Posters promoting Zebra's support for the LGBTQ+ community
By Your Edge Blog Team | August 14, 2019

Ask the Expert: What Does “Inclusion and Diversity” Mean in Business Today?

As Zebra’s Supply Chain and Services Lead Steve Williams Explains, “Inclusion and Diversity” Efforts Can’t be Exclusive to the Human Resources Function Anymore

Study after study now indicates that corporate “culture” is valued over compensation by most workers, with “inclusion and diversity” efforts being one of the core indicators of an organization’s culture.

So, we decided to sit down with one of Zebra’s newest executives, Steve Williams, to gain a better understanding of what companies of all sizes can and should be doing to promote inclusion and diversity.

Now, you may be wondering why we are talking to the head of supply chain and services about inclusion and diversity. (This is traditionally an HR effort, right?) However, I don’t think it will take you long to see why advocating for greater inclusion and diversity at Zebra – and taking broad personal action – has become such an important part of his work life. Or why he believes that facilitating an inclusive and diverse culture is the responsibility of every executive across every business function.

Your Edge Blog Team: We know you are not a human resources (HR) professional, but it seems like there has been a significant shift in priorities among job seekers in the past decade. Instead of searching for jobs within a certain salary range first, people may narrow their list of potential employers – and only apply to jobs – based on the reported culture. At the same time, they may walk away from a high-paying opportunity if they hear the culture isn’t great. Why do you think that is?

Steve: As Robert Half’s workplace happiness research has made very clear, “professionals derive job satisfaction from less tangible things, including:

  • Having pride in their organization
  • Feeling appreciated
  • Being treated with fairness and respect
  • Having a sense of accomplishment
  • Engaging in interesting and meaningful work
  • Building positive workplace relationships”

So, compensation may still play some role in people’s career decisions. But I think that feeling of “satisfaction” is just becoming more powerful as people start to re-assess what’s important in life. That’s just my opinion, though.

Your Edge Blog Team: Is that why you think so many companies, including Zebra, are so focused on improving their “culture”?

Steve: Absolutely. Ask the leader of any successful company the key to its success, and I bet that he or she will tell you it’s “the people.”

People, not products, are the essence of any brand. If they feel welcome, supported, accepted and appreciated, then they will be motivated to design, build, market, sell and deliver the best solutions and services to the best of their abilities. They will look forward to showing up for work every day and working hard for you. And, as you noted before and studies have confirmed, it’s the culture – not necessarily compensation – that will either motivate people to “show up” and work their hardest or just go through the motions each day.

Your Edge Blog Team: What do you think organizations should focus on when trying to improve their culture?

Steve: There are a lot of factors that influence employee’s perception of an organization’s culture. However, at Zebra, we believe that inclusion and diversity plays an important role – if not a direct role – in fostering those feelings of satisfaction I mentioned earlier.

Your Edge Blog Team: Is that why Zebra is investing so heavily in “inclusion and diversity” programs right now?

Steve: Yes, and it’s why we prioritize inclusion and diversity across every department. We work with our HR team to facilitate diversification. Inclusion and diversity is not just about hiring and promoting certain demographics to maintain balance in the “numbers.” It’s about educating employees about various cultural differences, especially as a global company. It is about advocating for unbiased acceptance of all people. And it’s about “diversity of thought”.

Your Edge Blog Team: Can you elaborate on that? What do you mean by “diversity of thought"?

Steve: The success of our inclusion and diversity efforts and, really, the success of our business is driven primarily by three things:

  1. Widespread leadership engagement in the issues that matter to our employees, partners and customers
  2. Our company culture as a whole
  3. The execution of programs that cultivate a sense of community and belonging for all Zebras

Your Edge Blog Team: So, from Zebra’s perspective – and yours – a company’s culture extends far beyond your four walls?

Steve: Exactly. As an employer, we must make sure that every single person feels welcome, accepted and appreciated every day he or she walks through that door, whether an employee, partner or customer. But we must also be sure that each person who interacts with our business, in any capacity, is “being treated with fairness and respect” every step of the way.

Your Edge Blog Team: Do you have any advice about what to do, or not do, for companies who are trying to improve their culture?

Steve: I was reading a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article the other day on this topic, and this particular statement about a company’s leadership commitment to inclusion and diversity really resonated with me:

“Superficial words and platitudes are insufficient – as evidenced by the 75% of employees we [HBR] surveyed who see diversity programs in place but feel no effect.”

