Unlocking the Competitive Advantages of Diversity

Troy-DatcherIn addition to leading customer capability development and sports marketing, vice president Troy Datcher is also busy encouraging diversity awareness at Clorox and his alma mater. A former co-chair and now member of Clorox’s ABLE (African-Americans Building Leadership Excellence) employee resource group, Troy recently joined the board of trustees for Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania and serves on the development and alumni parents committees. His goal is to help the college with its recruitment, retention and reconnection with students and alumni from diverse backgrounds.

Why did you decide to join the board of trustees at Gettysburg College?

I was among the earliest beneficiaries of the college’s desire to make its campus a more diverse environment. I grew up in a small town in Alabama, and when I visited Gettysburg as a high-school senior I had lunch with a dean who gave me a personal challenge. He said, “You can go anywhere else, or you can come here and make a difference.” Well, you say something like that to an 18-year-old and it’s motivating. The dean hit on something that sounded really important — I could play a central role in diversity awareness. So as a freshman in 1986, I was one of only nine African-American students out of 2,000 students on campus. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Since I graduated in 1990, I have been very involved with the college’s diversity efforts in recruitment and retention. I am back on campus frequently speaking to both prospective and current students. So taking on a formal role at the college is an extension of what I’ve been doing with a focus on alumni too.

What are you learning from this experience?

Good things can happen when you spend time with smart, successful people no matter their background or their industry. So besides doing work for the college, as alumni we spend time sharing business and career challenges. Competition is stiff in any industry, but there are multiple ways to tackle a given issue. It’s great to be around people who are different, but who all have experience in solving complex business problems. We do the same thing at Clorox, partnering with noncompeting companies to hear different solutions. So hearing how people use their different experiences and perspectives to solve big issues creatively is something I’m being exposed to at Gettysburg and Clorox.

Diversity has evolved far beyond the traditional considerations of race, ethnicity and gender. What does true diversity look like to you?

During my 25 years in the workforce, I’ve seen that whenever you have diversity of experience and thought, you are going to end up in a much better place.  And the beautiful thing about diversity is that when people show up to work as who they are and are comfortable bringing their real selves, you have a more productive atmosphere. What you get is a really engaged workforce that can create great products, services and solutions.

At Clorox, my group is responsible for making sure we have the right capabilities to drive growth among all of our customer segments. Today, we need millennials’ thinking to be central to our process of solving tomorrow’s problems. If we don’t have their perspective as employees and as consumers in our internal conversations, we will not offer the best solutions. In the same way that we’ve seen a diverse workforce in terms of race, gender, culture and background benefitting companies, diversity of experience will also help companies in their problem-solving processes.

You promote one other dimension for achieving the most effective diversity in an organization. Can you elaborate?

Many companies have not thought enough about veterans and the unique perspective and strengths they can bring to an operation. These people are either proven leaders. They have demonstrated the ability to execute at a really high level — exactly what companies are looking for. The fact that about 8 percent of our U.S. employees are veterans shows that we value diversity in its many dimensions and think about it broadly to get the best results.

Over the next several years, what do you see as the biggest challenge for companies in the area of diversity?

The competition for talent is only going to get tougher, and diversity is going to be a factor in how the next generation chooses where they work. Most executives understand that diversity is the smart thing to do for business — but if you cannot answer the diversity question clearly and favorably when it is asked in the recruiting process, young people are going to choose to work elsewhere.  Students are coming into the workforce from increasingly diverse campus environments; if they don’t see the same in an employer they’ll say, “How open and collaborative can this company be if they can’t easily demonstrate their commitment to diversity?” They’ll sense that something isn’t quite right and simply move along. On the flip side, a company that demonstrates diversity at all levels of the organization will land the right people and sustain itself at a high level.

Troy Datcher is vice president – Sales, capability development and sports marketing, with responsibility for Clorox’s trade management, policy, training, supply chain, customer marketing and sports marketing. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees for Gettysburg College and active in Clorox’s African-American employee resource group. He is also the 2013 winner of the Clorox Leadership Award for compassion.