Successful Diversity Initiatives--Arbitron

Mauricio Velásquez, President
Diversity Training Group

Arbitron is one of Diversity Training Group's most important clients. We at DTG believe Arbitron has executed an excellent best practices example for other organizations to emulate and learn from. Hence, we are proud to present this article written by Mauricio Velásquez, President of DTG, after he interviewed Mr. Steve Morris, the President of Arbitron. Arbitron is one of our "dream clients." DTG will gladly work with any organization that displays the same the leadership commitment and support for diversity and workplace inclusivity as is prevalent at Arbitron.

Arbitron is a media information firm providing quality research and services to broadcasters, cable systems, advertisers and other agencies. A division of Ceridian, Arbitron was established in 1959, and has more than 500 employees in sales, production, and data processing. Recently, Arbitron moved its headquarters to Columbia, MD. Additional offices are located in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

In 1994, Arbitron formed a diversity leadership team consisting of employees from across the company with Steve Morris, President of Arbitron, as the Champion, and Jacinta Marshall, Senior Consultant, Organizational Effectiveness, as the team leader. The mission of this team is to create a culture and environment where the diversity of the employees is acknowledged, appreciated, and cultivated for the good of the organization as a whole. Through a series of initiatives, Arbitron is beginning to reap the benefits of their approach and outlook toward diversity.

Why embark on the diversity journey?

Mr. Steve Morris, President of Arbitron introduces some of the diversity awareness workshops (with a skill-based emphasis) and discusses why he feels Arbitron is engaged in this training effort. Recently, Steve made the following remarks. "Diversity is about differences and differences are great! Differences are important. We need to cultivate these differences. We need to understand these differences and turn them into strengths." Steve has three major reasons for training his employees in diversity awareness and starting other support initiatives and activities.

First, on an intellectual level, Arbitron measures local radio audiences. That market is continually redefining itself with new radio formats addressing emerging segments of the population. A more diverse workforce would allow Arbitron to better understand their customers and thus serve them more effectively.

A second reason Arbitron supports diversity initiatives is an awareness of what consequences will result when they do not value diversity. "The alternative is a group of managers who clone themselves," Steven shares of his past experience working at a major packaged goods marketing company. Steve is a Harvard Business School (HBS) graduate. While attending HBS, he was recruited by and took a job with a company in which he found himself surrounded by other HBS alumni. This homogeneity created an organization where upper and top level management thought the same way and reacted the same way to internal and external problems and opportunities. "We were predictable and we were not innovators or leaders, and I believe this led to our organization being acquired," says Steve who is adamant about being a leader and an innovator in his company's industry.

"Lastly," Steve asserts, "I believe companies today are becoming increasingly part of the social fabric. We spend most of our life, most of our time, here at the office." Companies are a part of society and Steve believes companies have an obligation as part of society to build a sense of community and bring people together.

In summary, seek, value, respect, and cultivate diversity within your employee ranks and your market, or suffer the consequences. Lose touch with your customers and it will not be long before economic pressures force you to change.

What is Arbitron doing exactly?

Arbitron embarked on a major diversity awareness training initiative. They have recently completed Phase I, during which all full-time and part-time employees participated in a half-day workshop, sharing common training experiences. They learned to understand their own human biases and prejudices and how such dynamics affect how they treat and interact (impact) their fellow employees and customers. Participants were fortified with communication tools/skills to help them combat stereotyping in the workplace and to communicate and interact with persons on an individual rather than a group level.

Arbitron is constantly measuring the impact of training and will soon begin designing Phase II of their diversity training curriculum to support and follow up Phase I.

When Arbitron recently moved to Columbia, MD, they intentionally chose artwork that integrated the differences of their employees. Arbitron placed a world map on display in the main lobby. Each employee was encouraged to put a pin on the place of their birth or ancestral origin.


We'll be hearing more from Arbitron soon, so come back to visit again!


What is your company doing? If you would like to share the activities your organization uses to celebrate diversity, please contact us.