A Publication of WTVP

In today’s global economy, it is evident that the skills needed for success can only be developed through exposure to diverse cultures and ideas. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have employee affinity groups, and Caterpillar is no exception. These employer-recognized groups of employees share common concerns and tend to focus on those who have been historically under-represented in the workplace. And when they work well, they can help companies attract and retain employee talent.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines diversity as “the condition of being diverse, especially the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.”

For Caterpillar, diversity has many meanings. “Certainly it’s important that we’re diverse in how we look as a company, especially as we work to attract the best talent around the world to serve our customers,” said Chairman and CEO Jim Owens last year. “But it’s even more important that we’re diverse in how we think.”

Meet Caterpillar’s Employee Affinity Groups
So how does this Fortune 50 company incorporate diversity into its workforce? One way is through its eight employee affinity groups that focus on different races, ethnicities, genders and cultures. These eight groups are:

Why Diversity Is Important
At Caterpillar, diversity is a driving force that helps the company evolve and grow. When the affinity groups were formed, Caterpillar “wanted to provide an opportunity for employees to have a place where they could get together with people like themselves,” explained Kelli Stokes, director of global diversity and talent acquisition. “[Affinity groups] give people of like situations an opportunity to come together to interact and help the organization, to provide information for Caterpillar’s leaders, to mentor each other, and also to provide information about ways they can make the company better.”

Ranked first in its industry among Fortune 50 companies, Caterpillar is mindful of its appeal within the global marketplace. “We are a global company, and we have to embrace the differences in terms of ideas and different things people can offer,” said Amy Ip Tran of the Caterpillar Chinese Affinity Group. “Unless we have a diverse and inclusive environment, I don’t think people will feel comfortable opening up to offer other ideas. Through these affinity groups and through promoting cultural awareness, we will definitely make an improvement.”

Interpreters Help Customers Understand Cat Better

by Jim Angell

Caterpillar’s facilities have always been great venues for showing off “big yellow” products to customers from around the globe. To accommodate the variety of languages and provide the best possible Caterpillar experience, Caterpillar’s Corporate Customer Service group has launched the Dealer Customer Interpreter (DCI) program.

The Corporate Customer Service group, working with Caterpillar’s Employee Affinity Groups, is bridging communication and cultural gaps with customers with a new program that trains bilingual employees to be interpreters for factory tours. The interpreters reinforce the current dealer/customer representatives who manage customers’ stays in Peoria.

“Corporate Customer Services provides sales-oriented and marketing-driven tour experiences that help reassure and convince existing or potential customers why Caterpillar is the leader in the world,” explained Antonio Banegas, interpreter program manager and a dealer/customer representative. “If this message can be given in a customer’s native language, it may produce a higher, more positive impact on current or future purchasing decisions.”

Launched last October, the program teaches candidates about the history of Caterpillar, the facilities being visited, and the products that are made in the region. Currently, the program is focused on the track-type tractor’s Building SS, Mossville’s engine facility Building BB, and the Mapleton foundry. When a group is in need of language support, an interpreter works with the tour guide to relay information to the group. The interpreters are also there to answer questions.

“Employees in the DCI program are pioneers embarking on a new initiative to engage our dealers and customers,” said Will Ball, social responsibility initiatives manager in Corporate Public Affairs. “Today, diversity is a significant factor impacting the global competitiveness of U.S.-based multinationals. The DCI program demonstrates the significant strength a diverse workforce brings to a global company like Caterpillar.

“Employees are volunteering their time to help customers be comfortable with the face of Team Caterpillar by engaging them in their native languages. This creates a powerful impression of Caterpillar with both current and potential customers.”

To qualify for the training, an employee must fluently speak another language, be a member of an affinity group and receive manager approval to provide this service away from his or her normal work duties. Currently, more than 25 people from 10 countries representing five languages—Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, German and Tamil—are now active on tours, and training never stops as more people sign on to be DCIs.

According to one new interpreter, the program is definitely worth it.

“The program provides us a wonderful opportunity to help our company’s global business,” said Weixuan (Sean) Yang, Ph.D., of the Analysis and Materials Solutions, Machine Design Center in the Electronics & Machine Systems Division. “As interpreters, we can interact with customers more effectively to introduce our products and understand their needs. It’s also very good for us to gain product and process knowledge and to enhance our communication skills.”

According to Banegas, the program is in need of interpreters to cover languages from Europe, the Common Wealth of Independent States and the Middle East. Caterpillar employees wishing to help should contact Banegas at [email protected]. iBi

Jim Angell is the editor of Cat Folks, the corporate employee newspaper
for Caterpillar Inc. since 1950. This article appears in the newspaper’s
Jan/Feb 2010 issue.

