CHICAGO -- Attracting and promoting diversity in the work force "is not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do," Liz Minyard, co-chairwoman of Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, said here.
Minyard spoke at the Food Marketing Institute's annual convention and education exposition during the workshop, "The Advantages of Taking a Proactive Approach to Diversity."
She said that by developing a more widely diverse work force retailers will be better positioned for the 1990s and beyond. "It may be best to view the coming wave of women and minority managers as a cultural tide that would challenge us as much as it would enrich our business," Minyard said. She also is co-chairwoman of FMI's task force on managing diversity, which was created last year.
The task force's goal "is to help make the food distribution industry a model of efforts to promote diversity in management," Minyard said. The task force is pursuing ideas that identify and develop approaches that provide all people equal access to the full range of management opportunities in the retail and wholesale food-distribution industry.
"In the field of diversity this is an unprecedented effort and as we began work it soon became apparent that few, if any, industries had ever undertaken such a program," she said.
The task force will focus on guidelines and specific programs "that companies can put into action now, and will key on solutions," she said. The industry needs practical guidelines and specific programs companies can put into action. Among the recommendations the task force will issue will be "a checklist for effective diversity management, guidelines for recruiting women and minorities, sample job descriptions, performance appraisal forms, work and family policies, and the like," Minyard said.
"The task force will tailor its suggestions to companies of different sizes and types, recognizing, for example, that independents and chains have different needs and resources," she said.
Minyard said the task force hopes to complete the project sometime next year.
Minyard also detailed her chain's experiences with a training program for co-managers that has actively targeted women and minorities for participation.
"We decided to use store managers to identify and work with individuals who they felt could qualify for the co-manager's training program and work with them as mentors," she said.
Minyard usually runs two co-manager training programs a year for 18 to 20 people. In the last class, one-half of the participants were women and minorities. In the past few years, the program has graduated 85 in six classes, Minyard said.
The Minyard chain also, in March 1993, named a multicultural relations coordinator in an effort to better serve customers and employees. Minyard said it was "an unprecedented move for the grocery community in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area."
Another way the chain encourages its female and minority workers to move up in the company is through hosting in-house career fairs, she said.
Charles Reid, director of diversity management at Kraft General Foods, Northfield, Ill., told the workshop audience that input from a diverse cultural marketing and management group is especially important to food companies because food is so closely linked to ethnicity and culture.
"When ethnic consumers see one of their own making marketing decisions for the company or serving as our liaison with their organizations, they conclude, quite correctly, that this company really cares about us," Reid said.
The Kraft executive also discussed the importance of a diverse cultural work force and how it helps reach out to ethnic constituencies in the community.
While a "small number of people inside the company can't speak for all the consumers of the constituency they represent, still they can give a sense of the directions we need to pursue," Reid said. "They can help shape our marketing decisions -- give them, if you'll pardon the expression, the appropriate ethnic flavor."
Given the growing diversity of the population "it's critical that we improve the targeting of our marketing, and it's much easier to do this if the diversity outside the organization is mirrored by diversity within," Reid said.
At Kraft, the Ethnic Marketing department was formed two years ago as a separate group that imparts "focus and credibility to our African-American and Hispanic marketing efforts," he said.