Roderick D. Gillum has been vice president, corporate responsibility and diversity for General Motors Corp. since August 1997. In this position, he is responsible for global corporate social responsibility initiatives, which include community relations, business ethics and diversity management within the corporation. Gillum is also chairman of the General Motors Foundation and of Motor Enterprises Inc., a subsidiary of General Motors Corp., specializing in providing capital for GM minority suppliers. Gillum is a fellow in the American Bar Association’s College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He is also a recipient of the National Bar Association’s Equal Justice Award.
Q. When hiring, how important should diversity be to an employer?
A. Very important. Over the years, the definition of diversity has changed from the primary dimensions to a more broad interpretation. All factors are important when putting together a product that is valuable to consumers. We tend to want to surround ourselves with people who are like us, that we are most comfortable with, but the emphasis must be on the best candidate — and challenge yourself to look broader. Seek and value diverse candidates that bring perspectives that you would perhaps otherwise not have that will benefit the product.
Q. Should companies have a formal diversity policy?
A. Most companies have a statement or policy that appeals to EEOC recommendations, but companies that make diversity part of their culture and make that culture visible to everyone, will be truly successful. Taking diversity to the next level places a value on inclusion, which places a premium on individual respect and responsibility, allowing every employee to add their insights to benefit the company.
Q. What tangible benefits does having a diverse work force bring to a company?
A. Diversity makes a better company. You can look at the success that you’ve had in one market and expand that. It’s the range of thought that has led to products that can appeal to many different consumers. Having a diverse work force helps a company stay in tune with shifting demographics. Customers like to see themselves in companies they do business with. The world is very different than it was 25 years ago, and it calls on all businesses to stay keen on those changes — retaining the best talent from all sources will ultimately improve the company’s bottom line.