As part of a larger initiative to engage employees, create growth and innovation, and create operational excellence, Ingersoll Rand (www.ingersollrand.com) launched its Diversity Learning Lab early last year.
The focus is on “providing skill sets to senior and executive leadership employees around raising awareness of inclusion and diversity in the workplace and the marketplace,” says Neddy Perez, vice president of Global Diversity & Inclusion for the diversified industrial company.
Ingersoll Rand turned to a third-party vendor to facilitate the 2-day leadership development program on diversity and inclusion. As of the fall, more than 150 C-suite leaders and their direct reports had graduated from the Diversity Learning Lab, and more were expected to complete the program by January 2012.
Initially, all participants were executive leaders. “Some of the executives had been together for a while, and some were new to the company,” Perez says. The program gave them “the opportunity to bond and recognize their own differences.”
The program was later rolled out to the executives’ direct reports, referred to as “senior leaders” at Ingersoll Rand, with executives participating in the program alongside them.
Each session included representatives from the company’s global operations, as well as a diverse makeup of employees from within the United States. Perez notes that the participants included a balance in each session of men and women, as well as Chinese, Europeans, Middle Easterners, Indonesians, Indians, and Americans. “One of the goals of the program was to increase understanding of our global operations and the gender or cultural differences that can impact the workplace.”
The first part of the program addressed the business case for inclusion and diversity, including the need to be more successful in managing Ingersoll Rand teams, she says.
The rest of the program focused on exponential learning. Participants completed “fish bowl exercises” in which leaders shared their experiences as business leaders at Ingersoll Rand and/or other companies, Perez explains. “The Diversity Learning Labs focused on cultural differences and how to build trusting relationships that allow people to share their perspectives.
“Training is a key part of creating an environment where people value each other’s differences and can engage in open conversations,” she adds.
Ingersoll Rand offers ongoing support to Diversity Learning Lab graduates. This year, Perez says the company will hold a series of quarterly follow-up meetings in which leaders will also participate in conference calls, receive online coaching, and have access to the company’s diversity website, where they can view videos to enhance their training.
“Once people completed the training, we didn’t just leave them out there,” Perez says, adding that the company built tools and resources to reinforce the training and to help graduates be more effective in their roles.
This year, a similar diversity and inclusion program tailored to the next level of Ingersoll Rand leaders (i.e., “people managers”) will be provided. Perez says that the company is also reviewing a dozen courses available through its corporate university that are considered critical courses for people managers and incorporating information about diversity and inclusion into those modules.
In addition, the company is creating two programs from scratch: a “Diversity and Inclusion 101” session for all people managers and a 1-hour module on this topic for all employees.