The one missing factor that could brighten your business’ future

Written on May 11, 2016

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

In a changing business landscape, one of the best ways for companies to stay on the cutting edge and secure their future is to integrate diversity into their culture.

We have to think differently to retain and expand our workforce, not only in business but in our whole world,” said Marilyn Tam today in her presentation, “How to Reap the Rich Harvest of Culture, Creativity and Community,” at OSCPA’s Business Excellence Symposium in Westlake.

Marilyn Tam

Tam, whose past positions include the CEO of Aveda Corp., president of Reebok Apparel and Retail Group; and vice president of Nike Inc. has firsthand experience with integrating diversity into company cultures. She highlighted the changes in the workforce with statistics: the United States school system was made up of 78% white students and 22% minority students in 1973. In 2015 that number was 49.8% white students and 51.2% minorities.

She urged those in the recruiting process to think about these numbers, and how to use this information to better increase retention and recruitment. One of the best ways to make sure diversity is embraced in the company culture is a commitment from the CEO and all top management, along with measurable metrics and key performance indicators, Tam said.

She shared her personal story of overcoming adversity and hardship after being born as the second girl in a traditional family in Hong Kong. The message she heard often as she grew up was that she wasn’t wanted, and she wasn’t given high expectations to achieve.

Despite this environment, she graduated from college in America and went on to work at major corporations and become a successful entrepreneur. She discussed the ways companies big and small can embrace culture and community to further their business model, such as forming groups for breastfeeding mothers or making diversity a regular focus of discussion, even when it might be uncomfortable in the beginning.

Tam emphasized the importance of happiness, citing a Gallup Research study that found in 2013 the U.S. lost more than $550 billion because of unhappiness. The simple translation is that happy workers make for more productive, creative employees, and happy people lead to better business results.

“I made it through because I was determined and motivated by something greater than the obstacles in front of me,” Tam said. “If we have a purpose and motivation, you and your team can make it through anything.”

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