Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



June/July 2011

Diversity/Careers June/July 2011 Issue

African Americans in tech
NYPA: Women engineers
BDPA plans conference
ABI's Women of Vision
Atam Dhawan of NJIT
Argonne & Native students

Energy M/WBEs
News & Views
VMX: environmental WBE
Regional roundup
Supplier diversity

Diversity in action
News & Views

Sandia Intel

Diversity In Action

Weyerhaeuser works to be inclusive & flexible

"We want to create a diverse and inclusive environment that lets our people optimize their potential," says the chief diversity officer

Because "Weyerhaeuser" is not a household word to consumers, it can be a challenge to make people understand what it is and what it does, says Effenus Henderson, chief diversity officer.

"We're not as well known as IBM or Proctor & Gamble, and we're in an industry that's focused on manufacturing, forestry, timberland and homebuilding rather than specific consumer products," he explains. "But we do want to create a diverse and inclusive environment that gives our people opportunities to optimize their potential."

How is this done? "Weyerhaeuser expects its employees to examine where they are in their careers and focus on strategies to map out where they might move on to. We feel they share responsibility for their careers with company leaders," Henderson says.

"We have to be adaptable and flexible," he explains. "These days the expectation of a one-career track is largely over. Today it's more about staying tuned in to business changes brought on by the market, customers and regulators, and making sure you're tuning your skills and competencies to reflect the realities."

Weyerhaeuser, one of the world's largest forest products companies, began operations in 1900. Today it has four business sectors. Its real estate company, a group of subsidiaries, is involved with residential home construction; its timberlands sector manages the company's extensive forest properties; its cellulose fibers business produces pulp for products like disposable diapers; and its wood product business makes and markets a range of lumber and other wood building materials.

The sectors have differing needs for techies. Engineers with backgrounds in ChE are needed for process control engineering in several areas. MEs and EEs keep major operations and facilities running. The wood products sector has jobs in IE and wood technology. The timberlands operation, which involves tree growing and land management, needs folks skilled in forest engineering and management, geology and soil science.

An IT organization supports the company with hardware and software apps; its enterprise systems use SAP. "But we're also revamping our strategy in light of a much smaller organization," Henderson says. "We're analyzing our approach and looking at architecture, systems and processes to find the most efficient and cost-effective ways to move ahead."

Hiring is expected to be flat this year, with openings mainly for hard-to-fill, mission-critical jobs.

In the recent recessionary period the company suffered a dramatic reduction in employee numbers so the opportunities are clearly fewer. But, "As we start to rebuild and grow, we believe there will be opportunities and we will calibrate our recruiting approach to reflect the realities of this new business situation," Henderson notes.

Building a more diverse and inclusive culture is very important for Weyerhaeuser. It is especially critical in attracting candidates for professional, managerial, engineering, skilled craft and IT positions. The company has built strong relationships with groups like NSBE, NUL, SWE, SHPE and others. "We are building a strategy to engage unit leaders more directly in those relationships," Henderson says.

Weyerhaeuser also targets minority-serving schools like Florida A&M, where Henderson serves on the board of advisors for the school of business, and Tuskegee, where the company was instrumental in establishing a forestry program, as well as North Carolina A&T, Alabama A&M and Grambling.

Weyerhaeuser offers all its employees a chance to participate in "respectful behavior" education. A new, internally developed inclusive leader education program focuses on important behavior areas.

The company has eight diversity networks and a diversity council made up of leaders from each of the eight groups: Generation Next, Hispanics for Outstanding Leadership Advancement, the Black Employee Alliance, Weyerhaeuser Asian Business Network, Women in Action, People Impacted by Disabilities, a veterans group and Colors, for LGBT employees.

There's also a mentoring website with resources, tools and educational forums.

Henderson recently chaired a national group, the Attrition Retention Consortium, which examines turnover trends in major corporations and analyzes the data by demographic groups. Weyerhaeuser recently launched an updated "engagement survey" to measure satisfaction levels in the organization.

A variety of work-life programs enhance employee satisfaction. As a manufacturing company with operating mills, Weyerhaeuser finds its workweek largely governed by its production processes, making flexibility difficult for production employees. Some staff employees are able to take advantage of telecommuting options or different work schedules if approved by the leader and work team. The company also provides some flexibility for employees with children or elderly parents.

"If you look at our practices, I believe that Weyerhaeuser is progressive in terms of what we provide, especially given our industry. The real key is making sure work is getting done and we're producing the results that are expected," Henderson says.


Weyerhaeuser Company

Headquarters: Federal Way, WA
Employees: 12,000 in ten countries
Revenues: $6.6 billion in 2010
Business: Forest products

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