Whirlpool appreciates the power of a diverse workforce
"The company has always maintained a steady intake
of talent, and even in tough times we have invested
in innovation," says the VP of HR
Whirlpool Corporation is celebrating its hundredth anniversary this year. The company's staying power in the ever-changing global and American marketplaces not only underscores its product viability and business smarts, but also its passion to do the right thing for its employees, says Lynanne Kunkel, VP of HR for Whirlpool North America.
"Typically, companies that withstand the test of time work to understand and meet the needs of their workforces," says Kunkel. "At Whirlpool we recognize that a diverse workforce is important to help nurture and grow our business."
The company continues to invest in the future even though it has had to tighten its belt to manage short-term economic ups and downs. As a result, "We have maintained a steady intake of entry-level talent," Kunkel says.
Whirlpool is a leader in the $100 billion global home-appliance industry. It makes appliances in all major categories, including washers and dryers, stoves and other cooking equipment, refrigerators, dishwashers, countertop equipment and water filtration, as well as a line of garage organization systems.
The company has a number of openings in global IS and engineering. "We look for strong technical capability to maintain our product leadership position in the industry," Kunkel says.
There are openings for analysts working on infrastructure, business solutions, architecture and data security. In engineering, EEs, MEs, ChEs, IEs and others are needed. The company also offers a developmental program that exposes participants to both the technical development and commercial marketing sides of the business.
Whirlpool is structured by product categories, Kunkel explains. Each category handles its own front-end design innovation, project management and go-to-market work.
A large population of engineers is involved in product development. Others work in factory locations in line management and manufacturing operations. In many cases the company moves people across functions for career development.
Whirlpool hires some recent college grads, but prefers applicants who have two to five years of work experience with other companies. Eight to ten years of leadership experience are required for a middle management job.
D. V. Williams, senior manager for talent and inclusion, notes that Whirlpool values its relationships with HBCUs that award technical degrees: Howard, Clark Atlanta, Tuskegee, Florida A&M and more. Whirlpool also has local- and national-level partnerships with NSBE, SHPE and SWE, as well as the National Black MBA Association and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.
In their first month at Whirlpool, new hires go through an orientation that emphasizes diversity and inclusion. As part of the orientation they're introduced to the company's business strategy, resources, and the Whirlpool code of ethics. Managers may participate in Harvard ManageMentor, a leadership skills program that includes both online work and group discussion with a senior leader.
"Mentoring is an important part of the Whirlpool culture," Kunkel says. "We invest heavily in our leadership development program to grow our next-generation talent."
Whirlpool's diversity council is made up of the senior leadership of the company. It's responsible for diversity strategy and governance, and for meeting global accountability requirements.
Whirlpool has seven "very active" employee networks: African American, Asian Community, Hispanic, Women's, Pride (LGBT) and Native American, plus the Green Initiative, Kunkel reports. Executive sponsors ensure that the networks have the support they need to achieve their objectives. The 200-plus-person Green Initiative reflects the company's goal "to be innovative and efficient, not only in how we build the product, but in how we work as a green operation throughout the entire organization," Williams says.
Kunkel is impressed that all the network groups work to leverage their insights as both consumers and employees. "They drive the interests of the business and their own members, and also work to improve the situation of their areas of focus in the local community," she notes.
Some examples: the Women's Network members partner with women small-business owners. The company's Hispanic network has set up a migrant workers project to connect with the large migrant population near Whirlpool HQ in southwestern Michigan. The Pride network has a special focus on families where someone is HIV-positive or has AIDS. The African American group adopted a Benton Harbor school district in a low-income area. Jamal Wilson, who came to Whirlpool from Georgia Tech with a PhD in ME, runs a FIRST Robotics program for the Benton Harbor schools.
Many employees are eligible for and take advantage of flexible work arrangements. Domestic partner benefits are available.
As a large global organization headquartered in a small community, Whirlpool encourages local small businesses to offer their services to its employees. Local vendors, for example, supply daycare, fitness facilities and other work-life balance essentials.
||Benton Harbor, MI
|| $17 billion worldwide;
$9 billion in North America
||Home appliances for the