have a very rich pool of qualified candidates that can serve in leadership roles. We grow and nurture ALL of our talent in our inclusive environment. We are the architects of grooming top talent in business and technical ranks.

What is your company’s leadership commitment and involvement in diversity? How has the CEO or other top officer of the company embraced or championed diversity?

All IBMers, including our senior executives, are committed to diversity within IBM and externally, serving in leadership roles in both capacities.

What would you say to Latino candidates applying to IBM today? What can they do to use their language and cultural skills to their best advantage?

As a global enterprise, we coach all potential candidates to bring ALL of their best assets to the table. Since we operate in more than 160 countries, it’s important that we have a multitude of skills and languages in our teams to do business abroad with our clients. We tell EVERYONE to bring their best selves to the market and be prepared for an amazing career.

What do you want prospective diverse employees to know about IBM and its commitment to diversity?

To IBM, diversity is not a just a month, diversity is not just an isolated action. To IBM, diversity is a business imperative. We can move mountains with the fortitude of all of us working together. Our diversity makes us stronger as a global organization. We cherish diversity – we celebrate inclusiveness – we appreciate individuality. None of us is as strong as all of us.

About the Author: LatPro Inc

An innovator in the online employment industry, LatPro was launched in 1997 to become the very first job board connecting Hispanic bilingual candidates with employers. Our staff authors share targeted advice gained during our 10 years serving Hispanic jobseekers and diversity-conscious companies.

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