By Caryn Freeman
May 7 — Kimberly-Clark is addressing diversity by using digital media over a number of platforms in order to generate creative thinking and build a culture of acceptance, Eric P. Stallworth, director of diversity and inclusion at the personal care products giant, said May 5 at the American Society for Training & Development's International Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C.
Kimberly-Clark, which has partnered with consulting firm Korn Ferry in its diversity efforts, seeks a cultural transformation to inspire a greater understanding of diversity across its global workforce of 58,000 employees in 60 countries.
“How do we allow our perspectives, backgrounds and experiences not only to be recognized, understood and valued, but ultimately be utilized in a way that generates innovation? How do we create an environment that allows those points of view to be valued? That was our challenge.”
“The most diverse teams, without an inclusive climate, don't help [innovation], and the most inclusive climate, without diverse backgrounds and perspectives, won't help either,” Dave Eaton, senior partner at consulting firm Korn Ferry, said at the conference. “It's that melding between the two that can be really magical.”
Stallworth said that when he arrived at Kimberly-Clark three years ago, it had an antiquated definition of what diversity meant. “It was race, ethnicity, gender and came from a U.S. perspective of what diversity meant, although we are a global company,” he said. “So it necessitated us to redefine diversity.”
Stallworth began working with Kimberly-Clark's top 1,000 leaders across 22 countries, creating an interactive workshop to understand what the company's regional challenges were from a diversity standpoint.
“How do we allow our perspectives, backgrounds and experiences not only to be recognized, understood and valued, but ultimately be utilized in a way that generates innovation? How do we create an environment that allows those points of view to be valued? That was our challenge,” Stallworth said.
“We wanted to be truly inclusive about that process and understand what the challenges were in each region, then coalesce all of that information to help us formulate a new strategy,” he said.
Stallworth explained that the company came up with a “transmedia” storytelling approach—a technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using digital technology.
Kimberly-Clark used a number a different vehicles, podcasts, animated shorts and a live action drama, somewhat like a “webisode” series, that was shared across the organization every other week.
Stallworth said viewing the material was not mandatory. The company was seeking to make it “compelling enough that employees would want to watch the next episode,” he said.
Stallworth said he worked with the marketing team to create a dynamic e-mail campaign to entice employees to open the messages and view the videos, and used a “leadership approach,” where each of Kimberly-Clark's global human resources departments received the content, via e-mail, two weeks prior to employees, “so they could embed those lessons into the organization.”
“When you think about the ways we have been entertained and have learned through the years, it isn't through an eight hour classroom workshop being lectured at,” Eaton commented. “Some of the best learning is done in five-minute increments, switching up the modality so it keeps you on your toes. We came up with a video-based journey, without classrooms, without trainer expenses, with an outcome not for just one person or 20 people in a training room, but for 23,000 people in an organization going through this learning journey all at the same time.”
Said Stallworth: “You can tell when the learning has taken root when employees are on a first name basis with the characters in the series. Its evident that employees have a familiarity with the characters and it becomes a part of who they are.”
Stallworth told Bloomberg BNA in an interview after the conference session that with this transmedia model, Kimberly-Clark managers are now able to recognize where there might be bias and openly address and acknowledge those biases, and are better equipped to have conversations about how to improve inclusiveness on individual teams.
“I think this has given our leaders, our HR directors and all of our HR business partners the tools they need in order to have those conversations,” he said.
“The greater issue is how do we innovate faster, how can we be reactive to the customer, and more importantly, how do we anticipate what those customers' needs are,” Stallworth said. “By making sure that we are hiring outside of what our normal field of vision is, we can position ourselves to anticipate that new customer and what its needs are.”
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