Article: We need to foster a workplace culture of belonging and attachment: AMD's Mark Pearson


We need to foster a workplace culture of belonging and attachment: AMD's Mark Pearson

In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, AMD's Mark Pearson talks about D&I cultural pillars including talent attraction, education, acknowledgement and marketing.
We need to foster a workplace culture of belonging and attachment: AMD's Mark Pearson

Mark Pearson is Senior Director, Talent and Organizational Capabilities at Advanced Micro Devices. He leads the global Human Resources functions of Talent Management, Belonging and Inclusion, Learning and Development, Organization Development, and Talent Analytics/Insights at AMD.

With over 25 years of experience in Human Resources, Pearson has built and implemented highly successful internal education programs and processes for personnel in small businesses and Fortune 25 companies.  He has designed leadership programs, interventions and consulted senior executives on organization development issues and initiatives, global facilitation, and executive coaching. 

1. What are your top priorities for D&I in 2020? And could you talk about why you have chosen these priorities? 

Our top priorities for 2020 are to foster a culture of attachment and belonging. We fundamentally believe that our success as a company hinges upon our employees, both new and tenured, feeling they “belong” at AMD. 

Diversity connotes statistics and requirements while “belonging” connotes attachment and connectedness. We believe “belonging” is what every employee desire in a workplace. Driven by this thinking, we have renamed the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) group at AMD to “Belonging and Inclusion” (B&I) team. 

We are extending the sense of belonging by initiating “intersectional” events between ERGs. One example is our LGBTQ+ group called PRIDE, coming together with our AMD Women’s Forum (AWF), Salute (current and former military members, supporters, and their families), and Go Green team (our environmental ERG) to sponsor activities related to Pride month across our sites. 

We realize that AMDers belong and identify with many groups. By combining efforts, we create an even stronger sense of belonging both at the individual and group level. We realize that the deeper attachment a person has to other AMDers and our corporate vision, the greater the commitment, engagement, and retention among our employees.

Another area that we are focusing on is how to ensure our new joiners feel 100% engaged right from the start. We realize that attaching to a new organization can be difficult for new employees. So, from the moment they get identified as potential candidates, through the interview and hiring stages, we provide them the opportunity to meet and interact with people they can identify with. Once they commit to joining AMD, we ask them to identify which Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) they might be interested in. We then have our ERG leaders reach out, welcome them to AMD and assign them with a buddy to help navigate the initial days and weeks at work.

2. Creating awareness around Diversity & Inclusion helps build an inclusive culture at the workplace. How do you make sure employees ‘feel’ included? 

At AMD, we want to make sure that every person who comes to work to support our mission of delivering high performance computing brings their full self to work. We don’t want any employee, regardless of their background, education, ethnicity, gender, special working needs, or orientation to feel that they have to cover up who they are to contribute to the goals of AMD. 

We achieve this by visibly promoting AMD as a place of belonging. Examples include flying a Pride-branded flag during Pride month, digital signage to publicize Employee Resource Group events within office, articles and banners on internal communication platforms, employee e-mail signatures, website, social media channels etc. to highlight our selection in industry awards like HRC CEI index, Bloomberg GEI, Forbes Most Admired Company etc. 

3. What kind of workplace opportunities does a multi-generation workforce enable? Do you drive programs that are aimed at different demographic cohorts? 

We have some Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) at AMD that lend themselves a more generational lens. We have a global Caregivers group that help employees who are responsible for caring for others to link arms in social, educational, and service opportunities. We find that some of these employees are caring for both their children and their parents. Young parents are part of this group as they can lean into the experiences of others for tips, techniques, and a sounding board as they raise their own young children. We also have ERG groups like the Emerging Leadership Forum in India that cater to employees just starting in their careers to provide leadership and interpersonal skills that drive their career and impact at AMD. 

If you want to increase leadership buy-in to initiatives of D&I you have to tie your efforts back to the business. 

4. How can HR leaders work towards gaining leadership buy-in and ownership towards driving diversity and inclusion initiatives? 

This is a critical question. If you want to increase leadership buy-in to initiatives of D&I you have to tie your efforts back to the business. There is now ample evidence that shows that the more diverse the workforce is, the greater the likelihood of better business results, shareholder value, and overall employee engagement. Human Resource practitioners must spend the time to know their business (not just HR) and measure the D&I initiatives they undertake to demonstrate to senior leadership the ROI (Return on Investment) of their efforts. With our ERGs, our guidance is that events should drive business impact versus being purely social. This will make senior leaders more open to promoting and participating in these events.

If you want to increase leadership buy-in to initiatives of D&I you have to tie your efforts back to the business. 

5. What are the key cultural pillars that foster inclusivity? 

At AMD, our D&I cultural pillars include talent attraction, education, acknowledgement and marketing. We call this a “TEAM” approach to Belonging and it drives everything we do. Each initiative we undertake must align with at least one of these pillars. The TEAM approach is built upon what the employee experiences at AMD. It starts from the moment a person applies for a job and runs throughout the employee lifecycle in the organisation.

6. What kind of metrics can be applied to measure the effectiveness of D&I initiatives? 

The most common way is to measure the impact of your Employee Resource Groups and its associates. For many organizations that is done through metrics such as size of the membership and number of events. We believe, what is more important is to measure the “impact” of the employees in these groups. 

For example, do the employees inside our ERGs show higher levels of engagement than non-ERG members? What percentage of your ERG membership are considered “top” or “emerging” talent? Do the ERG members refer people to the organization at higher rates than the larger population? Are retention rates higher for our diverse and ERG populations than the rest of the organization. These kinds of measures show impact of D&I initiatives. Moving toward “impact” over “activity” is critical to legitimacy for many businesses and industries.

7. Can you tell us in one word what Diversity and Inclusion means to you? 

Belonging - People by nature want to belong to something that is greater than themselves. Everything we do from a D&I perspective should be about helping people attach quickly to foster that sense of belonging and community. 

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Topics: Diversity, Talent Management, #EachForEqual

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