I always look forward to Diversity Week and the opportunities it provides to encourage inclusiveness in our businesses and raise funds for critical diversity programs throughout the industry. However, if we view diversity as simply something we celebrate once a year and then mark off our to-do lists until next September, then we will fail our employees, customers and communities; and, ultimately, we’ll fail our businesses. The topics we address during this exciting week in New York must be put into action in every community we serve, every day of the year. At Cox, diversity and inclusiveness are key to our business strategy. It certainly requires a dedicated budget; but it’s about more than money. We must back up the budget with strategic focus—and bolster the strategy with full resources, performance expectations and a clear business rationale everyone can get behind. Leaders have to understand that true, measurable inclusiveness is essential if we hope to be dynamic organizations that consumers want to do business with. From there, diversity has to be communicated clearly throughout the organization, so that every single employee can understand diversity and how they can positively influence it. Over the past few years, we have made an important transition in our diversity strategy at Cox. We started with mandatory training that emphasized diversity is more than just race and gender; that it also includes the backgrounds, opinions, experiences and points of view each of us brings to the job. From "awareness" we moved to "dialogue"—open, honest, productive discussion about how to apply those broad concepts to real-world workplaces. Ideally, dialogue then yields "action." For Cox, the action has resulted in distinct policy and program changes to help cultivate diversity, such as tying senior management compensation to attainment of comprehensive diversity goals. I was encouraged by Cox’s most recent employee opinion survey, in which diversity-related questions received the most favorable ratings of the dozens of topics addressed. In fact, more than nine out of 10 employees said they feel our environment is accepting of differences in ethnicity, gender, background, lifestyles and other defining traits. However, I believe diversity is dynamic and something you never completely achieve. So we can do better. One of the issues I feel we must begin addressing now in our company and industry is generational diversity—including understanding the needs of "echo-boomers," the large generation of young people now aged 15 to 25. Their influence as consumers and employees will grow exponentially over the next few years, so we must understand and accommodate their needs in our marketing, product development and workplace policies. Of course, those of us in the equally large baby-boom generation have our own distinct needs and unique traits that need to be addressed in our companies’ "people" programs, especially as we work toward retirement. The dialogue we engage in this week at the NAMIC Conference, Kaitz Dinner and other meetings is critical to improving our diversity focus as an industry and ensuring we are meeting the needs of employees, customers and business partners. But, again, dialogue without action leaves only empty words, so I hope we will all commit to action on diversity issues throughout our industry—not only during Diversity Week, but year-round. Patrick J. Esser is president of Cox Communications.

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