Diversity Makes Good Business Sense

Author: Magda Yrizarry is Verizon's chief talent and diversity officer. She is responsible for the development and implementation of Verizon's global diversity, recruitment, executive development and succession planning strategies.

Diversity is – and always has been – ingrained in Verizon’s culture and business strategy.  After all, the company serves some of the most diverse markets in the United States and 149 other countries across the world.

At Verizon, embracing and promoting diversity and inclusion is not an option.  It’s a business priority and essential for us to win in today’s competitive marketplace.  We have a shared accountability model that says we are all responsible for making diversity a priority – from the top of our organization (our Board of Directors) to our frontline employees.

Being innovative and finding new ways to infuse diversity and inclusion into our business is how we will remain leaders and attract the best talent.

Each year, Verizon holds a number of diversity and inclusion events that provide ways for employees and leaders to engage in diversity, which enhances the culture and their perspectives in this area.  The company recently hosted its 2013 Global Diversity & Inclusion Conference in Parsippany, N.J., with employees from across the business who ensure that the company is meeting its commitment to diversity while building Verizon’s reputation as a global leader.

This year’s conference theme, “The Power of Diversity and Innovation,” focused on how diversity can drive innovation.  Verizon’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam kicked off the event, citing the importance of the company’s employee resource groups (ERGs), whose members work tirelessly and provide an opportunity for employees to grow, volunteer and develop as leaders.

McAdam explained that Verizon invests in its network, in its culture and in its people – all which make the company as strong as it is.  He said the characteristics of an effective leader include fortitude; belief in self; strength in one’s own convictions; integrity; effective communications skills; the ability to influence versus exert direct control and power; and passion about the job.  He said one can’t choose to sit out the game, but must always be all in. 

Renowned speaker and author Frans Johansson gave a presentation on The Medici Effect,where he explained the importance of intersections and connections.  The more connected people are to each other, the more they won’t miss the trends and the more effective they’ll be in the workplace.  He said risk, trust and speed go together.  Employees should not wait for the leadership team to give them permission to step out and share ideas, Johansson noted.  Just do it.  If the ideas are embraced, good.  If not, that’s okay, too. 

During the afternoon, employees learned about Verizon’s efforts to make our workplace more productive and collaborative. New workplace designs make some offices more like a destination place where work and life needs intersect.  Verizon will renovate some work areas to make them more communal.  The company also showcases its products and services for employees in their workplace. 

Over the years, Verizon has done much in the area of sustainability.  For example, Verizon recently identified 23 company sites in seven states where it will install fuel cell technology and solar panels to help save money and reduce carbon emissions.

Verizon employees are also helping fellow employees affected by natural disasters as part of the company’s new V2V program, under which the Verizon Foundation will match employee donations up to $50,000.

The Global Diversity & Inclusion conference ended with breakout meetings for the employee resource groups.  Several ERGs are working with community organizations to prepare the future workforce by getting young people interested in STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math) courses and careers.