DEI is key to building a culture that invites your team to put their heart and soul into their work, but it also provides a foundation for team members to deliver their best work for the customers they serve. So the question is, how do you ensure that your customer-centric work is infused with the integrative values you’ve worked to nurture internally? Here are three tactics to try.
As you set out to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into your company’s DNA, you rightly turned your attention inward first. You’ve onboarded employees into existing DEI gaps, created employee resource groups, and revamped your hiring practices, career development paths, and benefits packages. You brought your DEI promises to life by hard but necessary discussionssetting company-wide goals; and assembling a DEI committee to oversee the various parts of your efforts.
And you did all of those things because you wanted to create a workplace where everyone — including their age, race, gender, neurodiversity, religion, or sexuality — can feel safe, seen, and valued. Ultimately, DEI is key to building an environment that invites your team to put their hearts into their work, but it also provides a foundation on which team members can do their best work for the customers they serve. With that in mind, here are three ways to ensure your customer-centric work is infused with the inclusive values you’ve nurtured internally.
- Focus on problem solving
Some C-suite executives still view DEI as a corporate social responsibility endeavor rather than a means of resolving long-standing structural inequalities. They prioritize DEI up to a point – until the world moves on to the next existential problem. This may sound cynical, but research backs it up: Sixty percent of senior management executives recently to Deloitte that their DEI commitments would ease as strategic priorities changed. For those who prioritize it, they have trouble evaluating the most impactful opportunities. It needs to be closely aligned with who you want to be as an organization.
When DEI becomes a patch to cover up past missteps that are no longer culturally acceptable, it will not be effective. What does this Band-Aid effort look like? A chaotic, disjointed web of initiatives that don’t align with the rest of your brand.
First and foremost, you need to identify the core problems you’re solving with DEI, determine what audience the solutions are intended for, and decide how you plan to define and measure progress. This is your “why”. Ask yourself: How is DEI reflected in the way we do business and connect with customers? How do our products, services, and customer experiences engage or disengage these audiences? And what is the mechanism for evaluating the overall efforts of our company?
- Embrace the journey
One of the quickest ways to lose your DEI credibility is to have a false sense of authority. There is no DEI finish line. DEI work is a multifaceted, lifelong commitment. So be honest with yourself – and with your customers – because progress takes time. This reality may sound intimidating, but it should bring you some comfort because it means you don’t need all the answers right now.
It does mean, however, that you have to be careful about hastily congratulating yourself. There is often a fundamental discrepancy between leadership’s view of the success of their efforts and the view of employees and customers. It’s important to align all of these perspectives to ensure you’re investing in the right areas. Focus on the gaps where they diverge; reinforce the places where they are closely aligned.
And when you talk about DEI, make sure your entire business ecosystem can support it in an integrated way. Who is on your teams? How do your processes shape inclusion from start to finish? For example, you could invest in building a diverse customer base, and there certainly is benefits. However, if you’re still working primarily with partners who lack a diverse team composition or who aren’t taking steps to expand their leadership portfolio, then you’re not really moving the needle.
- Prioritize experiences, not looks
The world of DEI also offers many opportunities to walk into PR nightmares. We’re currently seeing more clients asking for underrepresented demographics to be reflected in their branding, but without a more comprehensive DEI strategy, this type of strategy reads as shallow and performative.
For example, imagine that a pharmaceutical company decides to cast only black actors in its new drug commercial. The ad may give the company the outward appearance of diversity and inclusion, but it’s actually black people who are responsible for it Only 5% of participants in clinical trials, despite reconciliation about 13% the US population.
Instead, you need to look through the lens of the customer experience. Are there aspects that make it difficult for certain people to use your products or services? A truly inclusive brand recognizes these barriers and takes action to mitigate them.
Efforts could include locating studies to remove barriers to transport, ensuring the research team reflects the recruited population, and expanding eligibility criteria for studies. These types of actions are not only achievable but also effective. When testing a COVID-19 pneumonia treatment in 2020, biotech company Genentech made sure 84% of study participants came from historically underrepresented groups.
We are at an important moment where DEI must be treated in a holistic manner, merging efforts into a single narrative that is authentic to your brand values. It must be true for employees, consumers and everyone involved. And as you advance your DEI efforts, always stay in tune with how it’s being received by your consumers.
Written by Tony Hobley.
Did you read?
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