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Diversity In Action

ITT treasures diversity in its global ops

A workforce that mirrors the world where the company does business leads to innovation, creativity, better decision-making and stronger growth

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Usha Wright: leveraging geographic diversity to keep talent flowing.

Usha Wright: leveraging geographic diversity to keep talent flowing.

'As the world shrinks through globalization, it is more important than ever for ITT to attract and retain people who will help us to conduct business across cultural and geographical boundaries," declares Usha Wright, SVP and director of global workforce strategy.

She notes that a couple of years ago, ITT's new CEO assigned a taskforce to renew emphasis on building a diverse and inclusive work environment. Wright was the executive sponsor.

The group's dozen members, from Europe, China, Latin America and the U.S., formed a cross-cultural microcosm of the company, Wright notes. Over the course of a year they met in a number of varied locales to study the ITT workforce and develop a strategic direction for inclusion and diversity.

The efforts of the taskforce led to establishment of an office of inclusion and diversity, which Wright heads. ITT's executive council has also added inclusion and diversity to the list of values that define the company's code of corporate conduct.

Another part of the CEO's vision is to examine best practices in different parts of the company and, in some cases, leverage them as centralized practices for the entire company.

ITT has had an international perspective from the start. It was first called International Telephone and Telegraph, and was founded in Puerto Rico around 1920 by two Cuban brothers. Their idea was to expand telecom outside the U.S., since the U.S. telephone and telegraph businesses of the day were monopolies.

Today ITT is headquartered in White Plains, NY and telecom has given way to fluid and water management, electronics and defense communications. But the company still takes the international approach, with operations in fifteen countries and customers in 130 countries. "Our execs have a tremendous depth of global perspective and cross-cultural communication," says Wright.

Her goal is to leverage that geographic diversity so talent flows from one part of the company to another, across organizational as well as geographic boundaries. "Finding folks who can promote a more global perspective really energizes me," she says.

ITT recently committed to filling 70 percent of its openings internally. "Being considered first is one of our career growth promises to people who join us," Wright notes.

She expects this policy to help attract the new techies who will be needed for coming growth.

Hiring should be especially active at the advanced engineering and sciences (AES) division of the company's defense business in Reston, VA and other locations. AES is looking for EEs, MEs and ChEs, as well as CS pros, physicists, chemists, optics experts and mathematicians at all levels.

Hiring will also increase in the company's fluid technology business, which makes sophisticated pumping systems in Clifton, NJ. Systems and software engineers are needed there.

ITT now has a formal process for leadership development. A senior team meets regularly to discuss company-wide needs and review in-house talent. "Looking at talented people as a pool across the organization keeps them on everybody's radar screen," Wright says.

She's part of the process, working with HR to move high-potential people from one area and country to another.

There are serious decisions to be made in doing this. "We're not just moving an individual, we're moving a whole family culture, and we need to prepare for the individual to succeed," Wright says. She's hoping to develop an internal website to let potential transferees explore the pros and cons before committing to life in another country.

ITT added domestic partner benefits company-wide this January. "That sends a very important message that as an organization we're serious about inclusion," Wright says.

The company does a worldwide employee survey every second year to identify and address employee concerns and issues. Everyone is part of the survey, from VPs to engineers to factory workers, from China to Costa Rica to New York. "Our workplace is rated at the top in terms of people being happy, and turnover is low," Wright says.

She sees her office as a communications center and clearinghouse for programs that work. She plans to showcase programs that have been successful in specific areas, like flextime and community service. She has also helped form diversity councils in Asia, Europe and America, and made connections with SHPE, UNCF and more.


ITT Industries, Inc.

Headquarters: White Plains, NY
Employees: 41,000 worldwide,
20,000 in the U.S.
Revenues: $7.4 billion
Business: Advanced technology products and services for fluid and water management and treatment, defense communications and more, including electronics, opto-electronics and IT


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