How Cummins infuses social impact across their business
In today's episode, we explore an inspiring Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) case study with Cummins.
We discuss why collaboration between business teams in a large organization is crucial to growing social impact...and how to do it. We talk about CSR challenges and opportunities in larger organizations and how to embed social impact in every aspect of the business.
Finally, Cummins walks through two social impact programs that have led to significant business impacts both internally and externally.
Watch the episode:
Prefer to listen:
Read what we discussed:
So today we have a very special show. We have three special guests. Our first guest who is actually today's co-host is Kathryn Pisco with Benevity. I also have Amanda Reid who is a Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager with Cummins, and Whitney Wilber, who is the Global Employer Brand [00:01:00] Leader with Cummins as well.
Awesome. Welcome. And thanks so much, Karl. Whitney and Amanda, we're so happy to have you as part of the show today.
For those of you that are listening or watching and may not know Cummins, these two ladies are joining us from Cummins, which is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures and distributes engines, filtration, and power generation products.
While they're headquartered in Columbus, Indiana, but they have over 61,000 [00:01:30] global employees. And so really excited to hear a little bit today from you both.
And I figured it'd be great if you don't mind, we could kick it off. If you could both tell us a little bit about your role at Cummins.
We like to... We've had a lot of CSR professionals on in the past that have talked about their roles, and this is a little unique and kind of fun to have two folks that aren't necessarily in CSR, but working closely with the CSR [00:02:00] team. So Amanda, would you be able to start us off?
Sure. Thanks for having us also. We're really excited to be here today.
So my role is I get to help infuse strategies for our iversity, equity and inclusion efforts, primarily for talent acquisition, but on a global scale.
So all job categories, all levels of experience and how can we just be really thoughtful and mindful about designing systems and processes that drive [00:02:30] equity in very ethical ways.
I also have the pleasure to get to help support the CARE initiative, which is a special initiative through our CEO under our corporate responsibility arm, and it's Cummins advocating for racial equity.
And it is a very passionate movement within the organization.
Whitney is actually someone who is supporting some of those work streams as well as an employee for Cummins where we're trying to help our communities do better and also think [00:03:00] about driving equity more ethically in areas that are controversial for some companies, but where we see it as just being a part of our values and doing great things.
Kathryn Pisco: And Whitney, could you tell us a little bit about your role too?
Sure. I would love to. And thank you for having me.
So my name is Whitney Wilber and I lead global employer branding and recruitment marketing for Cummins.
It's a little bit of an interesting space because myself and my team sit within our external communications team within our communications [00:03:30] organization, but we are very much embedded within our talent acquisition organization.
And our team, we have a lot of passion around supporting and building brand and helping to source top talent for Cummins.
Our responsibilities really live within talent attraction communications, employer brand strategy and build outs, [00:04:00] EVP.
That would be employer value proposition development and adoption concentrated on those efforts. And we're really focused on the candidate experience through not only our own marketing channels and how we attract and bring in talent, source talent, but also through the technology through our talent acquisition organization.
And we're really focused in partnering with people like Amanda [00:04:30] when it comes to social sourcing and digital marketing campaigns to support talent acquisition
Just to kick us off, I wanted to just talk a little bit about, I think we all kind of know this to be true, but then there's research that backs it up.
In fact, a recent Forbes study revealed that companies who promote collaborative work were up to five times more likely to be really high performing.
But collaborating during at any time is really tough. And I think especially during COVID when we're all remote [00:05:00] is even more challenging.
And so I was hoping, you already spoke to it a little bit when you were explaining your roles and collaboration, but why have you found that it's so important to work cross-functionally at Cummins and then specifically if we can dial in even more around to really also find ways to collaboratively infuse that social impact in these programs? Whitney, would you mind starting us off?
Importance of cross-functional collaboration when growing social impact
Being able to work cross-functionally with different teams [00:05:30] not within our own organizations is key for our employer brand group, especially around instances where we want to bring our EVP to life and step outside the box with making, I guess you could say partnerships with different charities or organizations that make an impact and really represent our values.
Part of my job and my team's [00:06:00] responsibility is really to bring our employer value proposition to life.
