Collierville Chamber of Commerce Offers Dynamic Learning Opportunity to Members
FedEx Provides Valuable Information and Experience about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The Collierville Chamber of Commerce offered a rare opportunity for members to gain valuable insight about diversity, equity and Inclusion from representatives of FedEx, a company respected nationally and internationally for their efforts in the field of diversity. A packed room enjoyed an insightful program and lunch at the Ridgeway Country Club on September 16.
President and CEO of the Chamber Mark Heuberger welcomed guests and thanked FedEx for offering topflight presenters on a timely topic for the day’s topic. Prior to commencing the program, Heuberger thanked County Commissioner David Bradford and the Shelby County Commission for providing a County Enhancement Grant to the Chamber, which allowed the Chamber to present the day’s event and other similar events throughout the year. He also thanked FedEx for being a top-tier Premier Sponsor of the Chamber.
Janas Jackson, Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at FedEx Express, commented briefly on the importance of diversity, stating succinctly, “Diversity includes all of us.” Jackson also mentioned the importance of benchmarking successful programs that can be shared throughout the business community across the country and the globe.
Shannon Brown, Senior Vice President of Eastern Division U.S. Operations and Chief Diversity Officer of FedEx Express, offered his own welcoming words, highlighting the expansive power of FedEx with their hundreds of thousands of aircraft and employees. “FedEx touches the world,” he noted. Brown made a specific point of addressing the goal of providing better service to FedEx customers, and how diversity, equity and inclusion were all part of growing a stronger workforce to provide a better customer experience.
Following Brown, Jeana Littrell, Vice President Litigation at FedEx, encouraged participants to recognize that diversity is more than highlighting a protected class of employees. She commented: “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion drives profitability and is simply ‘the right thing to do.’” Littrell also noted, “If diversity is the dance, equity reflects the idea that some people might need lessons.”
Reflecting on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, Littrell suggested that all aspects of an organization or company should be considered: culture, education, people, communities, suppliers – the total story. And, she added, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) must be considered daily. Citing FedEx’s multiple “Affinity Groups” that represent their diverse employee makeup, she used examples of Asian, LGT, U.S. Military, Men’s Collective, Women, Multi-Faith and Cancer Support as some of the many groups that the company has formed to provide opportunities for specific interests to have their particular concerns addressed. As a concluding comment, Littrell suggested that any employee in any company or organization should learn to be an ally to those who might need assistance.
Robbin Page, VP Human Resources, focused her comments on the importance of breaking down barriers so that employees can listen to each other more effectively, citing the need to transfer knowledge as well as vitality and energy within an organization. Calling attention to the FedEx story through a host of videos designed to educate employees about maximizing opportunities, she mentioned the importance of developing a “talent well” as opposed to a simple “talent pool.” Understanding the difference in employees with varying levels of education and even the different language requirements when dealing with women in a historically male world could encourage a greater number of potential qualified managers and leaders. She highlighted the importance of investing in people.
Page described a host of programs that FedEx has instituted to reach previously under-represented employees. LIFT (Learning Innovation for Tomorrow) offers an opportunity for employees to get training at their own pace to learn about new equipment, software and programs used by FedEx. LIFE (Learning Inspired by FedEx) offers employees who face a lack of education to go back to school more easily, through a partnership with U of M Global Learning. Employees may take remedial coursework to help them prepare for their high school equivalency. or complete college or other advanced training with no out-of-pocket expenses. Since the inception of the program, FedEx has seen participants exhibit 67% less chance of leaving the company, with 73% minority participation. Finally, OnDeck is a program that allows 13 weeks of modular learning to gain a leg up for individuals, prior to starting a new job, thus offering a much greater likelihood for success. As Page explains, such programs are a means of breaking down barriers.
Rose Flenorl, Manager of Global Citizenship at FedEx, detailed various programs throughout the U.S. and the local community in which FedEx offers philanthropic and logistical support. From disaster support to job fairs, FedEx keeps its corporate eye on those areas where they can reach the most vulnerable. Global entrepreneurship is of particular interest to the corporation and providing training, mentoring and capital are all part of their efforts. While the list of partnerships and sponsorships runs the gamut, focus is most often given to those that reflect the need for diversity, equity and inclusion to segments of the population with the greatest need: Vital Voices, a program promoting assisting women refugees; WBNEC or Women’s Business Enterprise National Council; Memphis Area Entrepreneur Support; Hiring Our Heroes; which supports returning veterans, and HBCU, Historically Black Colleges and Universities have all benefitted from FedEx largesse. Other organizations include the Asian American Alliance, Trevor Project, National Urban League, the NAACP and Dress for Success.
LaTonya Cooper, Sourcing Manager for FedEx Express, and Shannon Brown combined efforts to discuss the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion when considering choice of suppliers, and how a proactive approach is often required to help small businesses without experience in such areas as successfully completing RFPs or Requests for Proposals. The company’s Supplier Diversity Program assists in such matters. It’s all part of their attempt to “invite more people to the dance.”
In addition to informative and moving presentations, the moderators opened the floor up for questions throughout the day. Participants left the meeting with new ideas of how to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their own organizations. They learned why it was not just “the right thing to do,” but why it made excellent business sense.