Four years ago, when Kimberly Gacso began working at pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, learning and development and diversity in the company weren’t connected and were running on separate agendas.
Today, Gacso, executive director of global leadership development, said she works with Nancy Di Dia, chief diversity officer of Boehringer Ingelheim U.S., to stay connected on all initiatives. Though they’re “two different centers of excellence,” Gacso said, they work together toward realizing each other’s strategies.
“We make sure that we have diverse instructors if we’re going to be running programs or any kind of classroom training,” Gacso said. “We make sure that the diversity and inclusion agenda, philosophy, strategy, etc., is integrated into the content and/or curriculum of any programs that we run.”
Gacso noted that the two departments have the same goals: They both make sure leaders are retaining and engaging talent and have a cross-cultural competence, among other attributes.
“Both of us looked at our global strategies from a bunch of different perspectives,” Gacso said. “We want to be a sustainable organization [and] provide continuous health improvements. We’ve been around for 125 years; we would like to do that for another 125 years.”
Gacso said Boehringer Ingelheim is starting a global strategic leadership program this year that will include roughly 350 leaders across the organization. While looking through the first cohort, Gacso and Di Dia noticed a lack of diversity.
“[We] added more diverse participants based on gender, location and experience,” Gacso said. “[We] specifically handpicked more females, leaders from the Asian population and those who have worked in emerging markets. We didn’t feel like we could have a robust and rich enough discussion without diverse perspectives in the room.”
Gacso added that emerging markets are a big component of Boehringer Ingelheim’s growth strategy, so having that perspective was important.
AT&T also has integrated its learning and development and diversity departments. Cindy Brinkley, senior vice president of talent development and chief diversity officer at AT&T, said this was a strategic decision.
“We just thought this was a great way to have the levers in one place,” Brinkley said. “You really can’t do talent development without understanding diversity because you need to make sure all that flows hand in hand.”
According to Brinkley, AT&T’s leadership pipeline is easier to manage with this integration.
“The design was really [intended] to recognize that it’s the people who will drive innovation within AT&T,” Brinkley said, adding that having that kind of focused attention on learning, development, diversity and workforce planning under one department makes a difference. In this way, when it comes to learning and development, the learning styles, education level, culture, age group and even geographic location of AT&T’s entire workforce are taken into account.
AT&T is making sure all teaching, developing and communicating are going on as they should based on those characteristics, Brinkley said. This boosts innovation for the company.
“We’re not going to be as innovative if we have one mind-set,” Brinkley said.
Natalie Morera is an associate editor of Chief Learning Officer. She can be reached at nmorera@CLOmedia.com.