Q&A with Jorge Figueredo

Jorge Figueredo is the executive VP of human resources at McKesson and the executive sponsor for PALMa

Jorge Figueredo, executive vice president of human resources at McKesson Corporation, has more than 20 years of experience and understands the complications of tackling diversity. There is a dearth of Hispanic representation in senior management roles, but many argue that there simply aren’t enough people to fill these jobs. He reflects on the merits of recruiting experienced individuals, and on the other end, nurturing employees with thinner résumés.

HE: We often hear two arguments about recruiting Hispanic individuals to corporate positions: There are not enough people in such roles, and there aren’t enough qualified Hispanic individuals to fill them. Are these points of view valid?

JF: Number one, these are huge roles. Any senior management position is tough to fill, in general, regardless of ethnicity or gender. When you’re recruiting to the top of the house, you’re looking for the very best, and that’s never easy to fill. Often you recruit from within, so the real question is, what does the pipeline look like to fill those positions? That means implementing internal mentorship as well as knowing when to look outside the company to build up your leadership team.
To be recruited for one of these roles, you’ve got to be in a strong network. That’s true regardless of ethnicity or gender. If a search firm doesn’t know who you are, and you haven’t made yourself known, you won’t be in the network, and you won’t be able to find those positions. For women and people of color, it’s often true that you have to work extra hard to be in those networks.

HE: What is the fastest track to building inclusivity within a corporation: recruitment or development?

There is no fast track. First, you have to assess your starting point. How diverse is your workforce? If your workforce has pretty good representation—the talent pool is there, and you just want to get better—you can lean on recruitment. Then you ask, what’s your plan? You make goals that track accountability and sustainability. You really need a plan for diversity; you can’t just say it’s a good thing and leave it at that. Don’t look for a fast track. That won’t get you where you want to go. You need to think holistically.

HE: You host informal development sessions called Café con Jorge for McKesson employees. Can you explain what these accomplish?

It’s amazing how something so little can go such a long way. They’re informal; we invite Latinos and people who are interested or have an affinity for Hispanic issues to come talk with me. We have coffee and light snacks and talk about what’s going on at the company, how to grow at the company, and PALMa. These tend to be small group sessions. We could range anywhere from a dozen to a couple dozen people. I don’t want them to be big; I want people to get a chance to know each other and me. It’s a great place to build a community.

HE: What has to be kept in mind while mentoring Hispanic employees with an eye on eventual leadership positions?

Sponsorship is more important than mentorship. You can have a mentor who doesn’t have the authority to advance you into leadership positions. You need to have a sponsor who can really help you. If someone can be both, that’s terrific, but having sponsorship is critical to advancement in any organization. Regardless of color or gender, about 80 percent of leadership development is the same for anyone, and 20 percent is unique to each group of people. Focus more on the 80 than the 20.

HE: The norm has switched from employees being recruited out of college and staying for 30 years to employees switching jobs every few years. How does that impact the recruitment of a diverse workforce?

That shift happened about 30 years ago. There are people who stay with corporations for a long time, but that’s not true of most Generation X-ers or millennials. Many people come out of college and will stay at a company as long as they feel valued, are given interesting and important work, and know there are chances for advancement. They won’t stay around if they think they’re not in an environment where they can get feedback and have opportunities to grow. Some people bemoan this, but you want that in employees. It creates critical demand.

We have a much more diverse workforce than we’ve ever had before, and people now ask, where are the Latinos? The women? Are they in positions of leadership? Employees care about these things, and they’re attracted to employers who have people in leadership positions that look like them.