And by working cross-functionally with groups such as Corporate Responsibility, we're able to understand more about partnerships that are in place with different charities and different organizations and not-for-profits and how we can really story-tell and insert those great bits of work that we're doing to positively impact people's lives not [00:06:30] only in the communities in which Cummins has a location or a presence, but really globally.
So working cross-functionally with corporate responsibility with partners within talent acquisition, and also with leaders within the business that we're trying to attract into different technology spaces.
It's really important for us to make those connections network [00:07:00] even if it feels a bit foreign. We tend to always make a connection and create really good work together.
I love the way you put that too because it doesn't always... It feels a little foreign or maybe a little unnatural and it's actually just pushing yourself to do that.
And then it seems, and excited to hear even more, but once you do that, the possibilities are endless.
Amanda, would you be able to speak to that at all as well?
Well, I [00:07:30] think especially for an organization our size, we're so big, we're so global, it's really at the core about recognizing and taking advantage of the expertise that is all around you.
Corporate Responsibility, they know how to vet these organizations.
They understand how to decipher what can make the greatest impact. Whitney's team knows how to tell those stories, how to touch people.
And our team, we have the DE&I [00:08:00] expertise and the talent acquisition expertise.
So we know what our strategies are, what we want to accomplish, but together is how we have to make that happen.
Our strategies are going to die on the vine without Whitney's team there to actually bring them to life.
And without those relationships from Corporate Responsibility, how could we really trust that we're making the right decisions for partnerships?
And maximizing things they've already built and optimizing [00:08:30] them even more.
We're right now having conversations with an amazing refugee program that our Corporate Responsibility group has worked with for years, and we want to optimize that.
We want to move past the support systems we've already been providing, and let's start using the other things we have at our hands like jobs and people who are experts in resume writing and we can actually find people life-changing opportunities, [00:09:00] not just helping them set up for success and helping them with those other aspects.
It's really a win-win-win, but we need each other to achieve that.
So you both mentioned the importance of... Well, you actually emphasized the importance of working with the corporate social responsibility teams.
Can you mention why that's important and any of the successes or challenges that you've had when you've had to work with those teams?
And maybe Whitney, you can go first.
Success and challenges working with CSR Teams in a large organization
You don't [00:09:30] know what you don't know, right?
So it takes time just to reach out to someone and maybe be a bit vulnerable with an idea, right?
And I think what's really worked for us is that we've learned along the way and we've built trust within different groups, right?
And with that collaboration, we've created some really meaningful [00:10:00] marketing material and really meaningful connections with people through some of the events that we processed through just asking questions and asking if the corporate responsibility team or other groups within communications are open to partnering together.
Amanda, I guess, what would your feeling be on working with the CSR teams and [00:10:30] I guess everybody else, any other teams and departments in Cummins?
Well, to be fair, I can tend to be a little bit of a bull in a China shop.
And I'm very fortunate that Cummins has a culture gives a lot of grace and understanding to kind of help me understand how the organization works.
And the fact of the matter is a lot of these organizations, especially in [00:11:00] a big company, are somewhat siloed naturally.
That big company are somewhat siloed naturally.
They have different reporting lines, they have different smart role alignments.
There's a lot of things that maybe don't help enable some organic collaboration, but we've been in a really good scenario that Whitney's helped me navigate a lot of her relationships as somebody who's been with the company longer as well, so that way we could make things happen.
We [00:11:30] did an amazing period poverty campaign with the Society of Women Engineers, and that wouldn't have happened without those types of relationships and that type of collaboration, and we actually created a squat project team to work through some of those growing pains of how do we partner together, how can we be most effective and achieve the greatest good?
I'm sure those relationships aren't built overnight.
Do you start with [00:12:00] small projects and then grow from there?
Or is it something that you want to have them right at the beginning of a major initiative?
How to build relationships when working on social impact projects?
So I would say that you got to eat the elephant one ear at a time, and for a company like Cummins, a corporate responsibility is huge, it's fast, it's super mature.
They're very evolved in the work that they do and very well established.
So for us being smaller teams, it was more approachable and it made [00:12:30] more sense to come to them when we see opportunities for proper alignment and opportunities to use their expertise.
The Period Poverty Initiative was one of those.
