At Baxter International Inc., efforts to foster inclusion and diversity not only provide employees with a way to engage with each other and support their own development, but also with a means to engage in their communities and advocate for patients.
During Diversity Awareness Month this October, the company reflects on the importance of keeping these efforts a priority, says Linda Hartman-Reehl, director of inclusion and diversity at Baxter.
"Having a diverse employee population is essential; however, diversity alone does not ensure an inclusive culture," Hartman-Reehl says. "At Baxter, we strive to promote policies, programs, processes and systems that foster respect and create a workplace culture in which everyone is valued, has an opportunity for their voices to be heard, and can reach their career potential."
Building pride and awareness
Business Resource Groups (BRGs) are a vital element of fostering a culture of inclusion. Five established BRGs serve employees who are African-American, Asian-American, Latino, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), and female. Baxter also recently launched Early Career Professionals, a group for employees beginning their careers that provides career development, networking opportunities and aims to facilitate the retention of new professionals. Another newly-founded group is Baxter EnAbles, a network dedicated to promoting inclusion, awareness and respect of those living with disabilities. Soon to join the BRG ranks is BaxVets, a group devoted to the development and retention of veterans, as well as attracting new veteran talent.
Through cultural and educational events, such as Women's History Month, Asian Pacific American History Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month, as well as through initiatives of their own, BRG advocates have been able to educate and raise cultural awareness among employees and local communities.
In January, members of the Latinos@Baxter BRG organized a job shadow program for students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who were part of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. In March the group visited the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, a Chicago public high school, to help teach and give demonstrations to students—many of whom are Latino—on hospital acquired infections.
"Reaching out to the local community and being involved in education is integral to our group's mission," says Carlos Corrales, Engineering Manager and one of the Latinos@Baxter leads. "It's rewarding to work with young people in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education, as it benefits the Latino community and contributes to a more diverse future workforce in these underrepresented fields."
The groups are also working to expand internationally, and are always looking for ways to meet the unique needs of employees around the world. This year, the Building Women Leaders BRG expanded to include chapters in Asia Pacific and Belgium—with plans for chapters in several other countries-and also developed subgroups for women engineers, scientists and sales team members.
"It's really encouraging to see the interest from our international colleagues in bringing Building Women Leaders to their countries," says Meg McKenna, area vice president, specialty pharmaceuticals, and one of the leads for the BRG. Her co-lead, Donna Kopera, vice president, commercial operations for Baxter's U.S. BioScience business, adds, "These chapters provide open and comfortable avenues for employees to discuss issues related to women in the workplace that may be unique to their location or culture."
The company made additional strides in creating an open and welcoming environment when it raised a rainbow flag alongside the Baxter, State of Illinois and U.S. flags during the first week in June to spread awareness and demonstrate the company's support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusion, as part of Baxter's awareness efforts during National LGBT Pride Month. The Baxter Equality Network, a BRG for LGBT employees and allies, also hosted three "lunch and learn" sessions that provided forums for employees to better understand what it means to identify as LGBT, openly discuss how to be a straight ally, and learn tips for creating a welcoming workplace.
Global inclusion training
Baxter also trains all managers on building an inclusive culture through "The Power of Managing Inclusively," a mandatory half-day, instructor-led, workshop for all managers, supervisors and above, launched in 2012. Participants gain a foundation in understanding inclusion and diversity and explore their own perceptions. They also participate in exercises they can apply in their role as leaders—in recognizing and addressing non-inclusive behaviors among their employees and, most importantly, modeling inclusive behavior. The leader training is an essential element in the effort to support all employees in meeting their full career potential, says Jeanne Mason, Baxter's corporate vice president of human resources.
"Training programs such as our 'Power of Managing Inclusively' are critical to our aspiration to be a truly great company," Mason says. "We're committed to a culture where all employees are valued and respected."
Diverse viewpoints and backgrounds accepted
Pere Berkowitz, senior manager, marketing, who is part of the Baxter Equality Network leadership team, says that the raising of the rainbow flag and National LGBT Pride Month activities sent a clear message that the company values all its employees.
"It has been so personally rewarding to watch the growth of the Baxter Equality Network as well as the tremendous support from our senior leaders," says Berkowitz. "Our team continues to see more and more engagement, with straight allies and LGBT employees working together, and I feel that this is a terrific example of Baxter's commitment to raising awareness and support for an inclusive workplace."
To read more about Baxter's efforts in global inclusion and diversity, click here.