Saying that inclusion and diversity matters to a company is not enough. Thoughtful, directed actions to create a diverse, inclusive workplace (or, in my case, supply chain organization) must be taken every day on a broad scale to demonstrate your values as a company.

Of course, there are many ways to put inclusion and diversity strategies into action. Holding events to promote understanding or forming diversity groups that can facilitate a sense of community among those with common interests, backgrounds and more can help to create a positive workplace. But those are just part of the equation.

Your Edge Blog Team: Is that why Zebra created the Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) and, more recently, the Zebra Equality Alliance (ZEAL)?

Steve: Yes. We believe that the formation of employee organizations such as these should be the foundation of any corporate inclusion and diversity program. We are continuously soliciting input from our employees on how we can best support them, and we’ll put forth the resources needed to create and sustain WIN, ZEAL and several other Zebra Inclusion Networks that we hope to establish in the coming months. We are also establishing a network for interns, which we hope to later expand to an Early Careers Inclusion Network to further encompass those employees who are in their initial years of their careers.

We want to recognize, support and celebrate the growth of all individuals.

Your Edge Blog Team: Speaking of celebration, we understand that one of the Zebras who launched the ZEAL network was just honored for his contributions to help build Zebra's inclusive and diverse culture. 

Steve: Yes, Crain’s Chicago Business just named Mike Stent a “Notable LGBTQ Executive for 2019.” The work he is doing to promote inclusion and diversity here at Zebra has made such a positive impact on our employees and for our company as a whole. We’re thrilled that others in the business community are taking notice of Mike’s efforts, and we hope that it will inspire others to launch similar inclusion and diversity programs in their organizations and communities.

Your Edge Blog Team: How – and why – did you personally become involved with Zebra’s inclusion and diversity programs?

Steve: When I joined Zebra in December 2018, I was immediately interested in supporting any and all efforts to improve inclusion and diversity. 

To be honest, I have always felt a sense of obligation to support any effort to include others who might be marginalized or not represented. Even in middle and high school, I would actively seek connections with other classmates who were different than I was. I would do what I could to support, include and actively advocate for them. 

As a leader, it is critical to support, lead, inspire and listen to everyone and to take a proactive stance to be inclusive of others.  From a diversity standpoint, I believe that the only way you can attract the best people, come up with the best ideas and secure the best outcomes is if you are open to hearing what everyone has to say, even if their thoughts, interests or experience aren’t completely in line with yours.

Your Edge Blog Team: Is that why we are sitting down with you to talk inclusion and diversity even though your day job is focused on supply chain operations?

Steve: Exactly. The ultimate goal of Zebra’s inclusion and diversity program is to drive a sense of inclusion for all employees.  As an executive leadership team (ELT) sponsor for the program, my personal goal is to drive the right messaging and tone from the top on the importance of both inclusion and diversity in general (in life) and in the programs that we develop to foster an inclusive and diverse environment at Zebra.  I’d like to see an environment where this becomes inherent in our culture, such that all employees may be authentic about themselves in the workplace. I want all employees to have access to development opportunities that empower them to reach their full potential. Plus, I strongly believe that diverse perspectives – or “diversity in thought” – drive innovation and enhanced business strategies. 

Your Edge Blog Team: That last point you made…is that the biggest benefit of Zebra’s inclusion and diversity initiative in your opinion? At least from a business perspective?

Steve: PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) did a study in 2015 which indicates 85 percent of CEOs whose organizations have an inclusion and diversity strategy say it has improved their bottom line. In addition to the employee impact, a robust inclusion and diversity strategy can impact sales.  The Center for Talent Innovation has found that organizations that have high ratings for inclusion and diversity are 70 percent more likely to have success in new markets and 45 percent more likely to improve their market share.   

Creating a more inclusive, diverse workplace can help drive increased innovation and enhanced employee engagement, while improving employee retention and making Zebra a preferred place of employment to attract new talent. Plus, an inclusive and diverse workforce is imperative to Zebra’s ability to drive creativity through problem-solving and new perspectives, all of which are needed to engage the level of innovation needed to stay competitive in the fast-paced technology industry.


Editor’s Note:

We want to know…

How important is a company’s culture – and inclusion & diversity – as an employee or business partner?

Tell us below in the Comments section. Then, stay tuned here on Your Edge to learn about Zebra’s future inclusion and diversity initiatives. You may also be interested in these recent blogs about Zebra’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives:


Inside Zebra Nation, Corporate Social Responsibility,
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