Food for Thought: How a policy of diversity and inclusion helps improve CX

In our latest series on leading issues in customer experience, we ask brands to tell us how a policy of diversity and inclusion can help improve engagement with customers

Successful companies recognise innovation requires a culture of diversity and inclusion. Not only that, many brands understand the importance and impact of both practices on the overall customer experience they're delivering.

As a result, many are actively working to lift their diversity and inclusion policies to improve not only employee experience (EX), but to bolster the all-important CX strategy.  

With companies increasingly under the spotlight thanks to ongoing scrutiny over data privacy and a growing need to improve employee engagement, CMO reached out to a number of technology and manufacturing firms to gauge their diversity and inclusion strategies as it relates to the CX vision.

Helen Dean
A/NZ senior director marketing, Dell EMC

Australian society is very diverse and so are the customers we serve. Therefore, the makeup of our workforce needs to reflect this. This helps support a deeper understanding of customer needs and also helps us develop the human connection that lies at the heart of CX.

Creating a great customer experience requires a diversity of ideas, experiences and approaches. From a marketing perspective, we are looking to provide experiences for customers that are compelling, engaging on a human level and have a ‘wow’ factor. Having staff with a range of backgrounds and experiences brings a richness that is hard to get when everyone is the same. It keeps us open to new ways of looking at things.

Helen Dean
Helen Dean

Nurturing an inclusive culture within our workforce is a key part of our culture code and business strategy, and a high priority for every leader. Dell’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategy, which is centred around three pillars - culture, community and commitment – aims to ensure every Dell employee feels they belong and are an equal and valued team member.

We’ve developed this strong culture through a range of initiatives, in particular our Many Advocating Real Change (MARC) initiative, in which all senior leaders are required to participate, as well as our 14 Employee Resource Groups (ERG). Dell’s ERGs connect team members share common ethnicity, gender, nationality, lifestyle or sexual orientation. In A/NZ, all 14 ERGs are represented, from our PRIDE group, supporting our LGBTI community, to all the industry leading environmental initiatives from our PLANET group.

Research has shown a direct correlation between ERG membership and increased employee engagement, and this positive engagement flows through to the way staff interact with customers.

Research this year by NC State University’s Poole College of Management also found pro-diversity policies increase a company’s innovation and productivity, while making them more resilient during times of financial crisis. These findings have been echoed through various studies over the years and the proof is in the pudding, as Dell Technologies continues to be innovative across its full portfolio.

Finally, as diversity becomes a must-have rather than a nice-to-have for businesses, we’ve seen more customers look to collaborate with us on our D&I programs. It’s important for them to know they are working with a business that instills an inclusive culture and reflects their own values. An example of this in action is the CITI and Dell “Women in Tech” leadership forum, where respective teams meet to share best practices and empower women in the industry. 

Tori Starkey

Marketing general manager, Ricoh Australia

Put simply, employee engagement drives customer engagement.

Now, more than ever, most organisations are competing primarily on the experience they provide to their customers. Engaged employees usually have an emotional attachment to their work and will go above and beyond what is expected of them on the job.

As leaders, we all need to effectively capitalise on the strengths of our entire team. Leveraging different ways of thinking, backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences of our people help us build engagement and drive strong customer connections. Leveraging a variety of leadership styles, thought processes as well as experiences drives creative problem solving, leading to innovations and better business decisions.

Along with all these benefits, supporting diversity and inclusion in the workforce is shown to exponentially increase employee engagement, and therefore improve customer experience. This means an engaged workforce is more important than any technology, campaign or solution in improving customer experience.

Tori Starkey
Tori Starkey

It all starts at the top. Although women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions, especially in IT, Ricoh Australia is the first organisation I have worked for that has true gender diversity on the executive leadership team. This flows through to the broader organisation. The leadership team partners closely with our People and Purpose organisation across a number of key initiatives including flexible working, return to work programs, inclusion Initiatives and training, most recently for our transgender community. There is also significant focus on learning initiatives, increasing leadership capability and refining recruitment processes.

Within the marketing and product teams, we leverage design thinking in our solution design, digital engagement and marketing communications. Empathy is key to this process. Put simply, it’s about walking in your customer’s shoes, and having a workforce that is as diverse as your customer base. This will make the process easier and deepen understanding of your diverse customers.

