LIMA — Companies that cultivate a diverse and inclusive workforce where employees feel valued for who they are often see their productivity rise, said Jamie De La Cruz, a human resources director for Marathon Petroleum Company.
Cruz pitched the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace during the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce’s annual breakfast Friday, the start of a five-year strategic plan to encourage businesses here to adopt their own diversity and inclusion policies.
“It is the secret sauce to making an organization run at higher levels to achieve higher goals,” Cruz said. “Nothing about diversity or inclusion is lowering standards. It’s all about raising standards.”
Diversity in the workplace introduces new perspectives that improve performance, Cruz said, describing an instance in which Marathon’s expansion into an ethnic community was aided by the advice of an employee of a similar background who understood the cultural norms.
Companies that hire veterans, people of color, persons with disabilities or those who identify as LGBTQ, Cruz said, can “bounce ideas off each other” in ways that companies without those perspectives could not.
And what happens when companies hire teams reflective of their customers? “We can be more successful as a business,” Cruz said.
Jed Metzger, president of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, said diversity and inclusion programs often take years to implement correctly, which prompted the chamber to organize a series of training seminars on the subject to help Lima-area companies adopt their own policies.
“It has to be intentional,” Metzger said.
Friday’s session highlighted Marathon and Nutrien, two companies that have already implemented diversity and inclusion programs.
Cruz said that once a company realizes that diversity and inclusion impact its performance, leadership should ask who else should be brought in. And companies shouldn’t delegate that responsibility onto their employees, Cruz said.
Those policies can also reduce risk in addition to being the “right thing to do,” said Leslie Coleman, vice president of diversity and inclusion for Nutrien.
Nutrien’s efforts have extended from the workplace to the supply chain to ensure that “everyone feels they can bring their whole selves to work every day,” Coleman said.
“Companies with diversity want to move forward,” Coleman said. “Their leadership teams and their workforce outperform their peers. Our shareholders ask me those questions and make decisions based on how we are advancing, not only environmental issues but social factors, including equity, diversity and inclusion.”