Enhancing Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) has quickly become a key focal point for businesses here and abroad. Companies and consumers now recognize that I&D efforts drive employee success, are a precursor to innovation and a core component of business growth. American Water, I&D is more than a buzzword – it is a business priority that is vital to our success. There is no better time than October, Global Diversity Awareness Month, to recognize, celebrate and take inspiration from American Water’s commitment to these concepts.
I&D permeates throughout the company and its culture, informing a multitude of processes from our hiring practices, vendor relationships and talent development to our organizational structure. It extends from our boardroom to our front-line teams. At the intersection of our I&D strategy is the Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Council, which is responsible for informing, advising and leading the American Water Executive Leadership on these issues. Our success as a company on these issues, however, is not due to the Council alone or to any single group or person. Rather, our success is driven by countless committed employees throughout the company.
A workforce as diverse as our customers.
At American Water, we believe that our workforce should reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. Our talent recruitment efforts are essential to furthering this goal. A critical element of our talent recruitment is the strategic partnerships that we leverage to bolster our I&D hiring. American Water works with groups like Disability:IN, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Getting Hired, HLPA, Paradigm for Parity, GI Jobs/VIQTORY, American Corporate Partners and more to help us continue to hire talented, diverse folks.
Key learnings from our experience.
American Water’s successes on the I&D front are the result of the dedication of all our employees. We are proud of our progress, and importantly, how much more we will achieve going forward. Together, we have worked to make American Water a more diverse, more equitable, and more successful company. But there is much work left to do.
We have learned a lot while furthering American Water’s I&D strategy. If you’re looking to create a more inclusive workforce, consider the following Guiding Principles derived from our efforts in recent years:
- Encourage a top-down AND a bottom-up approach. I&D efforts are not the exclusive purview of any single department or corporate tier. These concepts should be omnipresent – from our frontline employees to executive leadership. Getting such universal buy-in will lead to an approach that everyone feels they have a stake in.
- Continuously revamp priorities. I&D priorities are not static or set in stone – they change and adapt to current circumstances. As such, I&D measures should be designed to adapt to the times. A successful I&D program is never finished, only updated and improved.
- Build an inclusive workplace. A workplace designed with I&D in mind can attract and retain key talent, creating a self-reinforcing cycle that will further your values and business goals.
- Invest in the next generation. Students graduating from today’s trade schools and universities are the future of business. It is critical that your business is a viable option for these grads. This requires more than a visit to the career fair – it takes comprehensive partnerships with middle schools, high schools, and colleges to create a sustainable talent pipeline. These kinds of partnerships can result in a positive, economically mobile future for youth, while bettering communities and your company.
- Let your business decisions reflect your customers. I&D values must extend to your business partnerships. American Water recognizes the value of diversity beyond its own employees and routinely seeks to work with businesses owned by individuals from diverse backgrounds. These relationships not only help our business – they also ensure that we play our part in fostering opportunities for economic advancement in the communities we serve.
I am proud to work for an organization that strives to be a leader in the I&D space. Not only through words buy by our actions.
American Water was named a 2020 DiversityInc Noteworthy Company, received top scoring (100%) on the Disability Equality Index, was included on the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, and was honored as one of America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Best of all, we’re just getting started.
By next October, we hope to be back with a year’s worth of learning, growth, and achievements under our belt. I look forward to sharing more about our successes and what we’re doing to continue improving on the I&D front.