In the same way that malnutrition will not end by simply giving food to the hungry, big computer companies giving away computers does not ensure that people will be able to educate themselves on how to use them.
Luckily, Dell Computer Corp. does not just give away hundreds of computers to the community and call it a day. They start at the source: education. With the help of teachers and community leaders last year, Dell chose 12 U.S. school districts to participate in TechKnow, a program that teaches certain middle school studentsâ€”those who miss classes and might not graduateâ€”how to build computers. By the end of the course, each student takes home the computer they have built, and the experience hopefully inspires them to work harder at their education.
This type of program is the basis of Dell's Global Diversity program. By supporting a diverse community as well as giving those who have been labeled "at risk" an opportunity for success, Dell, based in Austin, Tex., acts locally with several minority business organizations, sponsoring courses, scholarships, internships, workshops and other events for minorities.
Diversity, though, means not only ethnic diversity, but diversity on many levels, including age. Dell sponsors low-cost or free adult learning programs, at places of business and in private and community training centers.
But working toward "global diversity" is not just a feel-good program for a successful company to make the public love it. Global Diversity is a business model. Dell works to find the best and the brightest around the world to build a team that can contribute by bringing their different backgrounds and experiences to the company, for a "think outside the box" approach that Dell says has kept it profitable despite economic woes at most other U.S. companies.
Dell's shipments were up 26% in the fourth quarter, and it expects to report a 25% increase in shipments and double-digit revenue growth for the quarter ending April 31. Of course, these record numbers cannot be attributed only to their business model, could it?
The success of a company is dependent on creating and retaining a winning workforce, according to Thurmond Woodard, Vice President of the Dell Global Diversity program. Woodard was interviewed recently on National Public Radio, on the Tavis Smiley Show, a program known for exploring cultural and political diversity, and Woodard explained how diversity in a company affects the bottom line.
Basically, by casting a wide net without discrimination, companies like Dell are able to access talent that might otherwise be overlooked. This talent is what makes an organization efficient, effective and competitive.
By striving for a corporate culture where employees are part of a team of winners who are comfortable and motivated to contribute, Dell develops a mutually supportive relationship with each employee.
New hires are assigned a "buddy" who is committed to helping his or her colleague settle in to a new position. Minorities get special attention from a "buddy" and networking groups of Dell employees with similar backgrounds.
Dell's search for talent is not the only reason for promoting diversity, though.
"Leveraging our diversity helps us to better understand the differences in the marketplace, which allows us to communicate with our customers in ways that are meaningful to them," says Angelia Bingham-Love, Dell's Global Diversity spokeswoman.
With diversity, similarities are found. Fifty-two percent of Dell's 39,000-person workforce are minorities and women. Since Dell sells directly to its customers, custom-building computers that are ordered online or by phone, Dell and its employees, seek to understand and reflect its diverse group of customers.
Dell also uses events and networking outside of the company to get to know their customers. As a member of the advisory board of Diversity Best Practices, an organization sponsoring events, conferences and research reports that support corporate diversity programs, Thurmond Woodard helps to enhance marketplace diversity initiatives with activities such as working with diversity councils of other companies to explore multicultural marketing strategies and learning how best to promote diversity programs online.
In February, Dell was a sponsor of the Seventh Annual Lunar New Year Gala of the Texas Asian Chamber of Commerce, held in Austin, Tex. Dell will also participate this year in Asian Diversity's Career Expos in San Francisco and New York.
Although Dell actually is giving away computersâ€”with $2.3 million in cash and computer equipment committed to a scholars programâ€”in order for them to continue their double-digit revenue growth, Dell looks to the community to learn more about its customers and to find talent.
Dell works with historically black colleges, and universities that have mostly Hispanic students, said Woodard on NPR. "We have relationships with universities that focus on Asians, because it's all about the best and the brightest."