Hypertherm signs pledges to foster inclusivity in its workforce

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 5/10/2021 6:30:26 PM

Manufacturer Hypertherm, marking out diversity in the workplace and implicit biases among managers as top priorities at the company, has signed a pair of pledges committing to be more inclusive in both hiring and advancement of current employees.

The move puts Hypertherm among the vanguard of U.S. employers that are taking proactive stands in reaching out to underrepresented segments of the population as long-simmering issues of racial and gender equality are confronting political and business bosses in statehouses and board rooms.

“Diversity and inclusion are often difficult and sensitive issues to discuss,” Hypertherm CEO Evan Smith said in a news release last week. “Hypertherm strongly believes we have a responsibility to cultivate an environment that is welcoming to all people no matter their ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, or countless other aspects of individual identity.”

The first pledge, called Pledge for Action and organized by the National Association of Manufacturers, seeks to increase employees at Hypertherm from “underrepresented communities” and is part of NAM’s goal to create 300,000 manufacturing jobs for people of color by 2030.

The NAM pledge includes developing “tools” for hiring managers to detect their own “unconscious bias” or “affinity bias” when recruiting and interviewing job candidates for open positions in addition to implementing “methods for tracking diversity at each stage” of the hiring and promotion process.

Bias can take the form of a hiring manager favoring certain schools or not giving weight to atypical job experience on a job candidate’s resume, Smith noted in an interview.

Smith acknowledged the challenge of seeking a diverse labor force for factory jobs at the company’s Lebanon plant given the lack of diversity in the regional population.

But he said Hypertherm, which makes industrial cutting systems, will broaden its recruitment strategy for professional positions in engineering and business by strengthening links with national historically Black colleges and universities and other recruitment networks that reach the Black, Indigenous or people of color community.

Hypertherm says that 14% of its 1,550 U.S. employees — the company employs 250 people outside the U.S. from whom data is not collected — identify as BIPOC, although many of them are based at company facilities in Seattle and Minneapolis.

(In the Upper Valley, Hypertherm employs about 1,100 people; Smith said turnover runs about 7% or 77 positions annually).

The second pledge, called CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion — an initiative launched by executives from such corporate giants as Accenture, Deloitte, New York Life and Procter & Gamble — commits members “to cultivate a workplace where diverse perspectives and experiences are welcomed and respected and where employees feel encouraged to discuss diversity and inclusion.”

Smith said the pledges are not simply meant to align Hypertherm with the latest buzzwords served up by human resource consultants; they aim to solidify the company’s “core philosophy” of inclusion and respect.

“Honestly, if we were doing this just for credit we wouldn’t be doing it,” Smith said. “The pledges are a testament to our workforce. ... It’s driven by what’s right, what’s fair and what works well for us.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

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