Organization polishing state’s image

By C. Grant Jackson

Senior Vice President/Community Development

Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

South Carolina has an image problem and that hurts our state. When we were battling Washington State for the Boeing plant, a cartoonist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer crammed as many South Carolina stereotypes as possible into a cartoon entitled: “How many non-union South Carolina workers does it take to attach the wing to a Boeing airplane?”

The panel had a group of rednecks standing on top of each other and asking a dog to fetch the duct tape. It also included a Confederate flag, a moonshine still, an outhouse door in place of the airplane door, an “up” sign with the arrow pointing down and several other slams against our state, including nooses dangling above.

Boeing, of course, went on to put its plant in North Charleston and is expanding operations, putting the lie to the stereotypes depicted by that cartoonist.  But unfortunately too many companies and individuals believe those stereotypes and won’t even consider locating in South Carolina.

The recently formed Diversity Recruitment Consortium is working to help correct those misperceptions about our state and “to communicate to the world the message that South Carolina is a destination not a pit stop. Our desire is to create economic development and bring a more diverse workforce to the state.”

The Diversity Recruitment Consortium grew out of the South Carolina Diversity Leaders Initiative programs of the Riley Institute at Furman University. By way of full disclosure, I’m a Riley Institute Diversity Fellow having been part of the Midlands class in 2012. DLI is an initiative that helps leaders better understand what diversity is and builds management skills to facilitate better understanding and deeper relationships across all forms of diversity, including racial, cultural, gender, age and sexual orientation. Concern over South Carolina being perceived as less than welcoming was a recurring theme among DLI participants.

But how to change or at least mitigate that perception? The idea developed that a group of organizations or companies could be more effective in presenting a true picture of South Carolina than any single organization, and the Diversity Recruitment Consortium was born.

The consortium, known as DRC, was rolled out in March at OneSouthCarolina 2013, the annual gathering of S.C. Diversity Leaders Initiative graduates. DRC works “to collectively develop innovative programs, practices and processes to increase the diversity of professional and executive talent in South Carolina-based organizations. Where traditional methods of recruitment may fail to adequately address candidate reservations about moving to the state, the DRC uses a more sophisticated recruitment style, which offers a broader understanding of what our state has to offer for individual career and lifestyle opportunities.”

DRC members, both organizations and individuals, have access to special programs that leverage each other’s recruitment and retention efforts.

Programs being rolled out or planned include:

DRC Ambassadors. Volunteers who receive orientation and training on how the DRC can help their own organization’s recruitment and retention efforts and who can help work with other organizations.

S.C. Employee Resource Group Forum. An educational workshop for members of employee resource groups, affinity groups or networking groups of member organizations.

DRC Member Organizations Intern Barbecue. An opportunity for interns of the various member organizations to meet and get to know their peers in other organizations.

The DRC is led by three organizations: the Riley Institute at Furman, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. The Greenville Chamber serves as the primary facilitator of DRC programs with help from the state chamber’s Diversity Committee. Nika White, vice president of diversity and inclusion in Greenville, works in partnership with Cliff Bourke of Southeastern Freight Lines in Lexington County who chairs the state committee and is president of the South Carolina Diversity Foundation.

Founding DRC members include BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina; Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson & Delgado LLC; Fisher & Phillips LLP; Gallivan, White & Boyd P.A; Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center; Integrated Media Publishing; Haynsworth, Sinkler, Boyd P.A.; Michelin N.A.; Nexsen Pruet; Parker, Poe, Adams & Bernstein LLC; South Carolina Diversity Council; Southeastern Freight Lines, Inc.; Spartanburg Regional  Healthcare System; and Wyche Law Firm P.A.

General membership in the DRC is free, with a pay-as-you go model to participate in individual programs. The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce recently became a member. Members are required to participate in at least one DRC event each year, designate Ambassadors to participate in the program and absorb the cost of participating in DRC events.

For more information visit http://www.diversityrecruitmentconsortium.com

C. Grant Jackson is senior vice president/community development for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at (803) 733-2513 or at gjackson@columbiachamber.com.

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