Companies that want to provide customers with the best possible product or service — and improve their bottom line — need to recognize the diversity of those customers and employ people who reflect similar demographics, Rhonda Crichlow, senior vice president, chief diversity officer at Charter Communications, said at the CultureX Conversations webinar on March 16.
These eight ways to work toward diversity, equity and inclusion with intention throughout your organization include details from Crichlow’s efforts to ensure DEI is more than just a marketing tagline at Charter.
Meet customers where they are.
Recognize that your entire customer base does not think or act in lockstep. Learn more about them to gauge how you can better meet their needs, Crichlow said. Encompassing inclusivity in your products or services can broaden your market, too.
One view is not enough.
Market research alone won’t make a company inclusive. Hire employees who better represent your customer base — not just a few token employees, but people from the highest management levels down through the mailroom. Their different cultures and backstories will make business conversations richer and results more inclusive. “Bringing those unique voices and perspectives to your customers has never been more important,” said Crichlow, who noted that 48% of the company’s employees are people of color and that Charter strives to attain diversity at every management level and on each leadership team.
Include representative employees from all levels in conversations.
Inclusion isn’t just about skin color or ancestry; it includes gender identity, disabilities, socioeconomic status and more. Don’t be one of those companies where the top management isn’t aware of — or doesn’t care about — the day-to-day lives of their workers. Crichlow said Charter works to leverage the “energy and inclusiveness” of diverse employees to make sure the company is being thoughtful and innovative.
Incorporate inclusiveness across the business.
Companies can make a difference by choosing to work with businesses across the supply chain that also embrace diversity, equity and inclusion.
Bring inclusive opportunities to employees.
Charter has created internal networking/resource groups that are open to employees outside each focus/demographic to aid with “shared understanding,” Crichlow said. Seek employee input on company DEI initiatives, and offer activities or speakers around cultural and identity months. She says the pandemic has shifted Charter’s speaker programs from live to virtual, which happily has expanded their reach across the nationwide company.
Don’t stop educating employees.
Crichlow noted that some people can’t easily divorce their perception of the external environment from their working environment. Support and education related to the “real, significant challenges that people have faced in our country” is important. Re-evaluate professional development curriculum frequently, tweaking as necessary for relevance.
Help top management embrace D&I.
Embed your diversity and inclusion strategy into each leadership team, and make sure managers and leaders take part company education efforts to help them better engage across lines of difference. “One of the key ingredients that really drives successful implementation of diversity and inclusion is that you have to have CEO and executive leadership engagement in the efforts,” Crichlow says. In the absence of that, “I think it is really, really going to be difficult to sustain any specific effort or initiative or strategy you put in place for the long term.”
Don’t stop at your own door.
Charter has an external body of advisers, and the CEO often attends their meetings. The board of directors is kept abreast of D&I efforts annually. The company also is involved in the community. Just before the pandemic, Charter created a $10 million philanthropic fund to help financial institutions provide loans and resources in underserved communities. It has partnered with the National Urban League and the National Action Network on these efforts as well.