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Diversity in action

Diversity flourishes at SC Johnson
The company seeks to reflect the diversity of its customers. Right now it’s actively recruiting for RD&E; at both entry and experienced levels
Marie Campbell: continuing to reflect the diverse marketplace.
Marie Campbell: continuing to reflect the diverse marketplace.

The 117-year-old SC Johnson is a family-owned and -managed company that makes all kinds of popular household products. Ten years ago it jumped with vigor into the pursuit of a diverse workplace.

“We know more clearly now how the marketplace is growing in terms of spending power of consumers who are Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, women and gay/lesbian,” says Maria Campbell, the company’s director of diversity. “We have a lot of energy and passion around ensuring that we continue to reflect the diverse marketplace.

“We realized that because of the changes in the workforce we had to improve our flexibility within the organization. That’s why we’ve seen the emergence of a number of work/life initiatives, like creative mentoring and shadowing opportunities.”

SC Johnson started out in 1886 making parquet flooring, then developed a floor care product it sold as Johnson’s Prepared Paste Wax. Today the company has operations in more than seventy countries and sells in more than a hundred. The current chairman, Dr H. Fisk Johnson, is the fifth generation of the Johnson family to head the company.

A number of SC Johnson’s 12,000 employees are technical professionals. The chairman himself holds a PhD in physics. Campbell is an industrial engineer and Lynette Noble, human resources manager for the research, development and engineering (RD&E;) unit, is a chemist. A woman ChE, Darcy Massey, is senior VP of RD&E.;

RD&E; is based at company HQ in Racine, WI. Many of the company’s tech pros work there, says Karen Garoukian Ferraro, director of human resources. Ferraro notes that RD&E; hires many ChEs, MEs and packaging engineers, and recently began bringing in more IEs and EEs.


SC Johnson logo
SC Johnson
www.scjohnson.com

Headquarters: Racine, WI
Employees: 12,000
Sales: Approximately $5 billion
Business: Products for household cleaning, home storage, insect control, air care and personal care

SC Johnson also hires technical people in other areas, including its IS and environmental divisions, Ferraro says. Many of them are also based in Racine, on the shores of Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Waxdale, the company’s largest manufacturing plant, is near Racine. Other U.S plants are in Bay City, MI and Fresno, CA. Ferraro notes that the company’s manufacturing locations around the world also hire technical staff, typically ChEs and MEs.

Employees across the company have access to programs intended to nurture their careers. For example, the “mentoring-up” program connects mid-level managers with top execs. It’s a way to build relationships and spread knowledge about the company’s operations, says Noble. It also gives senior executives a perspective that helps them understand the challenges employees face.

An officer-shadowing program puts people together with division leaders to pick up inside tips on success. Ferraro says technical people sign up for both programs regularly.

Other broad-based employee programs include telecommuting, flexible work schedules, “no meeting” days, childcare services and domestic partner benefits. Several, Ferraro notes, grew from diversity outreach efforts and employee requests. SC Johnson is also piloting a work/life initiative to help employees become more productive.

Responding to these efforts, Fortune, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal and the Human Rights Campaign, a gay- and lesbian-focused organization, have repeatedly ranked the company high for diversity and overall working ambience.

SC Johnson’s focus on diversity has the full support of William D. Perez, president and CEO. The company appointed its first director of diversity in the early 1990s, following up with business councils for African Americans, women and Hispanics. Later additions include a gay and lesbian council and AbilitiesFirst for people with disabilities.

Today, leaders of those five groups form a joint council to ensure agreement on the direction of diversity initiatives and to share best practices. “The business councils have helped us heighten our understanding and awareness,” Campbell says.

The councils go beyond the workplace, adds Noble, a former co-chair of the African American council. She points to the Racine Youth Leadership Academy, an after-school program in which employees mentor young men and boys in the African American community.

Hiring for diversity, the company works to tap a pool of diverse candidates. Internships target juniors and seniors in both high school and college, and produce a large percentage of new hires. A summer internship program called Training Opportunities for Proven Stars (TOPS) draws from talented minority students in the Greater Racine area.

Right now the company is recruiting for its RD&E; unit at both the entry and experienced levels. SC Johnson targets job fairs put on by SHPE, SWE, NOBCChE and NSBE to find manufacturing-related folks, and hires directly from a broad range of colleges and universities.

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