Leading the Charge: A+E Networks and Hearst TV Share Best Practices in Talent Management at Media Financial Management Conference

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At the recent Media Financial Management Annual Conference, a panel led by Jack Myers, Media Ecologist and founder of the MediaVillage Education Foundation, provided an in-depth look at the current state of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) in the media industry. The panel featured insights from leaders at A+E Networks and Hearst Television, both recognized for their long-term commitment to DEIB initiatives. Speakers included Cliff Ejikeme, Executive Vice President, Controller and Treasurer of A+E Networks; Fang Xu, Head of Talent Acquisition and Diversity at A+E Networks; and Yasmine Osborn, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Hearst Television.

BEST PRACTICE: Integrating DEIB into Organizational Fabric

Ejikeme emphasized that A+E Networks has woven DEIB into every aspect of their operations, from recruiting to decision-making. By ensuring diverse panels in hiring processes and continuously monitoring diversity across divisions, A+E ensures that DEIB principles are embedded throughout the organization. This comprehensive approach not only fosters inclusivity but also shapes a more dynamic and innovative workplace.

BEST PRACTICE: DEIB as a Strategic Imperative

Xu highlighted the evolving perspective on DEIB at A+E Networks. Initially seen as the right thing to do, it has now become a strategic imperative for survival in a rapidly changing media landscape. Xu pointed out that a diverse workforce is essential for generating fresh ideas that will drive the company forward. By creating an environment where diverse perspectives are valued, A+E aims to ensure its longevity and competitiveness in the industry.

BEST PRACTICE: Connecting with the Community

Osborn discussed how Hearst Television's commitment to DEIB is driven by its need to understand and reflect the communities it serves. As a trusted local news source, Hearst must know its audience intimately to maintain credibility and viewership. Osborn stressed that intentional DEIB efforts are crucial for matching the diversity of their audience, which directly impacts their ratings and business success.

BEST PRACTICE: Mentorship and Talent Retention

The panelists agreed on the importance of mentorship programs in fostering talent retention and development. Cliff Ejikeme shared that A+E Networks' company-wide mentoring program has significantly boosted morale and engagement, leading to low attrition rates even during the Great Resignation. By providing access to top executives, the program helps junior and minority employees feel seen and supported.

Osborn added that Hearst Television's blind matching mentorship program helps leaders overcome unconscious bias and build connections with diverse mentees. This program fosters a culture of learning and inclusion, helping mentees and mentors alike to grow and develop.

BEST PRACTICE: Flexibility and Inclusive Leadership

Fang Xu discussed how A+E Networks' flexible work model, introduced during the COVID pandemic, has helped maintain employee engagement. By adopting a "choose your own adventure" approach, the company supports remote, hybrid, and in-person work arrangements, ensuring that all employees feel connected and valued.

The panelists also highlighted the role of inclusive leadership in creating a welcoming environment. Leaders must be open to new ideas and feedback, fostering a culture where all employees feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. This approach not only enhances employee satisfaction but also drives better business outcomes.

BEST PRACTICE: Expanding DEIB Participation

Myers concluded the panel by addressing the need to expand DEIB participation within the industry, including increased participation among diverse employees at conferences and events such as the MFM Annual Conference. It was suggested that leaders approve budgets for added attendees from their organizations and members can recommend their colleagues and emerging leaders. The panelists suggested several additional strategies, including eliminating referral programs that perpetuate homogeneity and creating more inclusive spaces for diverse voices. They emphasized that true inclusion means making space for all employees, not just those who are already well-represented.

The panel underscored that DEIB is not just a moral obligation but a business imperative that drives growth, innovation, and employee retention. By integrating DEIB into the fabric of their organizations, A+E Networks and Hearst Television are setting a standard for the industry, demonstrating that a commitment to diversity and inclusion can lead to tangible business benefits.

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