ZCOB came to the Amster Center requesting help developing material to enhance their own internal diversity and cultural sensitivity training program for staff. The Amster Center designed and delivered two customized training sessions for Zingerman’s staff in the area of cultural sensitivity, ultimately delivering a third session in which we consulted Zingerman’s leadership as they created their own in-house program. We’re honored to say that the feedback has been phenomenal, and we are looking forward to another year of partnering with this wonderful organization!

“It’s as though they’re an unofficial branch of our organization.” – Robby Griswold, Community Partnerships Coordinator and Diversity & Inclusion Chair, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses

Robby Griswold, Community Partnerships Coordinator and Diversity & Inclusion Chair, speaks about the Amster Center’s relationship with Zingerman’s Community of Businesses: “One of things that makes Zingerman’s who we are is that we’re willing to be who we are. And we were willing to put a mission statement and guiding principles that guide our work and to drive toward these vision statements that tell the organization and the community who we are and who we’re going to be as a business that purveys sandwiches but that also does all these other things. And one of the things that we always wanted to be – one of our guiding principles – was become a great place to work. Somewhere that people in our organization can grow their intellectual properties, their emotional properties and their long term service to the organization and can all link closely together. We have a real commitment to our employees. 

I asked Paul Saginaw, our co-founder, and asked him ‘How long have we had a relationship with JFS?’ and he scratched his head and said ‘I have no clue!’ And that to me is a real indication of how in our subjectivity JFS is. We don’t even know how long it’s been – that it’s been so long – we’ve worked with them to meet our needs. It was about two years ago that Sarah Okin said ‘Ok so you have this money put aside for us as a general donation’, and said ‘how about we consider a true partnership’ which is what we are doing now, Corporate Partnership with the Amster Center, and I said ‘tell me more about that, Sarah!’ and it immediately spoke to us because it was a much more strategic way to link our organizations and to leverage different skills internally and so one thing that we did in the last year was that we had one of their wonderful professionals come in and audit an internal training that we do at Zingerman’s. A piece of our diversity curriculum that was audited, and it helped us improve it – and change the tools around so it’s more interactive.

And I have to tell you I’ve been teaching the new curriculum for about two months now and people are hungry for it; asking ‘when’s the next one!?’ and it’s thanks to [the Amster Center] for imparting their tremendous amount of knowledge and cultural competence into the class so we can teach a much more impactful tool to our people. And what’s cool too is that the partnership is alive. I can name two things we’re doing with the Amster Center that are just beginning to be works in progress:

1. As part of our diversity initiative, we’re looking through our demographic employee information to find out where we are not reaching people within the general population of Washtenaw County that don’t find themselves a place to work at Zingerman’s. And what we’ve decided to do is very proactively recruit into networks that have more access to folks that we’re not reaching and making sure that internally we’re ready for that; that we have a culture that’s inclusive for them when they arrive. We are going to work with Amster Center on this.

2. We are known for great service. And we are going to be working with Amster Center to develop training that will more clearly lay out for our staff members culturally competent great service for the community. And so – we’re actually laying out a process now with the Center – whereby our staff can say where we especially want some holes to be filled, and then the Amster Center and us will work together to find a curriculum and teach and share that knowledge in our organization so people feel more empowered to do the right thing for lots and lots and lots of people.

-Robby Griswold
Community Partnerships Coordinator and Diversity & Inclusion Chair
Zingerman’s Community of Businesses