Impact placed Benjamin Fletcher at Dentsu Aegis Network, the third largest agency group in the world by media billing, as Diversity and Inclusion Manager for the UK and Ireland. We have asked him to share some of his early observations on trends influencing diversity and inclusion in the media and advertising industry, and offer some practical advice for those getting started on their D&I journey.
Diversity and Inclusion is an increasing area of focus for clients and media owners, with Google allocating $150 million dollars to their initiatives in this area in 2015 alone. This provides a new and meaningful way to engage with commercial partners over a powerful shared interest. From an internal talent perspective, it offers the chance to reduce employee turnover. As an industry which experiences relatively high turnover, especially at the more junior end of the spectrum, fostering a more inclusive environment give talent a compelling reason to stay.
So, if you’re looking to start making progress with D&I, where should you start?
1. Start measuring: what gets measured gets done.If you don’t already collect diversity data, this is your starting point so you can ensure you invest your resources in the right areas. The communication strategy when collecting diversity data is hugely important because you are asking people to share very personal information. It is essential to build support with your leadership teams who will communicate why the initiative is so important in their own business areas. Give careful consideration to how questions are phrased, for example, it’s a good idea of avoid ‘other’ and provide the opportunity to ‘describe myself differently’. Bear in mind that initial response rates won’t be high, so if you get a 25 percent return in year one it’s a good base to build on.
2. Be inclusive: identity is layered.It is tempting to focus on one aspect of diversity as a starting point but this ignores that fact that women, for example, are also members of the LGBT community, have diverse abilities and come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Whilst you can’t do everything at once, D&I communications and initiatives should positively affirm the company’s commitment to inclusion broadly. This includes making clear reference to different aspects of diversity. One simple but effective way to do this is to let people know which organisations you have partnered with, like Business Disability Forum, Working Families, Stonewall and Business in the Community (who can also offer you great value support).
3. Engage allies: give everyone a voice in the discussion.Men are often apprehensive to talk about gender equality for fear of saying the wrong thing, or because they aren’t sure it is their place to speak up. When you engage ‘allies’ e.g. men who support gender equality, or straight and cisgender (those who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth) people who champion LGBT inclusion, you build much greater momentum and move the dial faster. Allies are often quietly waiting to be invited to join in and given a role in the D&I agenda. Profiling allies and diverse role models let’s others know that there is a space for them to contribute too.
4. Tackle bias: moving from compliance to inclusion.Many people will have been through some form of equal opportunities training, where they learn about or are reminded of the legal protected characteristics… and how you can end up at tribunal if you do or say the wrong thing. There is a place for this but educating people about unconscious bias – which we all have – and how it plays out in your own organisation is what helps move from avoiding doing the wrong thing to actively pursuing a better way of doing things, for the benefit of everyone.
5. Grow networks: channel the energy of your people.It is sometimes suggested that the challenge with D&I is convincing people to get involved. In fact, everyone has a personal connection to some aspect of diversity. You might be a working parent, have caring responsibilities, or have a sister who is lesbian. This means lots of people want to get involved in D&I and this energy needs to be channelled productively. Organising employee networks, or Employee Resource Groups, is one good way to do this. Ensure they are effective by having a clear Charter for each group, outlining its purpose and vision. It’s also helpful to give defined roles and responsibilities for any leadership roles within the network. Finally, make information about networks easy to find and the sign-up process as simple as possible.
If you’d like to chat about any of these tips further, you can contact the author on Twitter @benjaminclusion