John Deeres Donna Kornegay mobilizes important conversations

John Deere's Donna Kornegay mobilizes important conversations

 August 02, 2022

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Donna Kornegay isn’t the kind of person to let things go on around her without getting involved. When Donna sees a problem, she moves to solve it. 

Meet Donna Kornegay, a Manufacturers Transfer Pricing Analyst at John Deere Agricultural Marketing Center.

In 2020, after the killing of George Floyd rocked the world, Donna contacted her Senior Manager, Shane Edwards, to let him know how she felt about the event and how it affected her as a John Deere employee. And, as a mother, she felt it even more imperative that she vocalize how she felt coming to work and sitting quietly with crippling emotions after Trayvon Martin was killed. As a nation, Donna knew things had to be better, and they needed to begin in the local communities.

Engaging employees in meaningful conversations 

“Shane was very understanding of my feelings and has always made an effort to make sure that things were equitable and diverse among his team,” explains Donna.

That initial email began a series of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) conversations within the Region 4 Accounting group that launched with just three people - Donna, Shane, and ReAnna Day. Donna's accounting group also leverages the United Way 21-Day Challenge information (a means to develop a deeper understanding of how inequity and racism affect lives and communities) to further engage in monthly conversations about social impact. This group has grown exponentially from the initial three conversation leaders to around 25 people, and continues to meet monthly to discuss a DEI topics for around an hour at a time. For the first 30 minutes, Shane walks all attendees through the DEI topic information and in the second 30 minutes the conversation leaders break out into individual groups to lead employees into discussions on the topics and how to incorporate what is learned within John Deere and out in the community. According to Donna, sometimes there can be as many as 200 – 250 people in attendance. 

“Leaders are able to talk about information and discuss how to keep the conversation going even after the session,” explains Donna.

“They really try to engage each person within breakout sessions, so everyone can be heard. The goal is to both teach and learn. We want employees to know that everyone is human and what you see on TV is not far away - it is as close as the person sitting next to you. Listening to someone else's experience gives you that in-your-face connection.”  

Subjects are not only about race; they include mental health, sexual orientation, and so on. “Leaders are learning just as much as the employees attending the sessions,” says Donna. 

Donna’s involvement in DEI as a conversation leader has led to her becoming a DEI ambassador for John Deere, all in the name of finding better ways to guide and help employees both understand and incorporate DEI into their everyday lives and activities. 

Helping John Deere address important issues 

Donna became part of a DEI book club and in 2021 took on the role of Chair of the Cary – Turf Care BERG group.

“I set a goal of helping John Deere tackle issues that BERG employees face and to also help with the DEI initiative,” says Donna.

With the help of Product Line Customer Product Support ·Manager, Sheila Humphrey, Donna put together questions surrounding DEI and took these to the CTC BERG Committee members. She then took those answers and spread them among the different committees within Cary - Turf Care BERG to bring forth action on the issues.  

The answers assigned to the Employee Development and Engagement Committee led to a panel discussion with HR members. This panel discussion morphed into a three-part employee series with a panel of speakers including colleagues Jo Domersant, Debbie Jackson, Crystal Jones, Chelsea Carter, and Melissa Hymel.

“This was great information that they were sharing because so often we think things aren't happening, but we just don't know. People who are affected the most don't always know what efforts are being done on their behalf,” says Donna.  

Offering training and encouragement 

Donna feels most proud of the combined efforts of all CTC BERG Committees. Not only are they helping John Deere with their DEI initiatives, but they are also working to develop all employees. They have provided learning sessions such as resume writing skills, STAR interview training, mock interviews, financial literacy, and an employee development series with John  Deere's Head of Leadership and Experience, Chelsea Carter, just to name a few.

“Some employees feel that they can’t make it to higher positions within the company, but I want to change that thinking by offering training and encouragement. It is important for employees to see people who look like them in leadership roles," comments Donna. 

John Deere is certainly proud of Donna helping enrich the lives of those around her while advancing DEI efforts within the enterprise.

John Deere offers an inclusive workplace culture 

John Deere believes that by strengthening the diversity of its workforce, it can give everyone their chance to leap forward.

The company celebrates diversity, champions equity, and promotes inclusiveness so every employee can make the greatest impact as their true self.

Sound like a great company to be part of ? Check out John Deere's latest career roles on offer. 


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