March 8, 2019
Speaker challenges students to lead diversity, inclusion in future workplace
Kansas State University students flooded the Town Hall in the Leadership Studies Building to hear firsthand the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Angela Jones, the senior vice president for people and culture at Kansas City-based Compass Minerals, told the near-capacity gathering that diversity and inclusion "really are a strategic business imperative."
"Diversity in the workplace doesn't guarantee you're going to get better results, even though we'd like to think so," said Jones, whose resume includes nearly 10 years as the vice president of human resources at ConAgra Foods. "But the reality is that when you've got a lot of people with different ideas, you could have chaos."
She said companies wanting to capitalize on a diverse workforce need to provide the training that allows managers to create an environment where everyone – regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or any number of characteristics – is able to thrive.
"Managers need cultural dexterity, which is the ability to understand their employees' differences and navigate through those," Jones said.
She added that capitalizing on diversity takes a lot of effort and commitment by the company, much like successful sports teams.
"Well-managed teams in businesses work that way as well," Jones said. "You know the strengths, you bring out the best, you know what your goal is and you want to win. When you bring that all together, that's the magic of inclusion and having a high-performance, inclusive culture."
Jones challenged the students to differentiate themselves as diversity leaders as they prepare to enter the workforce in the next few years.
"Even though you're not in a management role, it doesn't mean that you're not going to be a leader coming in," she said. "As you think about cultures and organizations that want to be inclusive, every individual has a responsibility to lead and make sure that people are treated fairly and that you're helping to bring out the best in your teammates as well as yourself."
Jones' talk was brought to K-State by the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences club, or MANRRS, with support from the K-State College of Agriculture Student Council and Ag Ambassadors. Jones' appearance was sponsored by Compass Minerals.
MANRRS is a student group providing support for K-State students enrolled in agriculture, forestry and related sciences. For more information, visit ag.k-state.edu/about/diversity and click on the link for MANRRS.