Whitney and her team just executed some really, really thoughtful welcome boxes for interns and hires from the National Society of Black Engineers as well.
When we are trying to be thoughtful in having at top of mind when and how [00:13:00] and where can we partner with them, it takes intentionality, but it's on us to have that intentionality.
They're doing great work all the time and they do reach out to us if they see opportunities, but they're not heavily involved in our work.
So I think it's our responsibility and it should be our responsibility to engage with them and pull on them when we feel like we have the opportunity to do so. [00:13:30]
Whitney, I don't know if you feel differently about that, but they're out there solving world hunger and we're not.
Something to add to that, Amanda is, the work that they're doing is so powerful, that as a marketing professional, I think CR is really open to our team building additional [00:14:00] awareness of their work and also using that as a tool to attract talent.
So, I mean, not only are we learning and some of the work is already done for us in terms of existing partnerships with organizations or charities, but we have an additional megaphone that we can build awareness and amplify the good that we're doing within our organization and the good that's coming out of CR
[00:14:30] Well, and in our other projects work too, I feel like we're really well-received by them.
They are welcoming with open arms anytime we pull on them for an opportunity that we feel like corporate responsibility brings value to the table for one of our strategies.
Another point to that is by leveraging your team members in different groups, and I believe Amanda made this point earlier, [00:15:00] you're really taking advantage of their expertise, which creates space for our marketing team to do what we do best while leaning on the CR team to focus on what they do best.
At the end of the day, we ended up having a really great product to bring to our candidates and share the impact that we're making.
I can honestly say some of the things that I am most proud of since working at Cummins are the things where we thought to partner with corporate social responsibility.
[00:15:30] It's the type of stuff that gives you meaning and meaningfulness into the work that you're doing, because jobs are life changing, but it's nice to have jobs be life-changing and do other good things as well.
I love it. I'm super inspired just hearing it too.
I was taking notes and I heard ... I think there's two ways you can look [00:16:00] at it.
One is just, how do we work cross-functionally, and some of the things I heard you say is sometimes we have to be bold, you have to ask questions, how to navigate and form those relationships that are outside of your own kind of silo.
Be really intentional about it, leverage other folks and other team's expertise.
Then really cool, Whitney, you mentioned that both of you teaming up with CR is yet another way to kind of continue to not only leverage their expertise, but also [00:16:30] promote another avenue to promote their work.
So really showing that kind of win-win that you described as well. So thank you both.
You had mentioned a little earlier a couple of specific ways and how some of these collaborations have actually manifested themselves.
I was hoping that you might be able to actually ... we could get into some of these tangible ways and you could walk me through those examples.
The first was the Period Poverty Campaign, Amanda, that you mentioned earlier. Would you be [00:17:00] able to tell us more about that?
What that looked like, some of the outcomes you saw and if it was relevant also to collaborating with CR?
Period Poverty Campaign
Yeah. I think with that initiative, it really started with we just had a problem to solve.
We wanted to engage more authentically and more deeply with some intended demographics.
The instance at hand was the Society of Women Engineers.
We wanted to engage more with women. [00:17:30] We wanted to connect with them in a way that was more meaningful at that event as well. Whitney's team was a lot of the inspiration.
We had just come through a new employer value proposition launch, and that was really thoughtful and insightful because one of the things that came out was, well, a lot of companies have the same values.
Those words, everybody's got something around environmentalism or sustainability, around diversity or around caring [00:18:00] or excellence.
Not all companies live those values and overwhelmingly the research and focus groups showed that Cummins does.
They're not words on a wall.
They are something that you would experience.
They are something that you feel as a part of our culture. We wanted to bring that feeling to people who just interacted with us.
Not just employees, but how could we give that same experience and that [00:18:30] same understanding of our values and who we are as a culture to people who are coming by our recruiting booth and who are interacting with us.
We're a very well kept secret in terms of, I think, sometimes our culture and how authentic it truly is inside as an employee, and we wanted to share some of that with people outside because it is our secret sauce. It's what makes us who we are.
In addition, we had been looking at [00:19:00] potentially creative ways to minimize spend on swag, plastic things have our logo on it that are a hundred percent what everybody does.
It's totally standard, but does a water bottle with our logo on it or [inaudible 00:19:16] chapstick with our logo on it really tell you something about our brand?
