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Member Perspective: Michael K. Pearson

Posted Friday, September 8th, 2017

Programs & Events, Economy, Member Submitted, Action Teams, Roadmap for Growth, Roadmap, Diversity & Inclusion

Guest Commentator: Michael K. Pearson, President & CEO, Union Packaging, LLC @FoodBoxMan

How can the business community work to be more inclusive in hiring practices?

As Union Packaging’s founder, I have built an integrated and strategic Diverse and Inclusive employer. Inclusive recruitment is a core value governed by attentive policy and accountable leaders.

Goals and objectives change weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually — core values change rarely. Our core values have been codified into eight tenants. The Fourth Core Value is “Promote Community Stewardship and Workforce Diversity.” Otherwise, we would not be successful at workforce diversification.

As a socially responsible employer, we have always recruited and developed talent from non-traditional sources. Our partnerships with non-profits have resulted in the hiring of Public Schools graduates with learning differences, job-ready participants from the Prison System, and documented New Arrivals from sixteen nations around the world.

The deep-rooted economic case for diversity improving a business’s bottom line is not the focus of this discussion. The data shows that diverse companies make better decisions. As an African-American owner, you would think that workforce bias would not be an issue at Union Packaging. However, personal bias can creep into the recruiting, interviewing and hiring process of all establishments.

As humans, we can never be bias-free, but we can be bias-aware. Recently I had our leadership team take the “The Implicit Association Test (IAT)” and withhold their results. IAT calculates viewpoints that we are disinclined to state publically. As a group, we discovered we each maintained individual biases, but we could now go forward being aware that they exist. Revealing unconscious bias and facilitating mitigation is the key to establishing a diverse and inclusive organization.

The bias exercise reinforced how important Union Packaging employment procedures are in maintaining our impartiality. The most direct and effective guard against bias is a structured hiring process. Our hiring team devotes the bulk of its time perfecting the job description, developing relevant questions, and affirming a measureable candidate evaluating system. Chitchat should be banished in recruiting activities — it only leads to applicant responses that create coziness. Growing up in the same neighborhood, attending the same church, and belonging to the same swim club “responses” in the interview process is a guarantee to insure talent obstruction.

Businesses of all sizes must invest in building and sustaining a full-bodied structured hiring process. The return on that investment will be a robust and diverse high-productivity workforce.


Michael K. Pearson, along with other business, nonprofit, civic, and government leaders, will be speaking about how empowering businesses to employ, convene and uplift underserved communities improves Philadelphia’s economic and civic life at the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth: Forging Pathways for Inclusive Success.

Union Packaging, LLC is a member of the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team, a group of business, civic and community leaders committed to the development and execution of a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda to lift and improve Philadelphia’s economic and civic life.

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