Laura Brody entered a challenging situation when she became the new Director of Diversity and Development for Bestfoods International, formerly known as CPC. This report analyzes critical issues that Brody faced when she was given the opportunity to create change in order for women and minorities to have an equal opportunity and become global leaders for Bestfoods. While Brody had the support of her superiors, she struggled with how to create permanent change within the organization.
By using organizational behavior theories and models, this report identifies the problems Brody encountered, defines diversity as a broad strategic issue, offers alternative solutions, and gives direction to where Brody and the organization must head to complete the implementation of their strategic vision.
Implementation of a Global Strategy For Diversity at Bestfoods Demands Organizational Change Identification of Critical Issues and Problems
The business environment continually changes and all companies must adapt to the competitive environment of business. Bestfoods International is one of the largest global food companies with operations in more than 60 countries and sells their savory, dressings, and catering products in over 110 countries.
Starting in 1989, Bestfoods started a diversity function due to EEO compliance reporting. While diversity awareness has continued since 1989, Bestfoods CEO Dick Shoemate realized the importance of further diversity within the company.
In order to make diversity a part of the strategic vision to make Bestfoods the best international food company in the world, Shoemate hired a new Director of Diversity and Development for Bestfoods International named Laura Brody. She had the opportunity to implement permanent organizational change by using the strategic vision set by the company.
But first the foundation of organizational structure, corporate culture, and human resources practices would need to support this vision. Need For Diversity
With the competitive global food market, Bestfoods International knew that if they were to continue to be as a strong player in this market, then diversity must be increased. With the business environment becoming global and without the most talented workforce, a company’s chances for success are small. By diversifying Bestfoods and creating a management team with people of different backgrounds, their sales should improve. With 60 percent of its revenues originating from countries outside of the U. S. , the need to give each worker a chance to lead is important (Buller, Schuler, 2006, p.91).
With women making more than 80 percent of the purchasing decisions for Bestfoods products, the need for employees who reflected their consumer base was strong (Buller et. al. p. 70). Previous Diversity Prior to Brody’s arrival at her new position, two other directors, a male Hispanic, and a male African American had failed at addressing this issue. While they had been minorities themselves, they were unable to create change. Although Brody was a woman, she was not a minority and might not appeal as much to workers in the other nations around the world.
However, Brody and management felt that with 10-15% more minorities than the industry average and 5-10% fewer woman than the industry average, they needed to focus on women advancing to upper level management, especially in the United States (Buller et. al. , p. 71). With little progress having been made, Brody had an enormous task to manage. Structure Bestfoods International has operations in many countries. Due to this, a company making changes throughout its organization will encounter numerous challenges.
While Bestfoods management in the United States had always made corporate decisions, they had relied on the ability of local management to make individual adaptations to the rules handed down from corporate headquarters. Due to national cultural differences, this allowed each nation to adjust policies to match their standards. Due to the decentralized structure of Bestfoods, the question of what to expect from the international divisions became a major source of attention. Shoemate stated about the decentralized structure: “It’s our strength, but it’s also a challenge when we try to make changes” (Buller et. al. , p.71).
Culture While the structure made it tough to increase diversity, the present corporate culture did not support the strategic vision for diversity. For many years, white males filled almost all senior level management positions in the United States. For women who wanted to advance, there was a perceived “glass ceiling” at the middle-management level. The employees at Bestfoods tended to reflect “Middle America,” where the people are conservative, traditional, and old fashioned (Buller et. al. , p. 74). Brody described the culture as “traditional, conservative, polite, gentlemanly, and non confrontational” (Buller et.al. , p. 74).
“While the politeness contributes to the pleasant relations Bestfoods is noted for, it also makes face-to-face confrontations rare; criticism and dissent tend to go underground” (Buller et. al. , p. 74). Due to this more “traditional” culture where men were managers and women were secretaries, diversifying management would mean changing the culture, perceptions, and attitudes. Often success was based on how long you worked rather than actually producing results. Human Resources Brody faced several challenges when it came to human resources.
There was higher turnover at every level of management for women and minorities. A disproportionate number of women and minorities left Bestfoods within the first three to five years of employment. The cost to continually replace workers in the company was high. While there was a goal to recruit at the MBA level, it would be hard to recruit quality women and minorities where there was a history of little advancement for these employees. The company needed to be viewed as a place where women and minorities would advance and spend their careers.
Also, women and minorities saw their performance to be less linked to compensation than did whites or men (Buller et. al. , p. 72). Organizational Change and Stress With the strategy to be a preferred employer, to have a balanced workforce, and to be an equitable workplace which would result in enhanced business results, change was required. With each employee having their own perception of fairness at Bestfoods, it would be hard to create change where each person saw reality instead. Many managers had stereotypes of how women should be treated in the workplace.
Was the diversity issue only a U. S. issue or was it companywide? Many of the older men did not understand that in the current workforce, many women wanted to work up the management level and have both a professional career while having a family. Due to these perceptions, the definition of diversity would need to be broad so that it did not exclude white males and so that other countries would not only see it as a U. S. EEO requirement (Buller et. al. , p. 74). Diversity also includes employees having an adequate work/home life balance.
With divisions in a number of nations where they create their own human resource and other policies, a culture that does not support leadership of women and minorities will hold resistance to change. Changes would need to be made to the organizational structure, the corporate culture, and the human resource department. Theory Application Organizational Structure At Bestfoods, organizational structure varied from the average everyday workplace. While Bestfoods had a strategy to implement diversity, they had an older conservative structure that needed to be adjusted in order for their diversity strategy to be implemented.
As a result of this old-fashioned structure, women, minorities, and employees with different backgrounds perceived fewer opportunities for advancement in career development. As the senior management had become more dominantly based on white males, customer needs were only comprehended by their views, making the company’s goal of becoming the number one international food company in the world a challenge to achieve. Making changes in the company was slow to come by in a decentralized multinational corporation. Bestfoods had a decentralized corporate structure. The divisions were working more or less autonomously.
Shoemate had expressed difficulties maintaining the balance between giving the local divisions power to make their own decisions and integrating these units into a coherent whole (Buller et. al. , p. 71). This was a challenge that every company with a similar structure faces. However, it can be of some help to the company, when making changes such as the ones that Brody was attempting to. By having the decentralized structure, the individual division has the capacity for working autonomously and adapting to the corporate guidelines, which should result in a smoother transition when changes need to be made.
A mechanistic model ran the divisions in the United States, where Shoemate ran all operations as CEO. Mechanistic models provide a stable workplace and a noticeable chain of command (Robbins, 2005, p. 468). The problem with the mechanistic model is the lack of involvement in decision-making by the lower level employees. With “invisible barriers” that restrain diverse employees from moving up the corporate ladder, important viewpoints are absent in critical company judgments.
On the other hand, of the corporation’s 44,000 employees, two-thirds worked outside the U. S. Bestfoods as a global company had an organic structure, with a wide span of control and cross-functional teams in contrast to the bureaucratic U. S. This helped to give everyone a say in choices but employees then had multiple demands and priorities from different superiors. This relates to the matrix model of structure where workers must report to two bosses. In the 59 other nations, workers may report to a boss, but that boss also must report to Shoemate.
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