PALMa Case Study with Martha Torres-Morgan

Martha Torres-Morgan is VP of brand pharmaceuticals at McKesson and founder of PALMa

When Martha Torres-Morgan founded PALMa, the Hispanic employee resource group’s mission evolved into three pillars: to create good business, attract talent, and foster an open, inclusive culture. Fulfilling this mission meant creating awareness about career and educational opportunities for Latinos within McKesson.

“When I was challenged to start PALMa, it was just me tackling this huge initiative,” Torres-Morgan says. “I had to ask how we could create awareness as well as change the stigma of ERGs functioning as social clubs to something employees could really benefit from.”

She says it was a slow process because McKesson is such a large organization, but the support of other senior leaders has helped PALMa continue to grow and sharpen its focus. While the ERG still promotes education and discussion, its goals have grown to reach outside McKesson, as well.

PALMa works with high schools to promote the value of higher education to youth, with a particular emphasis on the Latino community in San Francisco, the home of McKesson’s corporate headquarters. PALMa members also talk to college students to build a pipeline that draws a diverse workforce.

The Hispanic ERG hasn’t changed in a vacuum, though; McKesson’s culture has developed, too. Torres-Morgan says that in the last three years, diversity has become a top priority at the company, thanks largely to CEO John Hammergren. The challenge is to embed that initiative into the business, and one of the best ways to do that is through recruitment.

One of PALMa’s most apparent and beneficial accomplishments ties neatly into recruitment initiatives. PALMa reintroduced an undergraduate internship program for Latino students. The company’s first intern envisioned and executed a project that focused on communication for the pharmacies that work with McKesson. It has been well-documented that Hispanic and Latino individuals are at a higher risk for type-2 diabetes than non-Hispanic individuals, and McKesson’s intern explored whether materials to communicate ways to prevent this disease were thorough enough to reach Latino populations. In ten weeks, she assembled research and a plan to expand Spanish materials in pharmacies. Her work directly benefited McKesson and showed how ERGs and diversity initiatives can drive business success.

Torres-Morgan advises other corporate leaders who would like to build an ERG like PALMa to understand exactly what they’re getting into. “You need to be committed to the mission, and you need to have patience,” she says. “This isn’t easy.”

In a company as large as McKesson, not every goal will be attainable. Torres-Morgan recommends finding a good support network and focusing on the larger mission of the ERG. “Having people around you, supporting you, is very important,” she says. “Never give up what you want to accomplish.”