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Fostering a Diverse, Inclusive Culture at Smithfield

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When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Smithfield Foods puts its commitments into action.

The world’s largest pork processor has committed to measurable increases—of 35% and 30%, respectively—in the hiring and promotion of women and individuals in underrepresented groups. And it’s pledged to do it all by 2030.

Bridging a gap: In September 2020, the Virginia-headquartered manufacturer launched its Operations Leadership Program, created to develop a strong pipeline of diverse talent to fill future management roles.

  • “We lead with data. And our data shows there’s a gap in diverse representation between production and management,” said Smithfield Foods Manager of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Jessica Jones. “The OLP provided us an opportunity to track data on team members, their promotion opportunities, how they’re elevating within the company with a commitment to monitor year-over-year data three years after program completion for each cohort.”
  • In just over two years, the program, which garners participants through applications, has seen 132 graduates and nearly 50 promotions.

Providing encouragement: Ironically, many of the same employees the OLP was designed to help were initially reluctant to apply, Jones said.

  • “We did focus groups and what we realized is, those who weren’t applying were women and people of color,” she said. “They shared, ‘I don’t think it’s for me,’ and when we heard that, we realized it meant, ‘I never saw myself going higher than my current opportunity.’”
  • Smithfield’s leadership began to strategically target their communications to specifically focus on these employees and encourage them to consider the program. “That’s when we started to see the uptick in more women and people of color applying,” Jones said.

Other D&I initiatives: To reach its lofty 2030 diversity and inclusion goals, Smithfield has deployed other programs, too, including the following:

  • Smithfield’s Farmer Diversity Program, which aims to increase the number of Black and minority hog farmers in the company’s supply chain;
  • A Future Leaders Program that gives scholarships and career opportunities to rising high school seniors through summer internships to increase diversity in leadership;
  • An expansion of the Smithfield Foods Scholarship Program for eligible dependents of Smithfield employees so that it includes historically Black colleges and universities; and,
  • A supply-chain initiative in which the company has committed to increasing its production-facility spend with minority-owned businesses by 14% by 2025.

The company has also signed NAM’s Pledge for Action, in which manufacturers commit to 50,000 specific actions to increase diversity and inclusion. 

The last word: “I have seen this company change and evolve in such a wonderful way,” Jones said. “We now have opportunities to elevate and expose our employee base to Smithfield’s leadership—making sure they have a touch point, a way to connect. Our leadership wants to know how they are doing, prevalent challenges and support needed. The change has been so encouraging.”

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