So we really wanted to design these moments and we wanted it to be very core and centric to women. So [00:19:30] we started doing a little research and we started learning more about how many young women are impacted by period poverty.
In the Anaheim area, which is where the conference was, the previous year roughly 88,000 young women missed school when they were on their periods because they didn't have access to pads, to tampons, to menstruation cups, to period panties.
At Cummins, we believe empowering your potential and that also means powering the potential of the next generation of female engineers and how are we going to power their potential if they can't even make it to the class?
So we decided to go kind of big kind, kind of bold, got rid of all of our plastic junk, did some benchmarking and decided, "You know what? Everybody who comes to our booth, we're going to talk to them about [00:20:30] periods.
We're going to talk to them about marginalized populations of girls, how it impacts their future and their potential, and we're going to sponsor a period for one month for every person who comes to our booth."
More than that, we also wanted people to be inspired and to inspire others.
So when people came to our booth, we asked them to write a note of inspiration to those girls, the same ones.
Corporate responsibility is who brought Girls, [00:21:00] Inc to the table.
So we want people to be inspired as well and to inspire someone else.
So through that program, we had great measurable outcomes, but that program wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for Whitney's team as well and the relationships she has with employer brand and marketing, as well as corporate responsibility.
Good ideas are one thing, seeing them through and getting [00:21:30] them executed so you can actually make a difference is something else, especially in a very large matrixed environment.
Her team is who was able to make that vision come to life and to get the support and sponsorship so that way we could move forward with it.
We chose not to brand the notes of inspiration.
We just wanted them to feel very pure and I'd be lying if I didn't admit the fact that I kind of enjoyed seeing some of my middle- [00:22:00] aged male colleagues out there like the Oprah of periods.
Talking to candidates about "You're sponsoring a girl's period for one month! And you're sponsoring a girl's period for one month!"
And it created a really authentic experience.
There were young women who were tearing up in our booth talking about their own experiences with homelessness as a teenager, particularly when they were younger and after [00:22:30] the housing crisis.
There were people telling us, international students, sharing with us just really appalling, horrific stories that they had experienced, or their sisters had experienced.
And what a huge barrier this is to someone being able to actually achieve their potential.
It was really moving. It was really inspiring.
And what we did is we really just led with our values.
Caring is [00:23:00] a core value at Cummins, and we wanted people to feel that and to be a part of it.
We actually had people coming to our booth who maybe weren't familiar with our company.
We had recruiters from other organizations signing their kids up in our candidate system because they felt like our organization was a place they would want their child to work at.
I think that's really meaningful because to me, it means they felt our values.
They experienced it. [00:23:30]
And not only that we had record foot traffic.
We saw a 213% increase in female engagement at that event.
We no longer were putting plastic swag with our logo on there out there, to be thrown away before someone leaves the conference or things of that nature.
We sponsored approximately 900 periods that day and sent 900 notes of inspiration to girls week as well. [00:24:00]
And we actually surveyed the people who came to our booth afterwards and we asked them, "How did it impact your understanding of our values?
How did it change the perception of us as a potential employer for you?
Would you want us to keep doing things like this in the future, or would you prefer if we go with just a traditional non-for-profit?"
Overwhelmingly the individuals that responded said, "No, do more. Do this. Keep doing this. [00:24:30] And it makes your company more attractive to me.
And it helps me understand and feel your values of caring, your values of diversity and inclusion and your values of sustainability."
It was a really special moment for us, and it was a really great proof of concept that we can carry with us to other partnerships, to other events, to other relationships in very meaningful ways.
And it's so inspiring and the outcomes you described [00:25:00] too are not only great. I mean, yes, making a really unique and longterm and inspiring social impact.
But also being able to increase brand engagement and awareness, be able to recruit some of the talent that you're looking to recruit, really stand out.
I mean, all of those things are just unbelievable. So thank you for sharing.
And Whitney, I know we had talked and [00:25:30] one of you had referenced earlier the recent intern boxes that you did as well.
I believe that's what you had called it at Cummins, but I would love to dive a little bit into that too.
What that looked like, what that project was, maybe some of the outcomes and some of the ways that you also worked with your CR counterparts.
