Cultural diversity: A powerful business tool

May 28, 2018

This piece presented by MetaBank.

You wouldn’t necessarily think that a company based in South Dakota – a state with a population that is 85 percent white – would have a workforce that includes employees from all over the globe.

But then, MetaBank doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of your traditional Midwestern company either.

Diversity is a big component of Meta’s culture.

“Culture is a combination of employee backgrounds, experiences and personalities,” said Ian Stromberg, senior vice president of human resources at Meta.

“Meta wants to cultivate a work environment comprised of diverse thought. A like-minded group of people doesn’t move us forward.”

Meta views culture as a business tool, he added.

“Diversity brings unique perspectives to problems we’re trying to solve,” Stromberg said. “Cultural viewpoints help us approach those problems and business issues more creatively. I think this gives us a competitive advantage as we want our workforce to reflect the customers we serve.”

Ten languages other than English are spoken by employees at Meta’s corporate services campus.

To support Meta’s diversity initiative, Francisco Javier Alvarez-Evangelista, Amira Anderson and Ruth Kaiser founded the Meta Cultural Diversity Network, or MCDN, with Stromberg serving as co-chair and the executive sponsor. The group strives to increase the visibility of employees from culturally diverse backgrounds across the organization.

“It really started as a lunch conversation with a small group of people talking about why Meta didn’t have a diverse community compared to other companies our size,” said Anderson, whose father immigrated to the United States from Egypt in the early 1980s.

“As we kept talking and formulating how we wanted the network to function, we brought our idea to Ian Stromberg. HR and Meta leadership were incredibly supportive of our initiative.”

The goal is to be inclusive and not exclusive, Kaiser added.

“We are conscious of integrating our work with the network into the business goals of Meta as well as having an impact on the Sioux Falls community.”

The MCDN promotes more than just cultural awareness — members are involved in community activities and sometimes help with recruiting.

Alvarez-Evangelista, who was born in Mexico and lived in California before going to school at SDSU, has attended several job fairs with Meta’s HR team. The MCDN also has participated in the Festival of Cultures, which Meta is sponsoring this year.

To publicize its mission and group, MCDN hosted an executive round table in March at the corporate services campus featuring Stromberg, MetaBank president Brad Hanson and Kaiser, who was born in Kenya and came to South Dakota via Minnesota in 2009.

The panel discussed how Meta’s mission of financial inclusion for everyone fosters a culture of diversity inclusion. Kaiser shared her experiences of moving from Kenya to Minnesota. Stromberg talked about the impact to Meta’s culture. Hanson shared his personal experiences and how diversity benefits financial institutions. Employees at other locations were able to attend the round table virtually.

“Diversity is important to any organization, but Meta is unique in that it’s expanding through acquisition into areas outside of the upper Midwest. These areas like Louisville, Ky., and Easton, Pa., have a very different cultural mix than we have here in Sioux Falls,” Alvarez-Evangelista said. “The MCDN is here to be supportive and a valued contributor to the organization – both to Meta and their employees.”

Cultural diversity: A powerful business tool

With 11 languages spoken companywide, Meta sees diversity as a powerful business tool.

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