I am looking for suggestions, examples, and experiences to help in the development of training for employees to improve their external network building skills to build further diversity in our organization.


A couple of months ago, I volunteered to participate in a “Diversity Council” within our Information Systems organization. Our “IS Diversity” vision is “to be a world-class Information Services organization that builds its strength through the successful integration of the diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences of our employees around the world.”

In support of that vision, I’ve taken on a task from a previous council member to develop a Computer-based Training (CBT). The intent of this CBT is to provide IS employees with information and skill development for helping to build a network that further promotes diversity, with respect to bringing in new employees. The expectation is that this training will supplement other programs where company representatives are attending job fairs, professional conferences, and training conferences.

The original draft of the CBT essentially provides information on company background and then provides instructions to direct people to the corporate website to apply. I feel that this is an incomplete approach and doesn’t address the building of relationships. I expect the contrary perspective and concern is that representatives at these conferences do not have time or expertise to represent all appropriate areas and build relationships.

What are your thoughts and experiences?



WillDuke's picture
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Have you listened to the building a network podcast?

Do you think the goals you describe below can be met with computer based training? It sounds like you want your people to know how to interact with other people. It doesn't seem like more time in front of a computer screen is going to help you there.

I'd be looking at Toastmasters, Chamber of Commerce functions, Community Service groups. I'll bet Dani would be happy to take some of your people as volunteers for ACS and put 'em on the street. :)

In fact, what a great idea. American Cancer Society would get volunteers, and your people would get diversity and experience meeting people they don't already know. And a great cause would benefit. What a terrific Win-Win situation.

juliahhavener's picture
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CC - If you think your people don't have time to establish relationships, I'll challenge it a bit. My employees work on the phone. They routine establish relationships within 10 minutes. Other teams in my office do this in an average of 4 minutes.

Every contact you make with another human being has the potential to be a relationship - whether it is the cashier at the grocery store, someone you speak to on the phone, or stand with in the elevator. What you do with the time you have is what will make or break that opportunity.

jhack's picture

Does your company provide a cash incentive bonus for successful referrals? Doesn't guarantee diversity, but it provides motivation.

Could the CBT model specific interactions for people: what to say at a party, at church, at a fundraiser. How to exchange business cards (or information). Practical, specific behaviors that they can practice to show them how to build a network.


ccleveland's picture

Thanks for all the replies!

As far as computer-based training (CBT) vs. another alternative: we often use custom developed CBT’s here for training. The format is a professional voice-over with slide-like bullets/diagrams and has an interactive “quiz” to help confirm and reinforce key points. I do think that this is an effective means of delivering the message, especially to a potentially large number of people. It’s not all that different from a podcast; although, it won’t have M&M’s wit and style!

The expectation is that this CBT will be made available to our few thousand IS staff. Communications will target those that have hiring responsibility. If all goes well, this program could be rolled out corporate wide.

[b]The current plan is to have three, short, independent “modules”: [/b]
[b]1. Company background[/b]: make sure everyone is on the same minimum level regarding company history and high-level company info. This part is pretty simple. I’m trying to leverage what we use to train our sales staff.

[b]2. [/b] Bad working title – [b]Building Wyeth’s Diversity through Hiring[/b]: provide instruction on good practices/behaviors at job fairs, employer info sessions, or other events meant to get potential employees and employers together.

As mentioned earlier, the thought process is to drive people to the corporate job listing web page. [b]Julia[/b], I [u]do[/u] think that people have time to build relationships; I’m not convinced that a meaningful relationship can be developed in 4-10 minutes. It takes additional communication and follow-up to truly establish a relationship.

When trying to meet 10, 50, or 100+ people at an employment event, I can see others’ points of view that relationship building in this environment may not be effective. I’m also not convinced at the effectiveness of these types of events in general; however, this is part of our overall strategy. I’d love to hear others’ experiences with this!

[b]3.[/b] Working title - [b]Building Diverse Personal Networks[/b]: help managers with the more direct network building, especially at training conferences and events not specifically intended to get potential employees/ers together.

Part of this module will be to emphasize looking at increasing the diversity of one’s personal network. This is where I see much more value in developing personal relationships. This could also raise attention to other areas like Will mentioned, like Toastmasters, community orgs, etc.

[b]Responses to other questions/comments[/b]
I have listened to the building a network podcast, twice! In fact, the ideas represented there that have caused me to change the original title and direction from a “How to Network” to “Building a Diverse Network”.

We don’t have an IS staff in Arkansas, but I’m sure Dani would let us know who to contact in Pennsylvania or NJ! ;) In all, seriousness, it’s a great idea to raise attention to the networks they’re already part of.

