To future-proof consumer brands, leadership teams must become truly diverse. Businesses need to move fast to secure the talent they need with the right capability and attitude, combined with skill-sets and expertise from different industries, functions and geographies.
Consumer behaviour is changing faster than ever before across all industries. Whether that’s customer journeys in financial services and the ongoing growth of fintech, through to expanding reliance on AI/machine learning and robotics to support digital consumer engagement in retail/pure-play, travel, leisure, entertainment and telco businesses. Then, add in the high levels of uncertainty across the political and business landscape in the UK and internationally and businesses are facing a serious set of challenges. In order to win, businesses must genuinely embrace change and change fast. As we have sadly seen in recent times, those who don’t, simply won’t exist in the weeks, months and years ahead of us.
To address the change in consumer behaviour and the challenges across markets, many businesses talk about becoming more ‘customer-centric’ to stay ahead of their competition. Clearly the people and their talents drive the performance of businesses, so some seek to redefine leadership positions and others restructure to put 4-5 key functions (or more) under the CCO/CMO. Typically, these extend way beyond traditional marketing and include digital, tech, data & analytics, customer experience /management and personalisation and others, so that they have a breadth of the role that reaches many customer touchpoints. Whichever route they take, as businesses work through their ‘transformation’ often they realise they simply don’t have access to the right skillsets and expertise in order to truly deliver on this, either leading or within these teams or as importantly across the wider organisation.
This is because in order to future proof businesses and achieve genuine, modern consumer engagement, leadership teams within consumer brands have got to be truly diverse. To date, business leaders have placed a considerable focus on the diversity of talent that exists in the boardroom, but the latest figures show there is a long way to go. We know that having diverse teams is, quite simply, the right thing to do. It ensures organisations have leadership teams that are representative of their customer base, but more so, it provides ‘diversity of thought’ by having the right mix of people, skill-sets and expertise that truly complement each other.
How can businesses become truly diverse, and focus on modern consumer engagement? They need to change the way they think and operate across every function because every single function impacts the customer.
This means having the right CEO and Chair driving the strategy and direction for the business. You need the right Chief People Officer working with every member of the team to build the best people strategy and define the right culture and behaviours for people to adopt. You need the right Chief Financial Officer building the financial model to create an environment where teams operate in the right way. And you need the right Chief Marketing/Customer Officer working with the right digital, tech and marketing teams and beyond.
To get the level of true diversity I am referring to, organisations must stop focusing on skills and experience in hiring decisions, and place much more emphasis on the capability and attitude of leaders and for businesses to make much bolder hiring decisions, take the risk and look outside the typical levels, companies, industries and geographies when they look to appoint business leaders. It is also vital they think beyond just hiring a permanent individual. Businesses need to build the right mix of advisory, partnership, consultant experts and long-term hires and consider how the right blend of agile talent consisting of part-time, home-working, job-share or exec vs. non-exec talent can help complement your teams and help you to win.
Diversity is all about doing the right thing for the future success of your business. The faster you do it, the better that future will be.