Jabil CEO Mark Mondello says a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key factor in the St. Petersburg contractor manufacturer’s success.
“There is no doubt — absolutely zero doubt — that the solutions and the services and the innovation we do for customers is better because of diversity of thought, in terms of watching our teams come up with different ways to provide services for our customers,” Mondello told the St. Pete Catalyst in an exclusive interview.
Jabil (NYSE: JBL), a global company and the largest business headquartered in St. Petersburg, just came off a year of record financial results, reporting net income of $287.1 million, or $1.81 a share, on revenue of $25.3 billion in the 12 months ended Aug. 31. The results were “exceptional,” Mondello said on a Sept. 24 conference call with analysts.
But Mondello first thanked employees, as he always does on quarterly calls, and on the September call he went a step further, playing a short video that showed Jabil workers talking about diversity and inclusion. (See the video here.)
Diversity and inclusion is core to Jabil’s value system, Mondello said during the conference call.
“Diversity is about having a seat at the table. Inclusion is about having a voice. And belonging is assuring your voice is heard and respected. This certainly rings true here at Jabil. Our belief system makes a difference, in fact, a huge difference,” he said during the call.
Fortune 500 CEOs don’t often talk publicly about diversity and inclusion with financial analysts and with investors.
After the investor presentation in September, the company posted the video online. While visiting with investors in New York, Chicago and Boston, Mondello said he got positive feedback.
“It was cool how many people made positive comments about it,” Mondello told the Catalyst. “A number of them took it a step further and said we invest in Jabil because we believe in the management team, we trust management and feel good about how the company is positioned in the marketplace, but then they would add to it the other reason they feel good about having Jabil in their investment portfolio is because of our attention to diversity and inclusion.”
Mondello played the video on the call out of respect for Jabil workers, not to attract investors, he said. “But it was nice to hear a number of big-money institutional buy-side investors make positive comments about the video.”
There’s been an increased focus on corporate social responsibility, including by the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives at the nation’s best-known companies. That organization said in August that a corporation’s purpose is to benefit all stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.
Publicly traded companies have to be careful in using investor capital, and Mondello is clear that a top priority is driving returns for shareholders.
“We’re a U.S. public company and we have to be very respectful of shareholders and the money they give us to run the company, and they deserve a return. But life is so much bigger than earning an extra penny of earnings in any particular quarter. It’s about how you go about conducting the business. It’s about taking time to give back to local communities,” he said.
Obsess about the customer
Diversity is a broad-based concept that goes beyond gender and geographies, Mondello said.
About seven years ago, Mondello and his wife co-founded LiFT, a not-for-profit educational organization in Seminole for children and young adults with special needs. They have a child who is a graduate of the school.
He said neuro-diversity is an increasingly important part of Jabil’s focus, as are socio-economic and family backgrounds, ages, education and sexual orientation.
“How awful it must have been years back when people who knew they were a little different were embarrassed or had to downplay differences in order to fit in. That’s a horrible way to navigate personal and professional lives. They couldn’t be who they wanted to be because it wasn’t in vogue. They felt they had to be a round peg in a square hole,” he said. “I want all of our people to be who they are. It’s so important that you be you and don’t try to be what you think you need to be. Just be you. You got hired for a reason. You got hired because you were talented, you had the right education, the right background, your work ethic, so just be you.”
Jabil has about 420 customers, many of them household brand names, for which it builds a wide range of products ranging for electronics for cars, to healthcare devices, to 5G wireless components.
“We have a culture where collectively we obsess about taking great care of our customers,” Mondello said. “That’s done in a more optimal manner when the teams that are pulling together those solutions truly have great diversity in their thinking.”
While there are many different national cultures within Jabil’s operating footprint, there’s a single Jabil value system, Mondello said.
“How cool is it that we run this big company with amazing people, people of all different backgrounds and nationalities and different geographies, and yet they all have the ability to embrace a common value set, a common Jabil cultural set.”
Jabil’s strategy is built on three pillars, according to Jackie Darling, senior director, diversity and inclusion. They are:
Elevate the conversation to build awareness and understanding. Celebrate through events, provide resources and create programs that bring opportunities for workers to thrive.
People, process and culture. “We look in the mirror and challenge ourselves to ensure our working practices support diversity and inclusion,” including opportunities for people with disabilities, both physical and neurological, and for gender balance in leadership.
Measuring success, with four key diversity metrics: gender, generations, geographies and experience/tenure.
The company has a diversity dashboard that provides leadership with those metrics. While Mondello described himself as entrepreneurial and intuitive, he said he surrounds himself with people who are process-oriented.
“When you run a big manufacturing company, you have to look at the data because the data speaks volumes. You know the old saying – what gets measured gets done,” he said.
Jabil has several top leaders from diverse backgrounds: Michael Dastoor is chief financial officer, Brenda Chamulak is CEO of the Jabil Packaging and Sergio Cadavid is senior vice president and corporate treasurer.
“Go two or three levels down and look at the top 2,000 out of our 200,000 workers, the top 1 percent of the organization. That’s the group that sets direction and leads the company. It’s the 1 percent that others in the company rely on for strategy, tone and culture. If I were to sit back and go through that top 1 percent you would find an amazing collection of diversity,” Mondello said.
While he feels good about Jabil’s diversity and inclusion focus, he also said it can always get better.
“I don’t think diversity and inclusion is something we sit and measure. I don’t think we should check a box because we are measuring it. It’s an ongoing journey, and I don’t know that the journey ever ends.”