Melissa Donaldson

Melissa Donaldson

Senior Manager of Inclusion Practices, CDW LLC
Corporate Headquarters: Vernon Hills, Illinois

Primary Business: Technology solutions, including hardware, software and services
2009 Revenues: $7.2 Billion
Employees: 6,200

What diversity and inclusion challenges remain today?

Diversity practitioners will be well-served to better understand and lead organizations in embracing the concept that only focusing on the “Xs and Os” or the scorekeeping is short-sighted and ill-fated. It is no secret that obtaining a clear ROI for diversity management initiatives is elusive to say the least. That begs the question, “Then why bother trying?”

Until practitioners and industry leaders can help companies understand the benefits of building a workforce reflective of a global economy and a workplace designed to provide opportunity, development and support for all employees, D&I as a discipline will continue to be marginalized. We need to help organizations understand that inclusion is the glue that helps all other corporate initiatives stick that much better. Diversity is tantamount to building great leadership.

What programs/initiatives work best in your organization that other companies can benchmark?

At CDW, we have been very successful at building a structure and governance model for our coworker resource networks. The model has had a consistently positive impact on bi-annual coworker engagement surveys. Diversity and Inclusion was the highest-rated engagement category, which is highly attributable to the fact that the Connections Nodes are open to ALL coworkers regardless of background, geographical location, tenure, or level.

Few events hosted by any of the nine currently active nodes are closed to anyone who falls outside of the core targeted group. Additionally, each node has an executive sponsor, an operating budget, and is charged with producing annual strategic plans outlining initiatives and programming that underscores their core mission and objectives. Node group chairs attend quarterly meetings of the executive inclusion advisory council that includes the CEO to review accomplishments, challenges, and successes which increases visibility and accountability.

What is your advice for diversity officers/managers who are just starting out in their positions?

Remain a student of diversity and inclusion and remember to model the desired behavior you want leaders to emulate, whether one has been practicing for seven months, seven years, or seventeen years. Practitioners should remain abreast of economic developments, workforce trends and market opportunities that should be shared with business leaders. Initially, there will likely be more pressure put on measurement and outcomes that need to be addressed. Just be careful of getting trapped there.

Diversity and inclusion practices require critical thinking, strategic planning, project management, learning and development, and internal and external communications. These skills provide the makings for desirable and capable leaders that the world could use more of these days.