Message from Alumni Affairs Director Tara Lynn
Looking forward to January events: Predictions dinners and the 2012 Alumni Awards gala ... »
Angela Noble-Grange, MBA '942011 Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Carlos Quintanilla, MBA '802011 Distinguished Latino Alumni Award Recipient
Prospective and current students, alumni, faculty, and staff took time to share experiences, network, and learn
Expanding the Scope of Diversity in the Workplace
Fred Keeton, chief diversity officer and vice president of external affairs for Caesars Entertainment delivered keynote speech at Johnson’s 2014 Diversity Symposium
by Sherrie Negrea
Diversity once focused on bringing underrepresented groups into the workplace, but today it has evolved into a strategy that embraces different types of cognitive abilities among employees to drive better business outcomes.
Fred Keeton, chief diversity officer and vice president of external affairs for Caesars Entertainment, urged a group of Johnson students, prospective students, and faculty to broaden their definition of diversity at Johnson's 2014 Diversity Symposium. "Stop just attaching it to protected class issues and think about it in terms of business issues," Keeton said in a keynote speech at Sage Hall on Oct. 24.
When companies include employees with different cognitive abilities on teams, for example, it can lead to better business outcomes, Keeton said. But companies that have nontraditional biases and judge employees based on their cognitive skills, such as having a predisposition to being action-oriented, become locked into following orthodoxies, which prevents innovative thinking and decision-making.
This pattern can result in employees feeling overconfident and lead to poor business decisions, Keeton said. But by including diverse employees on teams, companies can avoid creating a "fixed capacity mindset" that doesn't empower employees from giving honest feedback.
One solution that can move decision-making forward is to encourage employees to ask questions across functional roles and geographic locations. In addition, employees need to talk "across silos" and formalize this process, which may also yield more diverse viewpoints, Keeton said.
"What we're talking about is using diversity to make sure you make the best decisions as we go along, rather than waiting until the end," Keeton said.
The goal in creating effective teams is to "get outside your group" and bring in diverse employees who collectively can solve complex business problems, Keeton said. "The farther you go out to bring different people in and put them on your teams and look at issues, the more likely you are to get to a breakthrough," he said.
Caesars Entertainment, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in 2013, has formalized this approach toward diversity and inclusion by creating Diverse-by-Design teams to work on specific projects. This allows the company, which has 68,000 people worldwide, to create what Keeton called "a solid-line connection between diversity and business outcomes."
Keeton, who grew up in Mississippi as the youngest of 11 children, said that when he has spoken about the need to recognize cognitive diversity at the National Press Club, Boeing, and Kaiser Permanente, he has drawn criticism for his approach.
"What I'm saying to you is not that you throw the baby out with the bathwater," Keeton said. But after ensuring that members of protected classes are reaching the top levels of management, he said, companies need to move to the next step. "Are we just going to say we are culturally competent and sound and have a nice organization or are we then going to use that to drive the outcomes? That's what this is all about, and that's the challenge."
Bringing Diversity to Teams
Panelists General George W. Casey Jr., Bain & Co. Managing Partner Hernan Saenz, and Mercer CFO Helen Shan discuss Leading Diverse Teams: How to Leverage Diversity in Your Career
by Sherrie Negrea
When Ann E. Dunwoody became the first woman to attain four-star rank in the U.S. military in 2008, the change at her first meeting with the Army's other top commanders was immediately apparent.
"The first time she opened her mouth, the impact was instantaneous," said General George W. Casey Jr., a distinguished senior lecturer of leadership at Johnson. "She had a different view, and we all said, 'I wish I had thought of that.' ”
Casey, who led the U.S. Army from 2007 to 2011, was one of three panelists who spoke about leading diverse teams in organizations at Johnson's 2014 Diversity Symposium at Sage Hall on Oct. 24.
One of the ways to create diverse teams, Casey said, is to identify competent personnel and mentor them through the promotion process. Dunwoody, for example, was viewed as having the qualifications to become a four-star general, and top military commanders managed her for about seven years until she was promoted to the top rank.
"We knew she had the capabilities, we gave her the experience, and when she got there she was qualified to do the job," Casey said. "And it wasn't enough to put the four stars on her. She had to be successful, and she was."
Another panelist, Hernan Saenz, MBA ’98, MILR ’98, a managing partner with Bain & Co., recalled that when he became a consultant 20 years ago, the major challenge was "getting people in the door." Although that problem has been resolved, companies still need to focus on creating a "leadership supply chain" so that there are qualified candidates who can be promoted. "You can't just make generals in one day," Saenz said.
Helen Shan, MBA ’93, the chief financial officer of Mercer, said it is more effective to advocate for diversity programs in organizations by using a "pull" — rather than a "push"— strategy. The reason companies should embrace diversity, she said, is because incorporating people with different views and backgrounds on teams creates the best business outcomes.
"If you can show that by having diversity you'll have better products, that's far more powerful," she said.
The three panelists attributed their success to a combination of luck and the ability to work for mentors whom they could emulate. When Shan worked for JP Morgan Securities, her supervisor was a woman a generation older who carved out a path for her. While their personalities were in stark contrast, Shan said, "There were things about what she did that I could do: listen, be empathetic, and learn what the client wants."
Although companies and organizations such as the military have embraced diversity, they still need to continually prioritize it as a key management goal. Casey recalled that when he returned to Washington after leading the Coalition Forces in Iraq in 2007, he had to reenergize the Army's diversity program, because it was languishing.
"There are a lot of folks who say we're done with diversity, that it's over, that we've succeeded," Casey said. "Most of those are white people. But it's the responsibility of the leaders of the organization to keep focused on it and not let it drop off, because we're not done."
Gain insights from a team of top-flight students by sponsoring an emerging markets project.