by Regina Eichelberger Boyd, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Webster is no stranger to the Nissan family; he has been with Nissan North America, Inc. for 29 years.
Prior to his current position, Jeffrey was the Human Resource (HR) Director at the Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant in Canton, Mississippi. Since April 1, 2014, Jeffrey has served as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Americas Region. He is responsible for overseeing the diversity activities for the entire Americas team, which includes the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
“We not only continue to do those things that we’ve done in the past but also increase those efforts as it pertains to Nissan and the community,” Webster said, regarding diversity.
Jeffrey Webster has not always been in management at Nissan. He credits work ethics taught as a youngster and working hard as the catalyst that prepared him for his career path, which included working on the Nissan assembly line at the company’s Smyrna, TN plant when he began in 1984. In addition, Jeffrey point outs that individuals have helped him to obtain varied positions as he worked his way up in the company.
“I know what it means for other people to help you and for other people to reach out to you.” Webster adds.
Jeffrey calls Nissan North America, Inc. a trendsetter when describing the company’s role in making diversity all-inclusive with regard to race, gender, culture, and age.
“Nissan has been a trendsetter; does that say that we’re where we want to be? No!” Webster said, “We are progressing every year to show other companies that this is what you do when it comes to diversity, and this is what causes your company to grow because the same people that buy your vehicles should feel like that they are part of your company and that they see the people internal to your company as being a part.”
According to Jeffrey, diversity in upper management can increase despite some critics saying that diversity fades as one moves up the corporate ladder.
“If you don’t have the support and if people don’t see it at the top, it’s almost like talking the talk and not walking the talk,” Webster said. You can tell people all day we’re a diverse organization…but if people don’t see those same actions at the top, then there’s a problem.”
Generally, proponents of diversity and multiculturalism in corporate America say that diverse teams generate better and more innovative solutions.
“When you bring people together with diverse backgrounds and diverse ideas then you’re not just putting yourself in a box; you are allowing those individuals that have differences of opinions and ideas to express themselves and to share those ideas,” Webster said.
Comparatively, Nissan is one of the leading multicultural marketing companies in the automobile industry. Even so, Nissan plans to continue to grow as a more diverse corporation.
“We have a workforce here at Canton that’s from all over the state of Mississippi; we’ve hired our employee base from here,” Webster said. “For years, the Canton plant, has recognized diversity through annual celebrations of Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and American Indian Heritage Month.”
Webster notes that Nissan’s celebration of diversity is ongoing and Nissan is committed to ensuring that its employees are educated on diversity and inclusion. In particular, one way Nissan continues to strive for diversity in the workplace and among its employees is through Business Synergy Teams (BSTs), which strive to “leverage diversity to achieve business objectives, expand cross-functional interaction and assist with community outreach” (Nissan Motor Company Sustainability Report 2013).
Webster also noted that the Women’s Business Synergy Team (WBST) is a part of the Canton facility along with the newly formed Multicultural Business Synergy Team (MBST), which targets the company’s consumer-relations capabilities through cross-cultural communications and awareness.
“We have a commitment to diversity; it’s more than just talk; it’s putting that talk into action. We definitely have the most diverse consumer base among our competitors, and we want our employee engagement and community outreach efforts to reflect that,” Webster reiterated.
Webster says Nissan’s commitment to diversity is part of its overall strategy to support long-term growth. As recognition of such efforts for workforce diversity, DiversityInc Magazine named Nissan North America to its Top 25 Noteworthy Companies for 2014 (DiversityInc Magazine, April 2014).
Webster further identifies that Nissan’s commitment to diversity includes its supplier base, dealer network and consumer outreach, along with Nissan’s philanthropic presence. Webster lists areas in which Nissan gives back to the community to include the areas of humanitarianism, diversity, education, and environmentalism.
“We’re definitely big on education. Last year, we partnered with the Canton Public School District with a donation of a half million dollars. We want to make sure those schools, which are located within the community where we operate are successful as it pertains to education and the minority community,” Webster added.
“From 29 years of experience with Nissan, this is a company that supports an employee and employees’ ideas, and this is a company that’s definitely an inclusive company.There are opportunities at the company. Unless you just want to sit in the same position, there are opportunities at Nissan,” Webster commented.
Hence, when asked about advice he would share with incoming corporate professionals who would like to become a part of the diverse Nissan family Jeffrey suggests: “Definitely go to our website, which is www.nissan.jobs. There are positions put on the website that will allow people to attach their resumes to those positions.”