More and more, companies are looking at how they can successfully implement diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This is an especially critical consideration for in-house agencies and creative teams. Tasked with communicating a company’s messaging and brand, there is no other group more in need of multiple perspectives and sensitivity to a company’s business and consumer base. Creative teams must understand their audience and to be able to effectively do that, they must be representative of that audience.
Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace now encompass race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, generation, disability, personality type and even thinking style – essentially a cross-section of the buying public. This is why companies achieve greater growth, profitability and value – as well as a stronger brand image – when different perspectives are represented in leadership teams and the employee base. That’s not all diversity, equity and inclusion can offer in the workplace, but first, let’s start with some basics.
What is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
To explain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Michigan, Robert Sellers, uses the analogy of attending a dance where:
- Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party
- Equity means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist
- Inclusion means that everyone has the opportunity to dance
In more formal terms, diversity refers to people in an organization accepting, valuing, and respecting the differences of others both within and outside of the organization. Some of these differences could include internal diversity, or groups that a person is born into, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and age. As well as external diversity, or options that a person can choose to change, including religion, education, socioeconomic status, and citizenship.
Equity is ensuring that there is fairness in the workplace. Does everyone in the organization have access to opportunities for career and professional growth and advancement? Is everyone fairly compensated for the work they perform and is this baked into recruiting practices? Equity can also show up as providing support to employees who may be at a disadvantage due to external circumstances.
Inclusion is where there are formal and informal structures within a company that encourages and supports the collaboration and participation of all employees. The culture is one that encourages mutual respect and actively removes barriers such as intolerance, prejudice, and discrimination.
Proof That DEI Benefits the Workplace
Organizations that truly incorporate DEI as a business strategy and core value will continue to elevate their brand — becoming even more attractive to qualified candidates. Millennials see DEI as a strategic imperative for their organizations while Gen Xers and Boomers view it as equal representation and an issue of moral fairness. All seem to agree that it is critical to their engagement at work based on a study by Deloitte that found that employee engagement was higher at more diverse companies.
Bringing together a diverse group of individuals in the creative space has unique benefits even beyond engagement and loyalty. Multiple perspectives from a diverse group of creative professionals can spark a level of innovation and creativity that more homogenous groups can’t. It drives messaging that can reach a broader audience and establish a company as a socially conscious brand worthy of consumer loyalty.
There are advantages to a strong DEI program that extend to recruiting and retaining top quality talent. In a 2019 Diversity in the Workplace Job Seeker Survey, 83% of respondents indicated that an employer’s commitment to diversity is a factor in deciding whether to accept an offer. 1
Meanwhile, research from Coqual (formerly the Center for Talent Innovation) found that employees at large companies who perceive bias are:
- 3 times as likely to plan to leave their employer within the year.
- Over 2 times as likely to have withheld ideas or solutions in the past six months at work.
- 5 times as likely to post negative comments about their company on social media.2
For these reasons and more, experts agree that DEI is emerging as one of the most powerful tools in business. Studies show they reap the benefits of greater brand loyalty among employees, customers, and investors. DEI also drives increased employee engagement, a dynamic culture, and a high level of innovation.
How Can You Get Started Making a Difference?
Here are some suggestions for giving diversity a more prominent place in the organization:
Gain executive buy-in and accountability for DEI programs
Promoting and implementing DEI at your place of work means reaching out to key stakeholders in appropriate departments such as HR, the c-suite, and even Finance and IT. To get their buy-in you’ll need to offer up a business case with supporting qualitative and quantitative rationale. In addition, it will be important to work up a detailed DEI rollout with timing, cost, technical, and cultural considerations included in the plan.
Eliminate unconscious bias – in recruitment and advancement
There are several practices that support diversity in the identification and recruitment of new talent for your in-house agency or department. Pre-hire personality assessments, “blind hiring”, and seeking referrals from minority staff are three ways to broaden your pool of candidates. When submitting candidates for positions with our clients, Cella removes all personal information from their resumes, such as name, address, and other contact information. We also partner with diverse job boards to post available positions, including Diversity Jobs, African American Hires, All Hispanic Jobs, WehireWomen.com, Asainhires.com, Professional Diversity Network, AARP, LatinoJobs.org, veteranjobs.net, RecruitMilitary, and DisablityJobs.net.
Once you’ve secured candidates, powerful tactics you can put in place to bring in and retain diverse talent are offering remote work opportunities, promoting your inclusive culture, and rewording job descriptions to be more neutral in tone.
Using pronouns to self-identify is another practice that can counter unconscious bias. Pronouns are one of the ways we portray our identities. When someone asks you to use their pronouns, they are asking for you to acknowledge their identity. This signals to the recipient that you will respect their gender identity and choice of pronouns.
Some of the impacts of asking talent for pronouns include:
- Signals that you’re an inclusive company
- Helps avoid sending out a potentially harmful message by making assumptions about how someone wants to identify
- Normalizes discussions about gender
Measure the success of DEI initiatives and base future focus on the results
Quantitative measures such as documenting increases of minority team members within your company, employee surveys, and auditing output of enhanced creative are critical to the success and longevity of your DEI program.
Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Resources
Today, as DEI becomes more and more of an important focus at companies, the resources to educate yourself have become readily available.
These books are a great start…10 Books To Help You Foster A More Diverse And Inclusive Workplace
We’ve found these leaders on LinkedIn who are great to follow when you're looking to educate yourself on the matter. 125 People to Follow on LinkedIn About Diversity and Inclusion.
Here are some sites that can further your efforts to put a DEI program in place.
5 Powerful Ways to Take REAL Action on DEI
How to Develop a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative
How to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
You can also speak with your HR director about starting your own DEI committee at your company. At Cella, we have established a DEI Council. The mission of this Council is to embed DEI into all aspects of Cella through its people, operations, and marketplace in order to attract, engage and advance members of underrepresented groups ensuring inclusion.
Our Council Leaders are not only passionate about DEI, but they also spearhead critical areas of business that will ensure DEI succeeds at Cella. Each Council Chair leads committee members who are passionate about DEI and recognize the value of true inclusion. For more information on Cella’s DEI efforts, click here.
The bottom line with DEI is that it directly impacts your bottom line. Specific to your in-house agency or creative department, it promotes a dynamic collaborative environment that empowers your team to produce innovative and creative solutions that are targeted to your company’s client and customer base inclusive of a diverse population. With all the potential benefits of implementing a diversity in the workplace initiative, adopting DEI is a moral and business imperative.
1 yello, “Diversity in the Workplace Statistics”, 2019.
2 Hewlett, Rashid and Sherbin. Disrupt Bias, Drive Value. Rare Bird Books, 2017.