With his workers carrying strong postelection emotions into the workplace, Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak took to e-mail twice this week to assure his nearly 90,000 employees that the medical-device maker will continue to promote inclusion and diversity in all of its operations.
“We are clearly sensitive to those who may have been the focus of the unkind words and actions recorded over these past days,” said Tuesday’s e-mail, signed by Ishrak and the heads of Medtronic’s employee-inclusion groups. “ ... Let us reassure everyone that Medtronic holds its inclusion and diversity principles as an irrevocable priority.”
The note, which went to members of Medtronic’s many diversity groups, said some company employees had recently reported feeling a sense of insecurity or unwelcomeness, and were harboring fears of violence, harassment or retaliation. A second e-mail to all Medtronic U.S. employees focused on potential business impacts in areas like tax and fiscal policy, workplace and environmental regulation, and global trade.
A wave of corporate CEOs sent out messages reaffirming commitments to diversity after Republican Donald Trump’s surprise win in the Nov. 8 presidential election, including messages from chief executives at Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and eBay.
Boston Scientific CEO Mike Mahoney, whose med-tech workforce includes thousands of Minnesotans, sent out a similar note.
“Whether pleased or disappointed by the election outcome, we all need time to process the results and move forward. This is a time to listen to each other and to be respectful of different perspectives,” Mahoney wrote in an e-mail this week to Boston Scientific’s 25,000 employees worldwide. “We remain committed to our core Boston Scientific values and to ensuring that our culture is one where all employees feel included.”
Elizabeth Campbell, assistant professor of work and organizations at the Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis, said the executives are trying to address the ambiguity and uncertainty that arises following power shifts at the national level.
“What these leaders are doing is helping to clarify that no matter what’s happening or what uncertainty there is at the national level, this is what we believe in,” she said. “This is what is congruent with our values, whether they are consistent or inconsistent with what we are seeing at the national level.”
Trump’s divisive comments about women, religious and ethnic minorities and undocumented immigrants were widely viewed as demeaning by members of those groups. Trump, who won the electoral college vote, takes office Jan. 20.
His victory left corporate executives to decide whether to respond to concerns in some circles that voters validated Trump’s divisive comments and ideas on Election Day.
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said in a postelection interview that the coarse attitudes toward women embodied in recent sports and political stories “is going to be a lethal force that’s going to take over society” if people don’t “nip this in the bud,” according to the Washington Post. Her comments quickly generated calls for a boycott of Pepsi among Trump supporters on social media.
At Medtronic, inclusion and diversity are prominent topics.
The massive med-tech and surgical supply company — which was founded in Minnesota and moved its legal headquarters to Ireland last year — has a corporate mission statement plank known as “Tenet 5” that says the company is committed to recognizing its employees’ “personal worth” by providing an environment that is secure and allows them to gain satisfaction from their work.
“Our commitment to fostering an inclusive working environment and increasingly diverse workforce is good for business and aligns with our values,” Medtronic said in its 2016 “integrated performance report,” published Wednesday. “We are committed to equal employment opportunity and to growing our representation of women and ethnically diverse employees at all levels and in all locations.”
During the fiscal year that ended last April, the report says 33 percent of Medtronic’s U.S. employees were members of racial or ethnic minority groups. Women made up 49 percent of the company’s workforce, and 33 percent of its management and executive ranks. The company hired 16,000 people during the fiscal year, 45 percent of whom were female.
Medtronic maintains a dozen different employee groups to support the needs of its diverse workforce, including groups for Muslims, Christians, women, blacks, members of Latin American and Asian cultures, LGBT employees and veterans.
Under Ishrak, Medtronic has reinvigorated how the company monitors progress toward inclusion and diversity, the performance report says.
“We will continue to increase our full engagement of a diverse workforce in Medtronic and will encourage our employees to uphold these same principles in the communities where they live,” Ishrak’s Tuesday e-mail said.