My role is to actively work to connect the dots across the organisation to provide strategic cohesion. To do this effectively, it’s essential to be authentic, mindful and transparent. Having a diverse, inclusive culture means creating an environment where people can feel free to be their genuine selves at work.  

Leaders have a personal responsibility to increase their awareness around unconscious bias - which we all carry - as well as proactively lend a hand to others working their way up the ladder both informally and formally via coaching and mentoring. For me, supporting diversity and inclusion is absolutely about merit based promotion, starting with alleviating entrenched, unconscious biases.

Chris Quinn
Vice-president of marketing communications and digital customer experience, Schneider Electric Pacific Zone

Our employees have a direct impact on our customers’ experience, so it’s critical we attract people to our organisation who share our customer-centric values, and are as diverse as our customers.

As a customer-centric organisation, at Schneider Electric we understand our customers aren’t all the same. By creating a more inclusive organisation, we can have more diverse employees who better understand our customers.

We are a global organisation that actively considers how we represent our global customers within the organisation. We take advantage of having a regional HQ in Sydney where 32 per cent of the population is born overseas, compared with just 22 per cent of the overall Australian population.

Chris Quinn
Chris Quinn

We also have diversity in the ages of our employees. For example, 44 per cent of employees globally are millennials. Our A/NZ businesses have a reverse mentoring program, where graduates are paired with senior leaders in the business to help connect them with digital natives. It’s also important our leaders have an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the digital world our customers are creating.

Our global CEO and chairman actively promotes the positive attributes of gender balance: a more productive, enjoyable and creative workplace; and one that is more attuned with all our customers’ needs. We have committed to having at least 50 per cent female representation across graduate and interns. 

To guide us internally, we’ve committed to the United Nation’s HeforShe program, and we promote flexibility in our global family leave policy, which in many countries is significantly more than the legal requirement for primary and secondary parental leave, as well as care and bereavement leave. Inclusion and well-being are important for attracting the right people, having them stay longer and allowing them to focus on what is important for our customers.

An important element in our customers' service experience is providing technical field services, or assistance online or via the phone. Our apprenticeship recruitment programs commit to ensuring we have female and Indigenous representation in our candidate pool. By bringing trade apprentices into our organisation, we are ensuring our technical expertise is there for our customers to call upon.

Tania Mushtaq

Head of marketing Asia-Pacific and Japan, Boomi

In today’s economy, where the right skillsets and attitudes are critical to the success of an organisation, diversity and inclusion should not even be a business imperative, but business as usual. We live in a world of blurred borders and blended lifestyles which do not impact people’s capabilities to perform a task. It is how the work is done or a service delivered that matters more than who does it or delivers it.

After all, diversity and inclusion allows businesses to tap into prime talent and introduce new ideas that form the basis of innovation.

If we flip the coin and look at this from the customer’s point of view, technology has opened the doors of our businesses to customers from every part of the globe. Rise of e-commerce and modernisation of logistics and transportation technologies and processes mean we can have anyone as a customer, anywhere in the world. So we cannot just focus on a particular gender, race or generation servicing or helping these customers. We need diversity of ideas, attitudes, cultures and skills to effectively deliver a superior omni-channel customer experience.

Tania Mushtaq
Tania Mushtaq

Aside from eliminating traditional bias around certain roles, organisations should also begin future proofing themselves to create environments that appeal to the rising ‘Gen Z’, which will form a major part of the workforce in just under 10 years from now. This generation has been raised amid an amalgamation of cultures, races, languages and genders. It makes up 4.5 million of today’s population in Australia and the oldest of Gen Z is already 23 and in the workforce.

It also represents an era of consumers who demand highly personalised experiences when dealing with businesses. Gen Z is inclusive, and in order to attract the right talent, organisations need to transform the same way.

This is the basis of our own operation, and one which we want to see become commonplace across the region. Instead of looking at archaic identifiers, we focus on candidates’ capabilities, and foster the opportunities to advance those. People can participate in rotation programs that allow them to work in different parts of the world, in different roles to enhance their understanding of the global business.

I have always made my hiring decision based on procuring people with great attitude, relevant skills, willingness to learn from mistakes and becoming part of a team that fosters a collaborative culture for the success of the entire organisation.

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