Diversity was always going to be a hot topic this year and there’s a growing sense in the advertising and marketing industry that there’s been enough talk says Craig Catley, director, StrategyBlocks
However, enough is enough, it’s time – particularly in the agency world – to start making fundamental changes to the way companies operate. It’s been two years since the publication of the seminal McKinsey Diversity Matters report, which proved that a gender-diverse company is likely to be 15 percent more profitable and diverse teams can boost profits by 35 percent.
Most people working in a creative organisation already know these findings are accurate and they don’t need a research report to tell them. They know that diversity is good for creativity; it’s good for staying in touch with audiences; it’s good for pushing the boundaries; it’s good for critical thinking and it’s good for creating competitive advantage.
Ultimately it’s good for the bottom line. So, why the delay in instigating meaningful change? Why the procrastination? Why is the industry struggling to change – certainly at the upper echelons – and still dominated by a lack of diversity?
The answer in my opinion is there are multiple, complex priorities to address, organisations often don’t know where to start when it comes to putting a diversity strategy in place. Should they focus on gender balance? Or ethnic diversity? Or dare to tackle the elephant-in-the-room challenge of the dire lack of socio-economic diversity? Consequently, companies understandably become paralysed and locked into analysis, rather than concrete action.
When companies experience this analysis-paralysis the only place to start is by breaking down the plan into its manageable parts. A diversity programme is no different. In fact, it’s even more important with a diversity programme the strategy is transparent to all employees and in line with the company’s overall strategy because this promotes a feeling of inclusivity and embeds this ethos into culture.
Similarly, the clear communication of goals and targets shows that you are serious, not purely paying lip service, or as it is now being called ‘diversity-washing.’
With so many agendas at play, it’s vital to hone your focus and I would recommend the following:
What are the objectives of your diversity programme?
It could be to raise the bar on the standard of creative work produced to improve team collaboration, or to create a more inclusive workplace culture to attract and retain the best talent. Articulating a clear aim will mean you are more likely to be successful and engage employees.
How does your diversity strategy fit with your overall strategy?
Your diversity strategy should be reflected in all aspects of your overall business approach starting with your recruitment process.
Which aspect of diversity is your top priority?
Diversity is hugely complex. Organisations must decide whether to give total focus to one area at a time or have a broader focus with multiple internal campaigns running alongside each other. The key is to be clear about your plan. In addition to showing strong leadership as this guards against potential criticism further down the line.
What goals are you going to set to achieve your objectives in your chosen area(s)?
For each goal, decide how you are going to measure progress as you go, ideally setting timeframes, quantitative targets and benchmarks that everyone can see. This not only gives your strategy a structure but it empowers employees to take action as well, and be inspired by their colleagues.
What processes are you going to put in place to achieve these goals?
If your objective is to eliminate unconscious bias from your recruitment process, for example, you need to be clear about how you are going to achieve this – whether from blind CVs or ensuring interviewees undergo unconscious bias training. The more tangible tools you can include in your plan, the more likely you are to succeed and inspire action in others.
How are you going to communicate your progress to all employees?
Celebrating progress in an open environment will motivate employees. As well as traditional tools like internal newsletters and posters, consider online platforms where everyone can contribute their comments and suggestions, as well as record their successes. Face-to-face forums are very important when tackling diversity because actively listening to others’ stories is recognised as one of the best ways to increase empathy and understanding of difference. The most successful companies often have diversity committees and employee resource groups.
As Rev. Jesse Jackson said in Cannes, when he spoke about how the creative industry can help make society more inclusive, advertising is a powerful medium and the “power to do good is immense.” But as well as talk the talk, the industry must walk the walk. Diversity, like charity, begins at home and it’s time for the industry to get its house in order.