John: We do have referral bonuses. I am now interested in data on how effective that has been here, especially in the context of diversity. Also, thanks for the additional point about practical, specific behaviors. I agree it will be an important component to have in there.


WillDuke's picture
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CC - With your good intentions and knowledge, I'm sure this will be a terrific success! I have been thinking about the CBT nature of it, and I definitely see where some deliverable tips could help. I actually delivered a "How To" for Chamber of Commerce events to Chamber members.

1. Read the paper, listen to the news, get the sports scores. Be aware of current events before a trade show. Small talk is easier if you know current events. Even if you're not into sports, everyone else is. So get over it.
2. Prepare you greeting. No need to say more than MT podcasts.
3. Handshake - in 39 steps. :wink:
3. Focus on the person you're talking to. Do not be distracted. Be honest and genuine with EACH person you shake hands with. (Have you ever shaken hands with Mark? Do you have any doubt that you're the center of his universe at that very moment? Very powerful.)
4. How to insert yourself into a conversation. M&M did a terrific bit on this too.
5. etc.

Then, get them off the computer out into a face-to-face situation. Either with each other, or some other event where they can PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! If you leave it at the computer, it's dead. Just my experience. That being said, I'd love to have the CBT to get my staff jump started! So if you need a beta tester, I'll volunteer. :)

Now that all of that's said, be very careful with M&M's material. They put a lot of work into it and it's rightfully theirs.

Suggestion for your "Bad working title." How about "The Future of Wyeth, It's All About People."

juliahhavener's picture
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You're correct, follow up is absolutely necessary to make the relationship firm. But I have had a cashier totally change the face of the world long enough to make a lasting impression (her name was Maria, and that was six years ago - long before I found MT).

But when you're looking to make that quick and firm establishment, Will's suggestions are good ones. I would suggest that finding that common ground/communication core should be a piece of the training. How to talk to people about what excites you about your job is key.

dhkramer's picture

Listened to a great podcast on networking recently, from Duke's Masters in Engineering Management program.

It's specifically targeted at engineering types; lots of specifics.

tlhausmann's picture
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Suggestion for your "Bad working title." How about "The Future of Wyeth, It's All About People."[/quote]

WillDuke, I chuckled when I read "...It's All About People" because it seems I have heard that before. :-)

CC, the new working title seems much better. I will follow this thread and hope that you keep us posted as to your success. My workplace has a diversity initiative and may PM you from time to time to keep you posted on related things that we are doing.


ccleveland's picture

[b]Julia:[/b] It finally hit me (like a brick) what you (and Will) were saying! (I can be pretty dense.) If I understand it correctly, you're saying it's critical to use the very short time we get with candidates to establish a connection...not just put out a "sales pitch". "It's all about the people." (Horstman)

[b]DHK:[/b] I haven't listed to that podcast yet, but I will try downloading it this weekend. (I must be the one of the three people here that doesn't use iTunes.)

Thanks to all for the input! I welcome more! I will update you on the progress as it goes along.


asteriskrntt1's picture


I might be missing a point here. However, I will throw this into the arena anyhow, then politely wave as I lower myself from my near-Hortsman-like soapbox.

Have you or your organization defined diversity or what exactly this diversity is supposed to do for your organization? Seriously, we hear this diversity mantra all the time and it adds...hmmm..what does it add? Are company ROIs any better than 30 years ago? Are we better managers? Are we having more breakthroughs and innovation? Not so much. Diversity for the sake of taking the diverse and mushing them through the play dough molding machine so that they look just like us except with more colours is not diversifying.

For most companies (and tie this strongly to the "FIT" hiring managers look for in the hiring process), diversity means someone from a different gender or country that THINKS EXACTLY LIKE WE DO.... thus, the fit. If you really want diversity, look at how fund managers diversify to take the market risk of the overall funds below the normal risk betas.

You diversify either to add innovation and risk (more risk, often more reward), so you hire people who ARE NOT LIKE YOU...CONTRARIANS IF YOU MUST CALL THEM SOMETHING.

Or you diversify to get a slightly higher reward by managing off a small part of the risk. Ie, going to 10% ROI from 8%

Now, if you have defined diversity and what it should accomplish, please ignore the soapbox above :)


juliahhavener's picture
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CC, you got it! That was exactly the point I hoped to make.

dhkramer's picture

Seriously, we hear this diversity mantra all the time and it adds...hmmm..what does it add?


Diversity expands the labor pool.

You can't exclude 2/3 of the population and seriously think you have the most qualified employees.

And if you don't have a diverse employee base now, outsiders will find that daunting at the least.


asteriskrntt1's picture

Saying you are not diverse because you ignore 2/3 of the population is like saying because China has 1.3 billion people, it is a viable market.