So going into our 2021 intern season for the summer, we knew that nearly 70% of our interns that we're bringing [00:26:00] on board with us were going to be virtual and remote.
We knew that there was a need for us to make an impression, reinforce the positivity in their decision in coming on board with Cummins for their summer internship program and experience.
So, our employer brand team focused on collecting and curating a box of giveaways and gifts that were meaningful and intentional. [00:26:30]
We were able to purchase and procure some items that were local to the state of Indiana, where our global headquarters is located.
And we procured those items through black-owned and women-owned businesses here locally in the state.
The second piece that I think was really meaningful and is going to be received really well, is our partnership with corporate responsibility and identifying [00:27:00] a organization, a not-for-profit that we could donate to in honor of our interns this year.
We were able to provide a donation to Rights For Girls.
Rights For Girls is an organization that focuses on supporting predominantly black and brown girls in mainstreaming conversations around justice reform, [00:27:30] gendered violence.
And making that a priority in supporting the girls that come in through the organization.
And another piece that was really meaningful as well as, we show up as a brand that is inclusive and equitable.
And we talk about our culture in different virtual event settings. Specifically [00:28:00] the National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Women Engineers from this previous fall program, where we were recruiting talent.
So, I think these welcome boxes really reinforce our culture through those conversations with our people, when candidates were going through the recruiting process.
So that they can feel and see the same value showing up in the simple welcome box that they receive at their home.
Sounds like a really great [00:28:30] program.
Coming at it from a non-CSR professional role.
So what advice would you give CSR practitioners, leaders, professionals who've got inspired by the examples that you've [00:29:00] provided today?
And how would they go about starting or infusing that social impact, or starting these CSR programs into their businesses and working with people like yourself?
How CSRs could work with other business teams when starting or scaling their goodness programs
I just would really encourage individuals to think big and think multi-dimensionally.
So, if you're looking at working with an organization that's going to help support mock interviews or resume writing workshops, why [00:29:30] not get those people real jobs in your own company?
Think bigger and make the information accessible and transparent for partners.
That has probably been one of the areas because so many CSR orgs are so big, or they're their own arms.
They're doing good work all the time, and they're just moving along with their projects.
But it's because they've made themselves accessible to us, that we've been able [00:30:00] to reach out, that we can learn, that we know who the right points of contact are.
Otherwise, we might just be operating blissfully unaware of how we could be doing more good in different ways.
We have great opportunities to do greater as an organization.
And I think if I were to sit in the corporate social responsibility position, or if I was in say maybe a younger or smaller organization, just getting that started, I would think very multi- [00:30:30] dimensionally.
I'd be thinking about my supplier diversity.
I'd be thinking about my employer brand proposition.
I'd be thinking about what types of organizations are we partnering with.
And how can we maximize those partnerships to do the greatest good across our organization, in ways that maybe are less than traditional as well?
And Whitney, from your perspective, if a CSR... Let's say you are in a [00:31:00] smaller or a younger organization, what kind of advice would you provide a new CSR pro to work with you and maybe your team?
I'd recommend it to really focus on the stakeholders that could be involved in a project.
Oftentimes CR professionals are creating that charter for that scope particular scope of work. But thinking outside the box in terms of who could benefit from this work.
[00:31:30] And I would say communications professionals.
Not just the ones that you may partner with on a regular basis to promote for your use and your channels, but also widening that idea of bringing in communications professionals, marketing professionals to help amplify the work that you're doing.
[00:32:00] I think even though we are a technology company that's really focused on engineering and we have many different forms of customers, I think customers, investors, they come to expect companies the size of Cummins to be doing this work.
And I think with that expectation comes a lot of responsibility and also value that they can see [00:32:30] in the organization, aside from purchasing that product.
They're also forming perception around that particular company in the work that they're doing outside of that technology that they're providing.
Same thing that can be said for our work.
It may be a corporate responsibility project or not-for-profit relationship that's been sparked, but our candidates come to expect [00:33:00] that out of an employer such as Cummins.
And we can use that as a way to attract and really entice candidates to feel and understand our culture.
One thing that Whitney and I talked about and explored is don't let your product brand limit what you do in those relationships.
