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Workforce Diversity--The Competitive Advantage

According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, minorities will represent almost half of the U.S. population by 2050. The minority workforce is also expected to grow to 28% by 2005. As a result of these demographic changes, it is becoming increasingly critical for companies to attract, retain, develop, nurture, and advance qualified and diverse employees that represent the society. As a global employer, General Motors ( GM) believes that a diverse workforce offers a competitive advantage and strives to foster an environment that offers the greatest opportunity for the increasingly talented and multicultural population.

GM recognizes the importance of having employees who reflect both the marketplace and customers and is committed to creating and nurturing an environment that supports diversity. In order to attract "the best and the brightest," GM has formed partnerships with key institutions and organizations and positioned the company as an "employer of choice" among potential talents, who are regarded as great assets of the company.

More than 20% of GM's current workforce in North America was brought in within the last 4 years. Split between college graduates and experienced new hires, they came from more diverse backgrounds geographically and culturally. GM recruits at key institutions and organizations for various functional areas such as manufacturing, engineering, research and development, marketing, communications, and human resources. An increasing percentage of GM's new hires are selected from its Student Programs, such as the College Co-Op, High School Intern, and College Intern Programs. For the past few years, GM hired more than 2000 summer interns per year from participating institutions, in addition to awarding 2000-plus scholarships each year.

To attract a diverse talent pool, especially in areas such as engineering and science, GM has also partnered with organizations such as Advancing Minorities' Interest in Engineering, the National Society of Black Engineers, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers ( SHPE), and the Society of Women Engineers. For instance, GM has supported SHPE for more than 20 years and was recently honored as the "Company of the Year" by the organization.

Retaining talent is as important as recruiting it. To help new hires understand GM's culture, policies, and procedures and build confidence for future success, GM has implemented an aggressive mentoring program. New hires are paired with experienced employees from whom they can learn organizational values and systems, discuss career paths, and seek counsel and advice. The mentoring program has played an instrumental role in helping convey corporate culture, develop future leaders, and improve employee performance, enthusiasm, and retention.

To make diverse constituencies feel more welcomed and valued at GM, nine affinity/employee groups have formed since 1999. The nine affinity groups include African American, Asian American, Hispanic, gay and lesbian, people with disabilities, new hires, and women. These affinity groups have provided opportunities for employees to connect not only with each other but also with the communities in which they work and live. The Hispanic Initiative Team (HIT), the Hispanic employee group, has helped new hires through the HIT Ambassador Program. HIT members contact Hispanic new hires 3 days after offers are made to them and counsel them through the transition process.

As stated in the legal brief filed by GM in support of the University of Michigan affirmative action case, "only a well-educated, highly diverse workforce, comprised of people who have learned to work productively and creatively with individuals from a multitude of races and ethnic, religious, and cultural histories, can maintain America's global competitiveness in the increasingly diverse and interconnected world economy." GM, the largest manufacturing employer of minorities in the country, will continue to develop a diverse workforce and provide opportunities for all employees to reach their highest potential.

For further information regarding GM diversity initiatives, please contact Shiny Qin, GM Communications, at