How the Groups Work
While Caterpillar’s affinity groups have different areas of focus, they all work in similar ways. Each group is made up of committees, holds membership meetings, and hosts lectures they feel are important to their members. Almost all have incorporated some kind of mentoring program, and all are active within the Peoria community. “Once you participate in the group, you get opportunities to develop skills you might not be able to until later on in your career,” noted Jose Lopez Dominguez of the Caterpillar Latino Connection.

Each group operates slightly differently when it comes to its committees. Several of the groups’ committees cover broad, overarching themes, such as communication, education or administration. Others are set up with more specific purposes, such as WIN’s Work-Life Balance focus group or EPDH’s Onboarding committee. According to Mary Vick of the Women’s Initiatives Network, the committees “make sure we’re hitting the mark and addressing what our members feel are important issues.” No matter their purpose, the committees serve to enhance their group’s ability to appeal to its members, encourage participation, and help [members] become better leaders and employees.

Each of the affinity groups offers some kind of mentoring program, although some are not formal in nature. For the Caterpillar Experienced Direct Hires Affinity Group, the mentoring program is very informal. “We don’t want to overstep what’s already been created, so what we’re trying to do now is fill in the gaps,” said Monique Liard. “We’re trying to go after a less formal structure and more of a ‘buddy system’ to help new experienced Caterpillar hires get used to the Caterpillar landscape and the new area they’re coming to live in.”

Other mentoring programs are more formal. The Caterpillar Armed Forces Support Network uses its website to host a survey. Those interested in receiving or becoming a mentor must first answer some questions about their background. “We have a couple people that get together and look at those, match them up and make that initial connection by contacting those two people,” said J. Ryan Hubbard. “At their first meeting they discuss what they’re expecting to get out of a mentor relationship.”

Rolling Out the Welcome Wagon
Adjusting to the Caterpillar culture as a new hire is no easy task. The affinity groups do their part to ensure each hire’s transition into life in Peoria goes smoothly. “We don’t just help new hires, but people who are new to Peoria,” said Lopez Dominguez. “Often times, it feels like they’re in a different country.” To help ease their worries, most affinity groups offer a buddy system to ensure each new employee has someone to whom he/she can reach out with any questions. “Our group has established a guide of things in the Peoria area—like where to go to the doctor and where to go shopping,” added Tran.

The Caterpillar Experienced Professional Direct Hire Affinity Group supplies its members with a checklist to help new employees navigate the company. Mary Vick has found that the best way for an employee to start feeling at home within the company is to meet and network with others. “WIN hosts a speed networking event where we have four or five panelists come in and introduce themselves. Then everyone breaks into small groups with one of the panelists and just asks questions. It’s a great way to meet 75 people in an hour.”

Lending a Helping Hand
Not only do the affinity groups reach out to their members, but “just by the sheer fact that Caterpillar understands how important diversity is to our business, as well as our community,” said Stokes, “our employees are encouraged to be very active in our communities.” Most affinity groups partnered with a Peoria-area organization this year:

With the help of the affinity groups, thousands of dollars have been raised on behalf of these organizations. The Caterpillar Chinese Affinity group worked with the Peoria Chinese Association to raise money for the victims of China’s earthquake in May. According to Dominic Nimpson of the Caterpillar African American Network, their group generated $12,500 to promote African American heritage via the placement of the African American Hall of Fame in the Peoria Riverfront Museum. The Women’s Initiatives Network coordinated 30 members to serve food and take tickets at an event for Dress for Success, generating more than $1,500 of the organization’s $5,000 goal.

Besides fundraising, there are a myriad of other ways in which these groups reach out to the community. The members of the Caterpillar Latino Connection serve as role models and mentors for young children with Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Caterpillar Lambda Network hosts panel discussions for high school students to discuss concerns that many face in regard to GLBT issues that may make them feel excluded or vulnerable. The Caterpillar Armed Forces Support Network hosts collection drives and makes stockings for Citizen S.A.M.’s (Support for America’s Military) Operation Santa. Last year, they sent 35,000 stockings to troops overseas.

Impact on Big Yellow
Not only have Caterpillar’s affinity groups improved the work environments and lives of its employees, they are key factors in the company’s success in an ever-changing, global marketplace. “Diversity helps us to facilitate our ability to deal with change in different ways,” said Stokes. “Everybody has a different opinion, and when you have people with different experiences coming to the table, we get much richer solutions.”

“While each member of Team Caterpillar is different, we are all committed to a common goal and a common set of values,” she added. “We believe focusing on diversity and inclusion will result in better market insight, increased customer loyalty and stronger employee commitment.” iBi