The CX industry is constantly growing with more and more companies paying attention to the concept. In fact, a recent study showed that around 49% of business leaders say that CX is their top priority over product and price.
However, like many other industries, there has been a lag in the number of Black and Minority (BME) individuals taking up senior leadership positions in CX. In this article I’ll be exploring why this may be the case, what impact this can have, and key strategies which companies can adopt to address the issue.
Challenges for people of colour within CX
One of the key challenges which BME individuals face is a lack of ethnic diversity within existing CX senior leadership positions. This is a real problem as it can cause minority employees to feel disconnected from their executive team and demotivated at work. Without seeing people similar to themselves progressing into senior positions, it can be quite challenging to imagine their personal progression route to get there.
Senior CX roles such as Director of Customer Experience and Head of Customer Experience are becoming more popular amongst medium to large corporate organisations. However, BME employees only make up a very small percentage of these roles:
- Black employees made up around 4% of Vice President roles in the USA in 2021
- Black employees were overrepresented in frontline and entry level roles in 2021
- Black employees held 1.5% of top management roles in the UK private sector in 2020
- 4.7% of Britain’s most powerful decision makers from the public and private sector were from a non-white background in 2020
Moreover, I conducted a search on LinkedIn for individuals holding the position of ‘Head of Customer Experience.’ I discovered that out of a pool of 50 professionals, only 14% of them came from a BME background. Notably, when I extended my search to those with the title ‘Director of Customer Experience,’ the results found only 4% were Black or Asian.
What do these formal statistics, coupled with my relatively modest sample size reveal about the CX industry, specifically? When it comes to higher-up positions, there’s a real lack of diversity across the board and in CX roles. People from BME backgrounds might get their foot in the door for entry-level jobs, but they unfortunately seem to hit some roadblocks when it comes to climbing the ladder.
What is the impact?
Firstly, Executive Teams made up of mostly non-white leaders may result in limited perspectives and decision-making. Since decisions often reflect personal experiences, diverse backgrounds among senior staff are crucial. A company’s customer base likely represents diverse backgrounds, so diverse viewpoints are valuable and important.
Secondly, Black employees are statistically more likely to have faced challenges such as discrimination and coming from a low-income or single parent home. Therefore, they may be able to bring a diverse perspective and empathy for customers. Their presence in the boardroom can lead to customer-friendly policies, such as additional support for low-income customers. Companies with ethnically diverse Executive Teams outperform competitors by 36% in profitability. This indicates that a lack of diversity in decision-making can hinder a business’s long-term growth.
Strategies for change
Benchmarking involves a company understanding their employees ethnic demographic. Based on these stats, a company can set goals in terms of what percentage of BME employees they would like to see in senior CX positions. These roles may include Director of CX or Head of Customer Service. However, they should also include other senior positions which impact the Customer Experience such as Head of Department, Head of Contact Centre and Head of Complaints.
Once benchmarking has taken place, programmes and initiatives should be set up with the aim of creating progression routes for BME employees into these senior positions. This can include mentorship for BME individuals and opportunities to shadow senior staff who are at an Executive level.
Having a specific group to represent the career development of BME workers can bring about tangible change. These employee groups can launch strategies to support underrepresented groups to chart a path into Senior CX positions through programs, education and support for career progression.
Diversity and Inclusion Training should be provided to Senior Leaders and managers which covers unconscious bias, institutional racism and the challenges which BME communities face. This can help towards building a more inclusive organisation as the training usually provides Senior Leaders with the tools they need to help minority individuals to thrive at work.
There are a number of companies who have put initiatives and programs in place to help BME workers to progress into senior positions.
For example, Salesforce has been consistently praised for its diversity and inclusion efforts. The company has set clear goals for increasing representation among underrepresented groups and publicly reports its progress. The company has a large number of employee groups which includes the ‘Black Organisation for Leadership and Development or ‘BOLDforce.’ The group provides a platform for minority employees to develop their careers and manages programs which address race, diversity and equality.
Another great example is Barclays who have a Black Professionals Resource Group (BPRG) to support Black employees with career progression. In a recent post on LinkedIn, Barclays explained that one of their key priorities is to help colleagues from Black and ethnically diverse backgrounds to move into leadership roles. They are working towards this through development initiatives and mentorship opportunities.
Any organisation who wants to support BME employees into senior CX roles can begin to implement or build upon these strategies to bring about real change.