Does Supplier Diversity Really Work?
Our agency is a certified diverse business so we are registered with national and regional minority supplier development councils and attend various supplier diversity and procurement events throughout the year. It’s a niche that has been developed by the agency since it’s inception though not fully explored. A question that often comes to my mind every time I return from such events is about the relevance and effectiveness of these events for small businesses.
@NMSDCHQ and @WBENCLive are two leading minority business certifying organizations and both organize the largest and most popular supplier development and procurement events nationally. Each of these operate regional councils which in turn organize their own supplier events throughout the year. Because of our national reach and nationwide client presence we are partnered with both national and regional councils, which is a good strategy for businesses interested in expanding its boundaries.
Most events are well organized and well attended by corporations and diverse suppliers alike. For corporations its an ideal platform to source diverse talent and businesses, essentially to meet their diversity quota requirements. For diverse suppliers it’s a unique opportunity to meet various corporations, in one place, that are seeking diverse suppliers just like them. It’s a perfect fit. What’s missing are qualified supplier diversity managers that understand the relevance and impact of this business imperative. These are the front-line people that are the face of the corporations and interact with suppliers at these events. I’ve seen these managers at all levels, from very qualified and passionate about the business to the ones that have no clue about what they are doing there.
Yes, the system works and creates a win-win, but it’s effectiveness is questionable, largely because of the quality of the conversations these supplier diversity managers are having with suppliers. Corporations would do better by hiring and training managers that understand the strategic relevance of this initiative for their organizations. In turn, also soliciting feedback from suppliers on their performance at various levels of interactions. Similar to supplier evaluation, there should be organizational evaluations conducted at supplier levels to get genuine feedback and insights from a supplier perspective. Suppliers would do better by identifying corporations that genuinely show an interest in them and building productive conversations that lead towards partnerships.
Supplier diversity works and continues to grow many businesses. What’s needed to enhance it’s effectiveness is a deeper level of interest and commitment by the front-line supplier diversity managers to meaningfully connect with suppliers. Minority and diverse suppliers are hungry for businesses growth since they have everything vested in it. A receptive conversation that leads to a meaningful dialogue will enable both the corporation and the supplier to collectively realize their strategic business objectives. The answer to the question here is clear; supplier diversity indeed works but it works as much as you want it to work for you.