13 Steps All Business Leaders Can Take to Create Inclusive Spaces for Their Customers
In today’s cultural climate, every business should be focused on creating an inclusive space for not only its employees, but also its consumers. At a time when social justice and equity are in the spotlight, companies need to show that they stand with customers from all walks of life.
While the implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts may look different across culture and entertainment spaces, there are some universal practices any company can and should implement. Below, 13 members of Rolling Stone Culture Council share the important strategies they believe all business leaders need to put into practice.
Acknowledge Your Differences
In order for leaders to foster a safe space that promotes the inclusion of all consumers, it’s important for them to take into acute consideration that businesses are meant to build relationships with their consumers, not to simply sell to their consumers. Thus, we must acknowledge our differences and find out how those differences can be monetized and benefit the bottom line. – Michael Polk, Billboardology.com
Explore Other Viewpoints and Cultural Norms
Some see diversity and inclusion as a mandate. I encourage leaders to see it as an invitation. By nature, most of us are surrounded by people we have the most in common with. This tends to lead to a limited viewpoint. The best stories and experiences I’ve been a part of in my career and my life have been when I’ve been willing to explore other points of view and cultural norms. – Nick Nanton, DNA Films
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Embody Empathy and Gratitude
We need to understand that we all come from different backgrounds with different perspectives and stories, but we all have been through very similar things. We’ve all had someone in our past believe in us, mentor us, etc. That acknowledgment that we’ve received something of value from others — those are the things that help bring us together. – Chris Schembra, 7:47
Broaden Your Talent Search
First and foremost, hiring practices need to be addressed. There must be an outreach to a broader, more diverse pool of talent. In order to connect with consumers in a way that’s authentic, guidance and input from those employees who have the firsthand knowledge and experience of this consumer will only serve everyone. – Nicole Plantin
Listen to Customer Complaints
Give your customers the opportunity to be heard. When we have a complaint, we all just want to be heard. – Niles Christodoulidis, Rebel Roots Farms, Inc.
Meet Consumers With Transparency
Brands have to transparently meet consumers where they are. Modern consumers know what a purpose-driven brand looks like on social media and they can also tell when a brand they follow is intentionally avoiding challenging conversations. We know consumers reward the brands that align their values with their business and so employing transparency where it matters most is a smart move. – Ricardo Baca, Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency
Actively Seek Out Diversity in Your Culture
Diversity and inclusion efforts are not goodwill, they’re good business. Focusing on diversity and inclusion efforts simply to “look” like your audience is futile. Instead, focus on creating a culture that aggressively seeks out new experiences, thinking and skill sets as a means of challenging the status quo and pushing the organization to achieve better outcomes. – Salim Holder, 4thAveMarket.com
Lead With Love
Try to lead with a love for your consumers. Your clients are choosing to be in a relationship with you. That relationship can last a lifetime or one time. It’ll depend on how you treat them. – Codie Sanchez, Contrarian Thinking
Pandering is ugly and transparent. Make a conscious effort to understand other people’s struggles and points of view, but always do it in a genuine manner. – Danny Fuentes, Lethal Amounts
Run Your Company Like a Democracy
I think running a company more like a democracy is helpful. I’d like to see leaders empowering their staff to help make important decisions and guide the future direction of the business. Giving a diverse staff their own input and votes would help the end consumer find a more inclusive space. – Bridget Hilton, LSTN Sound Co.
Encourage Respect on Your Social Media
On social media, it isn’t just about featuring diversity in your images. It’s about making others feel that they can comment respectfully and others will allow them to do so. It’s also about calling out bad behavior and making sure that everyone on your page is respectful toward others. – Catalina Girald, Naja
Think About How Consumers Feel
All leaders should be taking the opportunity to think empathetically about how consumers are feeling right now. There is more collective stress in the world than most of us have ever experienced and we should be taking that into consideration when we are carving out genuinely inclusive spaces. Empathy is our secret weapon. – Dan Giuliani, Volt Athletics
Redesign Systems That Benefit the Privileged
Leaders need to consider that promoting diversity, inclusion and equity in organizations isn’t enough. The foundations upon which our systems (economic, judicial, education, government, food, etc.) were built and still stand were designed to benefit only the privileged. For tangible change to permeate our culture, our systems need to be redesigned from the ground up. – Melissa Jun Rowley, Warrior Love Productions