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February/March 2012

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Diversity In Action

Rockwell Collins: diversifying its workforce, building careers

"Our strategy is comprised of people, workplace and marketplace," says Jacy Haefke, director of diversity and workforce development


The Midwestern community of Cedar Rapids, IA is not as diverse as either coast, but that isn't stopping aerospace giant Rockwell Collins from aggressively diversifying its workforce and fostering employees' careers.

Rockwell Collins is a pioneer in the development and deployment of innovative electronic solutions in communication and aviation for both commercial and government applications. Its expertise in flight-deck avionics, cabin electronics, mission communications, info management, simulation and training is delivered by 20,000 employees. Its global service and support network crosses twenty-seven countries.

"Our strategy is comprised of people, workplace and marketplace," says Jacy Haefke, director of diversity and workforce development. "We want to ensure that what we do in terms of programs and investment of time and money is aligned with this strategy. We want to continue to foster an environment that attracts diverse people from all around the workplace: an environment that values inclusion and encourages diversity of thinking. We are trying to make sure that we generate an environment of innovation to satisfy customers' needs."

Steve Schulz is director of talent acquisition. He says the company has seen "a nice improvement in the number of females in leadership, an increase over several years. In terms of minorities the numbers are good, too, but we're looking to continually improve."

Of the organization's engineers, 12 percent are female; 18 percent are ethnically diverse. In IT, 37 percent are women and 16 percent ethnically diverse.

To surmount the challenge posed by its HQ location, Rockwell Collins sponsors Diversity Focus, a not-for-profit community organization. "Local companies contribute to the group, which is designed to help the Cedar Rapids community be welcoming and attractive to diverse people," Schulz says.

Rockwell Collins also relies heavily on networking connections from eight employee networks. There are active groups for new hires, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Pride (LGBT), people with disabilities and their supporters, veterans and women.

What types of opportunities are available at Rockwell Collins? "We're seeing more and more systems engineers," Schulz notes. "The skills we're looking for lean toward systems integrators, but software engineers, EEs and MEs all have skills we value."

In the IT or "eBusiness" arena the company looks for programmer-analysts, solutions architects, security admin folks and network admins.

"If they have experience in systems engineering, particularly aerospace, it's a good plus for us because they can hit the ground running," Schulz continues. "But this is increasingly hard to find, so we reach out to adjacent industries like automotive or gaming, where you'll find engineers with great skills."

Hiring levels in 2012 will depend on the external marketplace and the number of retirements, but the company is making a "concerted effort" to bring in new grad technical talent. Schulz notes that "Rockwell Collins endeavors to have a diversely skilled workforce, a weighted balance among late, mid and early career talent.

"The competition at any level is fierce but the new grads bring fresh and innovative thinking."

The company offers internships and co-ops as part of its talent acquisition strategy. It finds that interns who are hired full-time are productive and stay with the company. Beyond the degree, Rockwell Collins seeks techies with leadership experience. "It shows us that they've already been there, done that, and are a step ahead of their peers," Schulz says.

A critical element of the company's recruiting strategy is partnering with external networks and organizations. They include the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Organization on Disability and the Student Veterans of America (SVA). In particular Rockwell has found SVA to be diverse by nature, and its members easily segue into the company's defense-focused business.

Mentoring programs and employee networks are available, as are a number of diversity and inclusion training programs, Haefke says. Each year leaders engage employees in at least two D&I training activities.

"We offer to train all employees and have additional programs specific to leaders. We offer courses that talk about the dimensions of diversity, generations and intercultural business etiquette."

To boost careers Rockwell Collins uses a "Mentoring for All" online tool that matches mentors to mentees. "People can go and find mentors who meet their development needs. They can access folks across the organization with no restrictions," Haefke says. There's also a traditional mentoring program for high-potential talent.

Employee networks also provide a lot of mentoring: recently the women's group established a mentoring circle based on parenting.

Rockwell Collins has a multi-tier approach to diversity. An office of diversity is integrated with HR functions like hiring. A diversity advisory council has reps from each business unit.

The last tier is the executive diversity council, made up of the CEO and his direct reports plus other COOs and senior VPs. These "diversity champions" take ownership and get involved personally, Haefke notes. The diversity advisory council meets monthly and gives information to the executive council, which meets quarterly.

CEO Clay Jones doubles as the company's chief diversity officer. "He put the whole structure together, took that role and established the strategy in 2005 and 2006," Haefke explains.

Community involvement is important to Rockwell Collins. The company sponsors FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics (www.usfirst.org). As part of the sponsorship, the company is involved with the FIRST Lego League robotics competition, where some forty teams of middle-school students from around Cedar Rapids and more from around the world compete using Legos and robotic software. Employees also work with students through other FIRST programs and Team America's Rocketry Challenge.

The company offers a broad slate of work-life balance programs: flexible work arrangements, telecommuting, part-time jobs and job sharing. A "benefits and wellness" program encourages healthy living, and recreation and daycare centers are part of the main campus in Cedar Rapids.

D/C




Rockwell Collins Inc
www.rockwellcollins.com


Headquarters: Cedar Rapids, IA
Employees: 20,000
Revenues: $4.8 billion in 2011
Business: Communication and aviation electronics solutions for commercial and government apps

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