Experiental Diversity Education

W.W.Grainger Makes Training a Habit, Not an Event

AFRICAN-AMERICAN author Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “people will forget what you say… and people will forget what you did… but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

W.W. Grainger, Inc. has taken those words to heart in designing inclusion and diversity training programs that feature experiential education integrated into the very way the company does business.

“We call it ‘action learning,’” says Kim Cysewski, grainger’s VP of Human resources. “That’s because people are far more receptive to valuing differences and translating that to our customers when they canexperience it directly, rather than being told or shown.”

Recipe for Success

The most recent example came during a team- building exercise for the two hundred members of the u.S. leadership team, and it all centered around making a pizza. Teams were formed to de- velop a pizza product for one of seven differ- ent groups—african americans, asian Pacific Islanders, latinos, Women, Baby Boomers, generation Xers, and Millenials. They were armed with demographic information about each group, they had an opportunity to do on-site research with representatives of the  different audiences, and their results were judged by members of grainger’s employee affinity  networks, called Business resource groups (Brgs), representing each constituency. The exercise, called “recipe for Success,” was conducted in the grainger headquarters’  campus cafeteria and required each team to  determine the ingredients and appearance for  the pizza, create its package design, develop  a 30-second advertising spot, and deliver it in an appropriate way. and then they had to execute their plan, all in the space of three hours.

Rave Reviews

“This was a fabulously successful education  program,” Cysewski says. “People not only had fun, but they learned more about how to build relationships with other  people, understand their unique needs, and collaborate to deliver distinctive products attractive to them. and this is exactly what  we’re working to achieve in our  actual business.” Mike zeller, grainger’s Director of Territory Sales, made a clear  connection to the work he does every day. “This exercise really helps us to think about the customer and how to put them first. That way, we can figure out how we can reach them by being more relevant to them.”  And Erwin Cruz, an Enterprise architect and Vice President of the asian Pacific Islander Brg, observed that the work teams also  enhanced their understanding of inclusion and diversity. “We saw the teams ask the  right questions to ensure that they understood their customers and were creating a product for that particular market.”

Integrated Education

This exercise, which gave business leaders a true feel for the value of inclusion and diversity, is one example of grainger’s habit of integrating  this important concept into the business,  according to Chere nabor, Chief Diversity  Officer. “Integrated education is the cornerstone to bring inclusion and diversity to life  in the organization,” nabor says. “Where diversity training is typically an event that is included at specific times—like employee orientation and then later as a person enters management—we leverage every training opportunity along the continuum to increase awareness among our employees.” This means inclusion and diversity is threaded throughout grainger’s train- ing curriculum, encompassing sales, customer sevice, compliance, brand, supply chain, product knowedge, leadership, several talent management programs, and employee development. “Inclusion and diversity is becoming a conversation we deal with every day as a matter of habit,” says John lawson, Director of grainger’s