Kraft’s Appetite for Diversity Starts With Its People

Jim Norman, Kraft’s vice president of diversity, has been working toward creating an inclusive environment at the global snacks powerhouse since 1980. It starts with building a diverse workforce — but teaching them to successfully navigate the corporate culture is key, he tells Diversity Executive.

What qualifications enable you to continually grow Kraft’s D&I efforts?
I’ve held positions in line and staff roles. I’ve worked in manufacturing, sales, corporate headquarters and business units throughout the U.S. Through the many assignments, experiences and locations, I have been able to understand the critical business drivers, understand how the organization works and establish deep relationships. Today, I use those insights, experiences and relationships as change levers to achieve the Kraft Foods’ diversity and inclusion vision.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about D&I? How can you alter those perceptions?
The first misconception is that diversity refers only to race and gender. It is much more than race and gender. Diversity is the backgrounds, experiences and perspectives [that] make us each complex and unique. They are not always visible to the eye.

The second is that diversity equals representation, and once you achieve representation you’ve arrived. Once you achieve the desired level of representation across all the visible and invisible dimensions of diversity, you have to create a culture where those dimensions can consistently create innovation and outstanding business results.

The third and perhaps most harmful misconception is that diversity and inclusion initiatives are separate. They are often seen as isolated: “over there” or “another task.” The most successful D&I initiatives are integrated into the human resources processes, leadership development and succession planning processes. When they are, they benefit the organization, its customers and its shareholders. That’s why at Kraft Foods, an open and inclusive environment is woven into how we do business every day — from training and development to accountability in leadership objectives.

What area of D&I do you place special emphasis on? What programs do you have in place to further your efforts in this area?
An area that I experienced personally, and I know many other people of color and women do as well, is how to understand and successfully navigate the corporate culture. When you enter corporate America it can be a little daunting to begin your career when you don’t have others to guide and advise you on the cultural norms and unwritten rules.

At Kraft Foods, we understand this need and that’s why we offer JumpStart for Success, a program available to women and people of color as they enter the organization to help them acclimate and navigate the Kraft Foods culture. JumpStart for Success enables participants to increase social and political skills, uncover the unwritten rules of the organization and [teaches them] how to establish, build and maintain professional relationships.

Are there special challenges in your company or industry you will address through D&I?
As a food company it’s important that we continue to develop innovative and delicious foods for the changing tastes of our diverse consumers. Therefore, it’s extremely important we develop and maintain a talent pool of creative, innovative and diverse scientists and engineers. However, careers in the sciences aren’t marketed the same way that other career paths are. On this front, we need to do a better job. That is why we support programs that spark curiosity and interest in science at the high school and college level. For example:

Research Apprentice Program. Through our participation, we raise awareness and encourage more diverse high school students to enter agriculture, food science and engineering. The program provides mentorship, mini-lab projects, merit scholarships and opportunity for internships within Kraft Foods.

Job Shadow Day. Students in the packaging field who attend the Pack Expo in Chicago are hosted in our Glenview, Ill., Tech Center for an inside look at what it’s like to be a package developer at Kraft Foods.

Distance Mentoring Program. We mentor freshman and sophomore diverse students in the STEPUP program at the University of Florida by pairing them with junior Kraft Foods employees. The mentoring takes place via monthly conference calls to discuss academic and professional development advice and opportunities.

How do you gauge the success of diversity goals and initiatives? How does D&I contribute to the success of the business as a whole?
First, we strive to reflect the face of the consumer in our workforce. We know the available population of skilled workers and we try to mirror it. Then, we look at the product innovation that comes from diverse teams. Next, we leverage our 10 diverse employee resource groups to tap into the employee insights about retention and development as well as understand the consumer insights that will help us strengthen connections to our diverse consumers. Lastly, we link diversity and inclusion to executive incentive compensation to increase our leaders’ accountability to critical diversity outcomes.

Mohini Kundu is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.