We see it a little differently from our perspective from employer brand and talent acquisition, because [00:33:30] the thing that we are selling is the authenticity of our culture and our values.
So while period poverty or rights for girls might not feel aligned to the products we sell, it is aligned to the heart of our culture and to not negate that because that's really, really important, and it's an intangible that's really, really an art and a science when it comes to the type of work that our employer brand team does.
[00:34:00] But I think corporate responsibility, the work that they do, it's proof of the culture and it demonstrates the actual actions and the decisions being made in an organization. So it's really powerful storytelling.
One thing I keep thinking about too, and you two might not be the ones that know this data point given your roles, but I'm curious, we talked a little bit about how these collaborations [00:34:30] not only increase social impact, which is a great thing, and really help from retention or attracting top talent perspective.
I'm curious, do you have any insights about how some of these collaborations and the way that your culture is really focused on doing good and making social impact has from an employee perspective? Are our employees engaging more?
Are they supportive and happy within the culture as well? [00:35:00]
My gut feeling is it's just going to be a yes, and we move onto the next question.
But I was thinking about that a lot as you guys were talking.
How Cummins social impact programs affect employee engagement
In our organization, we can actually log or corporate responsibility, hours as well.
So it is about doing good, but it's also about recognizing that employees are engaged in doing good.
Part of the inspiration around period poverty was actually a localized event in one of our facilities where the organization, rather than [00:35:30] giving away, local leadership decided to make toiletry packs and dignity packs for people in a local homeless shelter.
And we see lots of great engagement from our employees every single year.
I believe the Care Initiative, we have over 200 employee volunteers just in localized communities that are helping to support that work.
Even just probably in the next few weeks, Whitney and I will be with [00:36:00] both local public school districts and police departments about how can they be mindful of DE&I work and being equitable with the community and how they recruit talent into their own workforces.
So while at Cummins, doing good has definitely always been a pillar, and caring is a core value for us as an organization, our company also recognizes and rewards the type of [00:36:30] people that we have in our ranks and the fact that they are doing good, because we want more of that.
Whitney, I don't know if you have any insights around that.
Well, I think our corporate responsibility work also has a role to play in reinforcing our employer value proposition to our internal employee base.
I believe it can almost be seen as a retention tool, reinforcing that I decided to come and start [00:37:00] and begin my career journey with Cummins and seeing stories like this and efforts by our employees, by the teams that are responsible for this work, it is definitely a retention tool.
Great. Well, thank you very much for joining us.
We just have one more question for both of you.
Do you have any advice, whether it's CSR professionals or not, to any of our listeners, [00:37:30] in your opinion, how do we go about embedding social impact into every aspect of our business?
How to embed social impact into every aspect of the business
I think it's okay to demand more of your company, of how your money is spent, how decisions are made for vendors, and of your own work and your own strategies.
We could have easily just went with a fluffy non-for-profit in anything, but we wanted [00:38:00] to do something that was intersectional, that was thoughtful, that felt like it really resonated with the intended audience as well as our values as an employer.
And we went to bat for it.
Not everything is well-received by everyone, and sometimes there are people who just don't get it, but I think it's about pushing those boundaries yourself as an individual in what you have stand up control over, [00:38:30] as well as I think it's appropriate and it's timely to ask more of your company, whether it's through your ERGs, through your own leadership, through your supplier decisions.
I think it's the right time and if we haven't been doing it already, we should be asking more of our company, more of our CEOs, and reach out and make those connections [00:39:00] and those partnerships internally to help you move some of those asks across the finish line and to celebrate the wins too.
And I also believe that everything that has transpired in the last year, now's the perfect time to take some of those risks and to ask those questions and to spark [00:39:30] a new change in how we think about our work.
I believe that in terms of our work between Amanda and I with talent acquisition and candidate attraction, candidates have an eye for what's authentic right now with what companies are putting out there externally.
They can see pretty quickly what is considered woke washy [00:40:00] and that's something that we're mindful of, but as professionals in this space, now's the time to really go out and push boundaries.
And that's exactly what my advice would be to someone who has an interest, who knows what is the right thing to do, and who wants to see an additional spark for change.
Question of the day
How has your CSR team or teams worked cross-functionally with other teams or departments in your organization?
And what strategies and tips would you have?