It isn't a viable market for most things, otherwise we would be exporting way more to China than we currently do. In fact, we import significantly more from China, thus, our little 330 Million (US and Canada) seems a more viable market.

2/3 of the population are NOT necessarily what you need in an employee and does not necessarily lead to diversity. What aspect of your workforce needs to be diverse and what do you need it to accomplish?

celing's picture


which podcast do you mean specifically?

Thank you for sharing this link with us. I am already downloading some podcasts and would like to start listening to the one you suggested.


dhkramer's picture


which podcast do you mean specifically?


The speaker was Brent T. Ward, Head of Commercialization from RTI International.


dhkramer's picture

[quote="asteriskrntt1"]Saying you are not diverse because you ignore 2/3 of the population is like saying because China has 1.3 billion people, it is a viable market. [/quote]

You knocked that strawman down pretty thoroughly.

If your organization doesn't consider Asian candidates and mine does, we're going to end up with higher quality employees than you.

asteriskrntt1's picture


You need to read all my comments together. I don't care where someone comes from. If my company has only people who think and act one way, despite the languages they speak and the colours of their skin, that is not diversity.

If I have an entire staff of people who come from all over the world, and all they can do is draw squares and I now need people who can draw triangles and circles, I am in trouble if I keep hiring the same kind of people no matter where they come from. As I said, you have to define what type of diversity you need.

Oh, and watch the stock markets. We are in a stock and mortgage/building bubble. All the globalization and "diversifying" we are doing doesn't seem to be translating into sustainable earnings or better business decisions.

dhkramer's picture

*rnt, I agree with your point.

However, if you don't already have a diverse employee population in terms of culture, race, and gender, you have to work at getting it.

That way you'll have more contrarians or innovators to choose from.

You are a couple of steps ahead of the world as it is today.

ccleveland's picture

*RNTT, et al,

Our organization established a definition for diversity and expectations on what diversity will do for the organization.

Diversity simply means differences in a variety of factors such as age, gender, national origin, race, etc.

By nurturing a diverse culture, we expect to create a competitive advantage through better relationships with customers and business partners, attract and retain talent needed for success, and drive innovation.

When looking at past diversity initiatives, I’ve read about two factors that led to unsuccessful initiatives: (1.) a focus on moral requirement instead of organizational benefits (e.g., Affirmative Action, hiring quotas) and (2.) a “top-down”, policy-based approach attempting to make a cultural change. For us, this initiative is neither of those.

As far as “FIT”, I think there is a balance that needs to be achieved. People and organizations are extremely complex. People from very different backgrounds can share the same core values such as quality, integrity, respect, etc. Even with those same values, they can represent significantly different perspectives.

To “rob” from your geometry analogy, I might want to find people who value geometry. Our group may only know about circles, ovals, and ellipses. Another group may see a different perspective of triangles, rectangles, trapezoids. When we combined or ideas, we may come up with even newer concepts, such as three-dimensional shapes. The point is to expand the pool of possibilities with the same core values.

[quote="asteriskrntt1"]We are in a stock and mortgage/building bubble. All the globalization and "diversifying" we are doing doesn't seem to be translating into sustainable earnings or better business decisions.[/quote]

I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say. It seems like your saying that globalization and diversifying that has been done by individual companies would be reflected by a positive stock and housing market. I would think other factors could significantly impact these markets such increase in cost of capital and worries about possible industrial/consumer spending decline. Did I misunderstand you?


asteriskrntt1's picture


My stock and housing comments were more towards DH than the general forum. Essentially, even though we have been diversifying for what - fifty years now? - we still seem stuck on most companies having a short term view on profits and innovation. For all the talk, not much of it really happens.

The companies who were the leaders in innovation (HP, 3M, Motorola etc) aren't doing much. The housing/credit mortgage boom is fueled by hedge funds and wall street having nothing new to sell the market (despite their diversity) and we are having a replay of junk bonds, the internet/venture cap/dot com/telecom/dot gone bust. Outsourcing is getting us in huge trouble etc. No real value is being created, so basically what I am asking is... are we diversifying properly as it should be leading us to better profits and more robust companies. So far, the evidence says it isn't.

ccleveland's picture


Thank you for explaining your position further. I do see that there are many problems our world faces, and there are lots of buzz words and “new philosophies” out there that do not help solve the world’s ills.

The definition and goals listed above are specific to diversity in my organization. Learning from other’s failures and successes, we’re going to make a go of it. If we’re 1 in 20 companies that are successful, that’s okay. 1 in 1000 or 999 in 1000, all also okay. The key is to find a way to succeed.