It’s been more than two years since supplier diversity programs took center stage for many organizations. And while there have been pockets of great stories, there is still a lot of progress to be made.
Too many companies are stuck in the grind of reporting diversity spend numbers over focusing on the behaviors that will move the needle for historically underrepresented groups. It makes sense – companies need to report numbers to show progress on their efforts, but reporting spend alone doesn’t create an impact on the lives we are looking to change.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Terri Bowers, senior group manager of supplier programs outreach at Microsoft Corporation, to talk about how the company is focusing on driving change and creating a more equitable world through Microsoft’s AMP’D (Advocates, Mentors & Peers for Diverse Suppliers) Community. During our chat we discussed three activities that any company could replicate to elevate their supplier diversity program.
Tip #1: Be Really Specific in Your Organizational Goals
Just like in life, when we try to do everything and spread our time too thin, rather than doing three things really well, we end up with mediocre results. Same goes with supplier diversity. If we have general goals such as improving supplier diversity spend, the weight of the goal itself is so large and can be overwhelming. This is called information overload. Companies need to define specific goals and break down the steps to achieve them.
Microsoft did this successfully in two ways.
First, Microsoft realized that they had great diverse spend in the categories of technology, professional services and technical services but there was a huge opportunity for diverse suppliers in other categories where diversity was not well represented in the supply chain. So, now they target specific categories of spend to find and grow diverse suppliers.
Second, Microsoft set a goal to increase spend with and create opportunities for Black and African-American owned businesses. This is similar to the 15 Percent Pledge that encourages retailers to pledge at least 15 percent of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses, as part of its racial equity commitment.
Tip #2: Advance Supplier Growth Based on their Individual Ambitions
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to evolve a supplier ecosystem. Some diverse suppliers may seek guidance with filing taxes, some with access to capital, others just want access to decision makers, and some have everything they require and just want to expand their network. To build supplier capability, companies need to first understand specifically what the supplier requires and then evaluate where they can engage, or who internally to involve to address their aspirations.
In addition to everyone having access to the AMP’D live series (see figure 1), Microsoft defined supplier individual learning journeys to get the most out of AMP’D through two filters. First, they categorized what the supplier wanted from Microsoft into three paths (Ready, refresh, rising) based on the maturity of the supplier and their current relationship with Microsoft (see figure 2).
Second, they offered diverse suppliers the opportunity to show their interest by enrolling in AMP’D and customizing their team of guides from Microsoft. Suppliers could choose one of any combination of all three:
- Advocates are typically budget-owners or influential individuals from within Microsoft who are willing to socialize and connect suppliers to opportunities.
- Mentors are typically people from within Microsoft’s procurement or finance teams who have engaged with suppliers before. They are most likely to have the systems and process knowledge, as well as an understanding, of policies and compliance requirements that newer suppliers will have questions about.
Peers are strategic-level suppliers willing to take their partnership to the next level by working with AMP’D mentees, potentially on Microsoft projects or even on projects outside of Microsoft.
Tip #3: DEI is a Learning Journey
While we should absolutely be critical about the activities we are doing to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), it’s important to know that DEI is a learning journey that we are on together.
For Microsoft, that journey started with listening, and adjusting course when initial plans don’t pan out, I think we can all learn from that first step.
Don’t forget to show up when it counts.
Thank you to all the companies who have made a choice to invest in supplier diversity, especially the companies we have profiled for their cool initiatives such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, FirstRand, Intel, Cummins, Humana, American Water and CDW (subscription required). They are all making a difference where it counts.
Senior Director, Advisory
Gartner Supply Chain
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