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November 05
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Diversity In Action

Hewitt seeks diversity for itself and its clients

The firm is always looking for diverse outsourcing techies who can help it make a strong contribution to the HR needs of its global clients and their employees


Andre Tapia: an aggressive embedded diversity strategy at Hewitt.

Andrés Tapia: an aggressive embedded diversity strategy at Hewitt.

Founded in 1940, Hewitt Associates is the world's largest provider of multi-service human resources outsourcing. "Hewitt is unique. It is the only firm that fully integrates HR outsourcing and consulting services, says Andrés Tapia, chief diversity officer.

Hewitt has locations in thirty-five countries and serves more than 2,300 clients worldwide. It provides a full range of human resources services, including benefits, healthcare, organizational change, retirement and financial management and talent and reward strategies.

IT pros at Hewitt are directly involved in setting up, administering and utilizing systems for Hewitt's clients, says Tapia. "They work in migration, interfaces, front end and back end. Our IT people exist both inside the outsourcing line of business, and as a very strong IS organization that does the entire technology infrastructure for Hewitt as well as client work."

IT employees, called "associates," may be located at a Hewitt call center or on-site at a client's office. There are Hewitt call centers near Houston, TX; Orlando, FL; Lincolnshire, IL and Toronto, Canada; there are also offices in California, Georgia, Connecticut and New Jersey. Globally, the company's IT pros work in Europe, the Asia/Pacific region, Latin America and Canada.

Hewitt is always looking for diverse technical recruits, Tapia says. Some of the company's clients are bringing in minorities for more than half their new hires. Hewitt wants techies who can address their needs from firsthand experience, and offer sensitivity and a grasp of how different cultures communicate.

The company has embedded an aggressive diversity strategy in its workplace, its dealings with clients and its community outreach. "It's recognizing the demographic groups, whether you're talking about men and women, different racial and ethnic groups, gay and lesbian or older and younger. Different things speak to their hearts," Tapia says.

Affinity groups at Hewitt "are finding ways to contribute to the business and the community to help build tomorrow's diverse workforce. Of course they're also helping with associate retention, connection and networking," Tapia says.

The groups include Black Associates at Hewitt Associates (BAHA); Pride Alliance, a network of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender associates; Generations, where over-40 associates share their expertise with younger Hewitt folks; Hewitt Asian Diversity Network (HADN); Latino and Hispanic Associates (LAHA) and Working Parents.

The Hewitt corporate-wide diversity council has become part of the company's business leader council. There are also local diversity councils and strategic teams.

Diversity training has been a staple at Hewitt for many years. Now it's updated with a new curriculum to build cross-cultural competency in the form of "a series of observable skills that we can train and assess people on," Tapia says. He believes that the need to develop organizational and personal cross-cultural competency is a business case for diversity. It's applicable to any issue including "global diversity and dealing with different corporate cultures in a merger or acquisition."

A three-step approach to cross-cultural training was introduced in January 2005. Tapia explains that participants learn to "know yourself, know others, and learn how to navigate the differences."

Employee reaction has been "superb," Tapia says. "We started with leaders and managers. Some 2,000 have attended since January and we'll continue rolling it out until all our U.S. associates have attended. We're in the process of adapting the training for India, the U.K. and Canada."

Hewitt is also taking steps to increase its pipeline of talent for the future. The company donated a career center to an at-risk high school in Waukegan, IL to help students pursue their higher education and career goals. The center offers a corporate setting including meeting rooms and a board room as well as computer labs. Here, students can get career counseling and online assessments, or meet with local companies and executives. Hewitt plans to open more career centers in other cities.

Hewitt also contributes to BDPA, the National Black MBA Association and a dozen more groups. "We're really proud of these partnerships," Tapia says. "It's not just our financial sponsorship. Because we specialize in human resources, we can connect with our sponsors and add value in a multiplicity of ways."


Hewitt Associates

Headquarters: Lincolnshire, IL
Employees: 20,000 worldwide
Revenues: $2.2 billion
Business: Global human resources services


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