"What gets measured gets done." That is Ci Ci Holloway's mantra for successfully developing and achieving diversity, equity and inclusion. As the Chief People and Diversity Officer for Intersection, a leading out-of-home media and smart cities technology company, Holloway leads her company's DEI efforts. She says planning, measurement and communication are key to effecting change at any company -- no matter the industry or size.
"We have transparency around our goals," Holloway explains. "How we achieve those goals is measured all year long. We look at diversity as a business component. It is woven through every aspect of our business."
Much like companies set goals for sales or earnings, Holloway said organizations should create goals for DEI. Then, those goals should be regularly measured to gage success or shortcomings. However, just as a business' other objectives shift and change, diversity is not a one-time goal, but rather something fluid that needs to be continually developed. To get there, she recommends companies follow four Cs: be courageous, be current, be collaborative, and be continuous.
Holloway leads by example. Each year, Intersection sets diversity goals and regularly updates its staff on progress at town hall meetings and through an online diversity dashboard. Holloway also compiles quarterly diversity reports analyzing gender, ethnicity and race composition, as well as hiring, promotions and even who has left.
When a business achieves a robust mix of gender, race and ethnicity within its ranks, it makes for a more successful company, Holloway contends, because it better reflects the communities that they work in, their customers and business partners. Intersection works with local municipalities, transit authorities, airports and other public entities to manage their out-of-home advertising and customer communications assets. Some of those contracts require Intersection to contract with female or BIPOC-owned businesses, but the company also seeks out diverse partners.
Holloway said that Intersection is mindful of reflecting the communities where it does business. "How and where we do business is really impacted by who we are serving," she notes. "The messaging on our screens is going to reach different communities."
Since last year's Black Lives Matter protests and calls for racial equity, media companies and ad agencies have elevated their DEI commitments, particularly in regard to hiring and advancing BIPOC candidates. But change is coming slowly. One common refrain from hiring managers is they want to hire more minority candidates, but have trouble finding qualified candidates. Holloway's answer is they need to reorient that outlook.
"If we fish in the same ponds, you're going to attain the same types of people," she said. "My question is always, 'Where are you looking and how are you looking?'"
Once companies identify their needs, she recommends they find partners that represent those specialties. So, when looking for engineers, contact the National Society of Black Engineers. For programmers or data scientists, reach out to Women Who Code. "There are organizations and resources that you can tap into," she says. "You have to expand your resources and sourcing pool."
But the process doesn't end there. When companies successfully hire diverse candidates, they need to develop and advance them, or risk losing them to attrition. Holloway said companies need to listen closely to their employees' needs and concerns and offer continuous support.
At Intersection, employees participate in regular town hall meetings, and the staff shares ideas for where they want support and action, from last summer's Black Lives Matter protests to recent Stop Asian Hate initiatives after a spate of attacks on Asian Americans. "We hear them, respond and take action," Holloway said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March 2020, most of Intersection's staff has been working from home. Holloway said the company is dialed into their changing needs. When employees asked for more health and wellbeing support, Intersection responded with third-party resources on mental health, nutrition and self-care, as well as after-hours social events. They also engaged a financial partner to answer questions on investing and savings. "This is a unique time and we have provided some unique solutions," Holloway explains.
Being an all-remote operation has also allowed Intersection to broaden its pool of job candidates, including graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and those who don't live near one of Intersection's physical offices.
When it comes to setting the agenda for DEI, Holloway says the directives need to come from the C-Suite. More companies are hiring DEI executives, which is a positive step, but she asserts that CEOs and top execs need to prioritize diversity. When they do, that commitment filters through an organization.
Intersection's CEO Ari Buchalter is a fierce advocate for the company's DEI initiatives, as are Chief Marketing Officer Esther Raphael and Chief Revenue Officer Michael Rosen. They see the important connection between DEI, their brand and driving revenue.
"It is important when everyone at every level of an organization understands that DEI is a priority and how their role connects to that priority," Holloway says. "If you can get everyone to connect to their line of sight in that, then you'll have success."
Holloway adds that businesses also need to eliminate what she calls "the frozen middle" of management. Even if businesses successfully hire women and minorities for entry level positions and, in the best cases, executive positions, she says there is often a gaping diversity hole among middle managers. These mid-level executives play a critical role in business operations and hiring decisions. If more women and BIPOC advance from entry level to manager positions, they'll infuse a company with their cultural perspectives and priorities and be more inclusive when they make hiring decisions.
"DEI needs to be woven through an organization," Holloway concludes, "rather than being a bottom-up approach."
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