The final forum, which took place on Nov. 22, featured keynote speaker, Renita Jefferson, director of diversity for American Greetings, and addressed diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Jefferson said diversity can be defined as the “presence of difference.”
“We are more alike than we are different,” Jefferson said. “But it’s the differences that matter.”
Jefferson said diversity is important because it can drive business success, help keep companies relevant and keep employees engaged.
“Inclusion drives engagement,”
In the first forum of the series on Sept. 27, keynote speaker, Chad Luxenburg, chief executive officer of scitrain, stressed the importance of people.
“People are the biggest resource that each company has,” Luxenburg said.
Joseph Vitale Jr., interim vice president of human resources for Kent State University and panelist, reaffirmed that people are the most important.
“We tend to think of business as a product and the most important part of a business is its people; the type of people you attract, the type of people you retain, the type of people you develop, the type of people you promote and the type of people who take you strategically where you want to go,” Vitale said. “If you don’t have that, you’re going to be very unsuccessful in business.”
Throughout the first forum, Luxenburg and fellow panelists highlighted the five megatrends that are affecting the workplace.
One of these megatrends was the change in the demographics. Luxenburg pointed out that there is an aging population and the average age in the United States is 37 years old, while throughout most of the world it is only 27.
The generation gap was also addressed in the second forum in the series on Oct. 11, when keynote speaker David W. Miller, senior consultant for Avatar Solutions, pointed out that there are five generations in the workforce today and it is important for employers to make sure they engage all these generations.
Panelist Aaron Ziff, vice president of international strategy and consulting at an HR consulting firm, said employers should look at what the generations have in common. Ziff identified three reasons why the generation gap might not be very big.
First, as people age, they change; he said differences have more to do with people’s age and family structure rather than their generation.
He said there are also some commonalities between the generations.
“No one wants to work in a sweatshop,” Ziff said. “There are some things we all look for in a job.”
Ziff then compared the differences to someone’s style.
“We all wear clothes,” Ziff said. “But we shop at different stores.”
The third forum on Nov. 1 addressed how employers can meet the needs of the future workforce.
Keynote speaker Jackie Rybka, director of human resources at American Greetings, said it’s important to have a continuous coaching culture where employees are continuously learning from one another. She said that management and HR should recognize in what areas employees excel.
“It’s not just about areas for development, it’s about strengths,” Rybka said.
Jennifer Cohen, a panelist and consultant at Ratliff & Taylor, an HR consulting agency, said if employees are engaged, they will be happy.
“It’s all about how you treat people,” Cohen said. “Happy employees relate to happy customers.”
Fellow panelist, Robert Hall, manager, training and development at Kent State University, said a job offer should be like a proposal.
“That’s what work is, we want to marry you,” Hall said. “We want you. We want to make a commitment. That’s how serious this proposal is.”
The HR Forum Series will continue in the spring semester, but the dates have yet to be determined.
For more information about the HR Forum Series and the College of Business, visit www.kent.edu/