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Rockwell Automation goes all in on diversity, inclusion

Nov. 11, 2021

More brains and backgrounds mean better decisions and greater productivity. This is the simple and laudable logic driving Rockwell Automation’s accelerating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, which are closely aligned with is its overall mission—and even tops its latest list of strategic business objectives.

“Rockwell Automation’s mission is to stimulate the imaginations of people with the potential of technology to expand what’s humanly possible by making the world more productive and sustainable,” said Becky House, SVP and chief people and legal officer, Rockwell Automation. “Following COVID-19, people want to connect, feel good about what they’re doing in their jobs, and have a bigger impact than just showing up.”

House and Bobby Griffin, chief DEI officer at Rockwell Automation, presented the “Leveraging culture and DEI as competitive advantage” media briefing this week at the company’s Automation Fair 2021 in Houston.

Roots of inclusion  

House reported that Rockwell Automation’s DEI initiative proceeds directly from CEO and chairman Blake Moret’s statement that, “Our people are the foundation of all we do, and creating an environment where everyone can and wants to do their best work is fundamental to our success.” Consequently, at the company’s investor event held this week in conjunction with Automation Fair, cultural transformation and using DEI to attract, retain and develop talent was first among the company’s strategic objectives, which cascade through the organization and direct its overall efforts.

“Without talented and diverse people and an inclusive culture, we can’t do any of Rockwell Automation’s many other objectives. This is why DEI is so crucial,” explained House. “Our vibrant and evolving culture is the foundation for our accelerated growth, and it rests on four pillars: strengthening our commitment to integrity, diversity and inclusion; being willing to compare ourselves to the best; increasing the speed of decision-making; and maintaining a steady stream of fresh ideas.”

To achieve and demonstrate progress on its cultural transformation, House added that Rockwell Automation has key performance indicators (KPIs) that are recognized by its board, and even ties executive compensation to meeting them. Early this year, it also brought on Griffin to partner with its board and executive team.

Developing diversity

For the past several years, Rockwell Automation has been evolving a holistic approach to DEI based on three more pillars, according to Griffin. These consist of:

  • Culture - By conducting workshops and training sessions to establish a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment, where all employees experience belonging, and feel psychologically safe, so they can and want to do their best work.
  • Talent – By experiencing diverse sources of talent outside the original organization, as well as optimizing internal and external talent pools and pipelines by attracting, developing and retaining diverse talent.
  • Marketplace – Enhancing Rockwell Automation’s ability to inform and influence the industries it services by engaging diverse suppliers, partners, distributors and communities, such as collaborating with the “I Belong Here” program in the electronics industry.  

“Rockwell Automation started its diversity discussions and efforts about 10 years ago, so we already had a good background to build on,” added House. “Now, we’re expanding that culture of belonging, and recognizing that DEI isn’t top-down or bottom-up but is side-to-side and every other direction. To develop an organization where people truly feel they can contribute and make a difference, we’re also asking employees to discuss uncomfortable questions, so our people and organization are ready for it.”

Griffin explained, “This isn’t just an enterprise approach. We’re integrating DEI at the micro-level of each business, so we can align globally, be relevant locally, help our leaders be more culturally competent, and take a broader approach to bringing in talent. We’ve even been conversing with customers about these issues at Automation Fair this week.”

Tracking DEI process and progress

House added that different divisions of Rockwell Automation have different demographics and racial and gender ratios, so its DEI efforts and opportunities for acquiring talent will vary in different locations and operational settings. “We want to make sure we’re not succeeding on one area, but missing opportunities in others,” said House.

“We’re also tracking the visibility, capability and accountability of our leaders for DEI actions and outcomes,” explained Griffin. “We’re addressing differences worldwide because DEI in Milwaukee will likely be very different than in the Philippines or elsewhere, so we want to know, what are their regional DEI needs and opportunities.”

Griffin added that using KPIs will also let Rockwell Automation monitor its DEI progress and determine if plans in place are working. It will track hires and retention rates, and examine the results of engagement surveys. “We’re being as transparent as possible, and publishing our diversity numbers on our website,” said Griffin. “We’re also including Equal Employment Opportunity-1 (EEO-1) data.”

House concluded that Rockwell Automation is also increasing its human capital management disclosures. “We have to retain people to make DEI sustainable for Rockwell Automation and our people.”

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About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.