Hallmark aims to have a workplace as diverse as its card offerings. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
As the leader of corporate diversity and inclusion at Hallmark, Michael Gonzales works to promote a workplace culture of sensitivity and awareness. When asked how he would describe his position to a child, Gonzales compared his job to making a homemade Mother’s Day card.
“Would you want to use only one crayon, or do you want to use as many crayons, sparkles, yarn and stickers of as many colors, shapes and sizes as you could to make it the best card ever?” he said. But instead of crayons, sparkles, yarn and stickers, Hallmark creates its cards through the efforts of a diverse group of people. “If they want to make the best company, it’s better if they use every resource available to them,” Gonzales said.
Below are edited excerpts from Gonzales’s interview with Diversity Executive.
Hallmark's cards cater to every culture and religion. How does the inclusivity of the brand translate to the workplace?
Hallmark creates a workplace environment that embraces diversity and inclusion for all. Hallmark has in place a diversity and inclusion department, a Corporate Diversity & Inclusion Council made up of senior managers and executives, Division Diversity & Inclusion Councils as well as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Hallmark, as many companies do, sponsors and/or hosts many D&I related events — for instance, Hallmark hosted the Midwest region’s Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index recognition program while conducting a Diversity & Inclusion Summit attended by 475 employees and external guests. The ERGs are part of the summer intern’s orientation program and reach out to new hires to share Hallmark’s D&I commitment.
How does promoting diversity and inclusion within the company affect the quality of products Hallmark produces?
An example I like to share of the many I could is D&I/ERG’s New Norm initiative. It was a presentation by D&I and the six ERGs to the key decision-makers who determine the future direction of the company in regards to product innovation and marketing strategies. The ERGs presented themselves as an additional internal insight group that could provide balanced feedback and insight on ideation, innovation or strategies related to ethnic and/or cultural initiatives. As a result of the “New Norm” presentation and the next 25 presentations to approximately 2,000 Hallmarkers (all per request), the company realized the additional value the ERGs could provide. As sustaining proof, the ERGs are averaging five requests per month to provide their ethnic or cultural perspective.
What is Hallmark doing to promote diversity and inclusion?
Hallmark continually looks for ways to incorporate D&I into the everyday fabric of who we are and how we conduct our business. By understanding the make-up of our consumer and maximizing the insights of our diverse workforce, we feel our marketing efforts that showcase product relevant to our multicultural consumer are a formula for success. To get to this point on the D&I journey at Hallmark, significant initiatives had to be put in place. Our first initiative was the rollout of the business case for D&I. It was the foundation for all future endeavors. Following the business case was the rollout of Hallmark’s ERG “New Norm.” Late last year, Hallmark had its grand opening for our Center for Diversity & Inclusion, which coincided Hallmark’s first Diversity & Inclusion Summit.
How can companies foster employee sensitivity to cultures different from their own?
I think it starts at the top. Our CEO is an active advocate of diversity but more so inclusion. He understands that our success in part is due to our diverse workforce and wants to make the work environment hospitable for all Hallmarkers.
I also think that as the leader of corporate diversity and inclusion, my job is to reinforce the message that diversity and inclusion is a journey and not a task to be checked off.
Why are sensitivity and inclusion important aspects of a workplace culture?
With people spending half of their waking hours at the workplace you want to make it a pleasant and positive environment. And a way to do that is to understand your workforce, what is important to them and accommodate whenever possible. Have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment for the rare occasion something inappropriate occurs.