Leadership • Accountability • Vendor Relations
Dale Callender – Employment Law Attorney – Tony Simmons President
It is axiomatic that leadership commitment to an institution’s overall diversity and inclusion program must also include a commitment to its supplier diversity initiatives. Leadership must recognize and communicate the value of providing underrepresented groups with equal access to its procurement process.
Over time, however, leadership advocacy for supplier diversity initiatives can become diluted, resulting in the weakening of institutional commitment to achieving supplier diversity. Some questions to consider about the role of leadership:
1. has leadership changed since the plan was started? Has the new leader not only announced support for supplier diversity initiatives but also taken steps to demonstrate that commitment?
2. has leadership promoted and advocated for supplier diversity with both internal and external stakeholders, so that all segments of the community are engaged in the discussion? Have appropriate faculty and staff been included in the supplier diversity conversation so that differing views have been aired and possibly harmonized?
3. have competing demands and challenges — from changing political landscapes and rising student costs to declines in funding — depleted energy that once was devoted to meeting supplier diversity goals?
4. is the leader aware of “fiefdoms,” i.e., departments that are pockets of resistance to supplier diversity (and other forward-thinking programs) where things are done “the way they’ve always been done”?
Many organizations have lengthy, carefully drafted supplier diversity policies and procedures, supplemented with brochures and videos to publicize them. Yet sometimes these policies exist only on paper, making it difficult to discern where day-to-day operational responsibility for supplier diversity activity actually lies. Some questions to consider about accountability:
1. has a specific person been given responsibility for establishing, monitoring and revising supplier diversity goals? Is his or her compensation tied to meeting those goals?
2. does that person have authority to significantly influence the procurement process by working with departmental purchasers to locate, contract with, and develop minority suppliers?
3. are purchasers held accountable for meeting diversity supplier goals? Is this a factor in their evaluation and compensation?
4. has any responsibility for using diverse suppliers been allocated to Tier 1 suppliers who already are in the pipeline?
5. as the program matures, and diverse spend increases, does accountability include examining the spend among diverse groups and recalibrating spending goals if necessary?
Policies and procedures form the framework of a supplier diversity program, but cultivating relationships with vendors is essential to maintaining a robust program. Some questions to consider about vendor relations:
1. do minority vendors have access to the information they need to do business with your institution? Is there, for example, an actively managed website where they can register, prequalify to bid, get information about upcoming bid opportunities, ask questions, and read FAQs?
2. are vendors provided with coaching, training, certification assistance, help forming joint ventures with Tier 1 suppliers and other help to increase their capacity? If not awarded a bid, do they receive constructive feedback?
3. does leadership regularly take part in supplier diversity activities?
4. are minority vendors informed about your institution’s unique culture? The vendor’s objective is to present the most competitive, cost-effective bid. For the vendor, it’s a numbers-driven process. But what if an organization also wants, for example, evidence that hiring the vendor will serve a societal benefit, such as economically helping the local community? Diverse vendors need to know all the “rules of the game” before they bid.
Anthony Simmons is President of SBSI Consulting, which assists organizations in developing and implementing diversity and inclusion policies and strategies.
Dale Callender is an attorney who managed employment law matters for TIAA. She now is a college admissions coach for high school students.