Strategic Inclusion: Q&A With Rockwell Automation's Susan Schmitt
Susan Schmitt, SVP of HR at Rockwell Automation, is presenting at the MAPI Executive Summit (May 24-25 in Chicago) on the real ROI of inclusion, along with Mara Swan, EVP of global strategy and talent at ManpowerGroup. Susan and Mara will explain the business case for moving beyond diversity initiatives to conscious inclusion and will reveal which strategies drive results. Susan leads the global HR team at Rockwell Automation, which has 22,500 employees in 80 countries. She has over 25 years of HR experience, including at the Kellogg Company and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
In the below interview, Susan describes Rockwell Automation’s journey toward inclusion, both in the U.S. and abroad, and explains why women and people of color should not be the only leaders transforming workplace culture. To learn more about Susan’s presentation at the Executive Summit, check out our agenda and then click here to register. The summit attracts a wide range of senior manufacturing leaders, including from HR, operations, sales, marketing, legal, finance, and the c-suite.
What are the biggest hurdles in achieving a more inclusive corporate culture?
One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make is expecting women (and people of color, in the U.S.) to lead the critical work of creating an inclusive culture. This implies that inclusion is “their” concern, puts the burden of responsibility on them to “fix the problem,” and creates a dynamic in which progress may be perceived as self-serving. It also leaves white men, who are typically the majority of U.S. multinational companies’ leadership teams, feeling that inclusion is not their issue.
When white men lead culture change, they understand they are members of a group, too: the white male group, which has its own culture. They understand that their group is the dominant group responsible for leading the meaningful changes that need to occur for a fair and inclusive organization. The same is true for companies outside the U.S.: typically men are the leaders and remain the dominant group who sets the rules, although they may not be white men. When men recognize the privilege they have and partner with women and people of color, or relevant minority non-dominant groups throughout the world, this is what creates truly diverse global leadership teams.
When this happens, we see a completely different dynamic play out. It’s one that leads to long-term, real, and sustainable change. The leadership and partnership created through these insights drive an intentional, focused, and substantive approach to removing systemic barriers that get in way of creating gender parity and a more diverse organization. In turn, companies drive higher levels of financial performance and higher levels of employee—and eventually customer—engagement.
Are you successfully implementing D&I in operations overseas?
We have adopted language from Andrés Tapia of Korn Ferry that defines diversity as “the mix” and inclusion as “making the mix work.” Rockwell Automation added to this language that engagement is “optimizing the performance and energy of the mix.” Creating a common language to define diversity, inclusion, and engagement resonates globally and broadens the traditional U.S. perspective of diversity.
Most of our work outside the U.S. has been focused on inclusion and engagement and we conduct a global employee engagement survey every three years. We have a leadership steering committee composed of half of our company’s senior leaders who report to the CEO, along with several vice presidents and directors to ensure we have representation and support across the company at the highest levels. They consolidate the global work and sponsor several work teams in our regions working on actions to address opportunities revealed from this survey.
More recently, we piloted a program in Europe and the U.S. on mitigating unconscious bias and plan to implement this program globally. Latin America started its own inclusion change team to understand and remove barriers to inclusion in the workplace. In addition, we have 11 employee resource groups with 21 chapters in 9 countries and about 4,000 of our 22,000 employees are members of these groups.
What’s the best way to measure the success of a diversity and inclusion process?
Traditional measurements include representation compared to availability. This means creating a formula or metrics-based analysis on how many people are in roles compared to how many people are available in the talent market. However, this measurement looks only at a fixed point in time, is very U.S.-centric, and does not give a good indicator of the sustainability of such efforts.
A stronger measure of success is the strength of the pipeline of women for roles that manage profit and loss (P&L) and whether or not you see a more diverse leadership team running your company. When there is a culture that requires inclusion and intentional focus to create a level playing field by all leaders—especially the men in positions of power—the results are robust diverse succession plans, leaders who are ready for their positions and succeed on a longer-term basis, and leaders who stay at your company.
What will it take for the U.S. manufacturing sector to faithfully embrace and implement D&I cultures in the next decade?
Diversity and inclusion will only be fully embraced by the U.S. manufacturing sector when two things happen: first, men leading those organizations understand the impact of their dominant group status and culture on all others and begin to take intentional steps to address the inequities that exist. Second, senior leaders recognize they have no choice but to create a diverse organization because a diverse organization and leadership team is fundamental to staying in business. They must connect this need for diversity to their business goals and make it a strategic imperative. Organizations that embrace inclusion have environments where all employees believe and feel they can do their best work. This leads to more innovation, better decision-making, more productivity, and ultimately greater growth and higher performance. Being inclusive is vital to ensure we are relevant to our customers and can attract the best talent to our organizations.
How does your organization support women and minority groups after the hiring process to improve retention?
Retaining all talent is critical to our long-term success. The key to retaining talent is providing a workplace where all employees feel they can bring their whole selves to work—a place where people can grow, thrive, and do their best work. The culture work at Rockwell Automation has focused on cultural transformation to create such an environment. This requires the leadership, sponsorship, and modeling of behaviors by the dominant group—white men. In addition, we have many talent management processes in place to ensure that women and minority groups get the development, exposure, and visibility needed to grow their careers.
The Next Steps on the Diversity and Inclusion Journey
To join Susan and Mara at the MAPI Executive Summit in Chicago and learn more about the ROI of inclusion, visit mapisummit.com.
- Discover the Best Kept Secret that differentiates Rockwell Automation as a valued partner
- Read more about the Rockwell Automation culture of inclusion in their 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report (starting on page 19)
- Find out how Rockwell Automation transformed their culture in the Catalyst reports Calling All White Men: Can Training Help Create Inclusive Workplaces? and Anatomy of Change: How Inclusive Cultures Evolve
- Read Mara Swan’s recent essay on practical advice for moving toward conscious inclusion
- Learn 10 Ways to Address Unconscious Bias in Hiring on the MAPI blog
- Register for MAPI’s June 16 webinar on Understanding and Addressing Unconscious Bias in Ourselves and Our Business