Gulfstream works to create an environment of inclusion
Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. holds a healthy, well-trained and diverse workforce in the same high regard as the premium jets it designs and manufactures
'Just over a year ago, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp (Savannah, GA) launched a massive five-year IT transition to SAP. So if you're looking to maximize your experience in SAP, now is the time to apply for work," says Charles Bennafield, manager of diversity and inclusion.
The company seeks IT professionals and engineers in a variety of roles, including business analysts and project managers, developers and SAP specialists in modules like business warehousing. Gulfstream also needs "engineers of all types in a manufacturing environment," he says, including electrical, mechanical, aerospace and design engineers.
Gulfstream is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics. It designs, sells, manufactures and supports premier business jets. "Manufacturing and supporting a Gulfstream jet requires best efforts from every department in the company, as well as a diverse workforce that can provide unique and collaborative innovation," Bennafield says.
"One in-demand skill on the engineering side is lean manufacturing. Six Sigma experience is a plus. The company needs creative thinkers with great problem-solving attributes," Bennafield declares. Gulfstream also likes to see applicants with experience in the ITIL version 3 IT service management standards.
To recruit a diverse workforce, Gulfstream attends events hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Black Engineer of the Year Awards and Women in Aviation. It maintains a third-party partnership through a major recruiting firm that connects with diverse job applicants.
Gulfstream partners locally with Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah and Savannah Technical College. It works with Hispanic Outreach and Leadership at Armstrong. The company has launched an initiative to recruit former military service members.
And once new diverse recruits are hired, they are welcomed by a well-trained staff. "Diversity training is part of new employee orientation. Management development programs include a leadership model program, which teaches inclusive behaviors. Every level of management goes through it," explains Bennafield.
Bennafield himself is a veteran of Gulfstream's diversity council. His background is in IT, and he was a member of the council for more than four years before moving into the lead role for diversity and inclusion initiatives in January. The council has thirteen members and meets monthly.
Gulfstream also has a new diversity outreach structure: diversity champions and inclusion ambassadors.
"These people will be available to get the message out about inclusion and will be the voice from the front lines," Bennafield says, adding, "The champions will be managers and directors, and the ambassadors could be any employee volunteer. We're laying the groundwork right now."
With four generations in Gulfstream's workforce, succession planning is important. Generational leadership is one focus; another is multicultural awareness in a global company. Directors identify employees who are ready to move up, and those interested in management participate in a development program and a leadership boot camp.
The company offers a mentoring program in engineering, in which mentors and mentees sign contracts defining how they will participate. "I have mentors I reach out to monthly, and I encourage people to find those as well," Bennafield says.
Gulfstream staff volunteer in local communities, including four days a year when employees are asked to get involved, and even bring family and friends, for four hours of volunteering.
In an effort to improve local graduation rates, the company partners with an external group to help students in Savannah learn about available careers in the aviation industry. "We host events like Aviation Career Day, where students come out to Gulfstream to see what we do," Bennafield reports.
For college students already showing interest in the field, Gulfstream offers co-ops and internships starting as early as freshman year. Interns rotate through engineering and other areas. The company also sponsors some high school upperclassmen, who work part time at Gulfstream and learn about the aerospace industry.
Work-life balance is important at Gulfstream. The company offers flextime, health and fitness education, a YMCA affiliation with a subsidized fitness program, walking trails and discounts on healthy food in the cafeteria, and lunch-and-learns on topics like stress reduction. Domestic partner benefits are available.
"Our goal is to create a place where everyone can do their best every day and identify opportunities to get better," Bennafield concludes.