BRAC created the Diversity Star Award with a goal of highlighting exceptional business practices taking place in the Capital Region that leverage the value of diversity in organizations. The award seeks to honor and recognize regional businesses that have championed diversity and inclusion at their businesses or in the community. The 2021 winner of the large business category, BASF, provided some insight below on how to better embrace diversity in the business world.
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Explain the importance of diversity and inclusion in your organization and the community.
Diversity and inclusion isn’t just something we say, it’s something we live at the BASF site in Geismar. We strive every day to live our vision of valuing people above all else. Actions we take to improve diversity and inclusion should inspire our people to say, “It feels different here. I feel included, and I like it.”
It has been the leadership team’s goal to make Geismar one of the most inclusive sites within BASF. We believe anyone and everyone who works at the Geismar site should be able to bring their whole selves to work without fear of being excluded. It has been proven in numerous studies that the more an employee feels valued, respected, and connected while at work, the more they engage and contribute to the success of the team. Their contribution leads to more innovation, better productivity, safer outcomes, and more satisfied customers. In addition to creating a better work environment, you create a more profitable business outcome. It’s a win-win for all.
Q: How do you hold yourself accountable in consistently hiring a diverse workforce?
There are a few tactics we employ to hold ourselves accountable. One, we enhance workforce development pipeline strategies to attract women and non-white minorities to STEM careers. Another is that we increase inclusion and decrease bias during the recruiting process in two ways: by extending our commitment to having half of all candidates interviewed for a role be diverse and having half of the interview panel to be diverse. Next, we enhance the interview process to further advance selection and retention of a diverse and competitive workforce. Lastly, we continue to evolve team members’ mindsets to support diversity and inclusion across all programs and processes.
Q: What are some of the struggles you encountered when originally implementing your inclusion practices? How did you overcome them?
One of the challenges we experienced when implementing diversity and inclusion practices was the lack of diverse candidates interested in working in manufacturing. We understood the historical reputation the manufacturing industry has when it comes to hiring and retaining diverse talent had to change. We needed to focus on changing people’s perception and educating them about promising careers manufacturing holds for anyone interested in science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM).
BASF realized it was necessary to begin STEM outreach earlier with a younger audience, especially young girls and minority students and build an educational pipeline through middle school and high school. Through programs like BASF Kid’s Lab, robotics clubs, TECH Academy, and more, BASF can introduce all students to exciting opportunities with a STEM career.
Q: What tips would you give to local businesses trying to integrate stronger diversity and inclusion practices into their organization?
Every company can improve diversity and inclusion practices by first making the commitment and developing a plan of action. Implementation of that plan begins at the top with leadership. These leaders and other people managers within a company must be intentional in recruiting, retaining, and developing diverse talent. In addition, there should be tools given to all people leaders about how to be more inclusive in managing teams, such as when conducting meetings, assigning projects, and assessing performance. Once plans of action and tools are implemented, it is up to the leadership of the company to evaluate progress and adjust as necessary. Steady and meaningful changes will happen when leaders exemplify the importance of diversity and inclusion.