Honoring Nielsen During CES for Connecting Diversity and Growth

By Legends & Leadership Archives
Cover image for  article: Honoring Nielsen During CES for Connecting Diversity and Growth

Nielsen does diversity and inclusion right.  For four consecutive years the consumer insights company has jumped up the ranks of DiversityInc's Top 50 List For Corporate Diversity,been honored by Fortuneand Great Place to Work for Workplace Diversity and received top rankings on Diversity MBA's list of "Best Places for Women and Diverse Managers to Work."  Nielsen has also received a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for five consecutive years.  As an industry leader, Nielsen will also be honored at the inaugural Advancing Diversity Honors,being held during CES on January 10 at Caesars Palace.  How did this track record come to be?  In a recent conversation, Angela Talton, Nielsen's Chief Diversity Officer (pictured above), shares just how the organization infuses diversity and inclusion into everything it does.

"A standing quote of Nielsen's CEO, Mitch Barns, is that 'Diversity and inclusion are crucial to Nielsen's growth, strength and ability to innovate,'" Talton says.  The research firm's chief recently solidified this idea publicly by joining 250 other CEOs in taking the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion pledge, which says that those leaders and their organizations are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. "Within 60 days of Mitch becoming CEO he issued the Rooney Rule [the NFL policy requiring league teams to include minority candidates in senior leadership job interviews] that diverse slates be implemented by his direct reports and cascade throughout the organization," she adds.  "So, I think [the pledge was] an opportunity for people to see externally the commitment we see internally every day."

For Nielsen, diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a business imperative.  "We know our clients want more than numbers; they want to understand why consumers behave the way they do," Talton explains.  "We understand it takes a diverse workforce to provide those genuine and authentic insights into consumer behaviors."   Their D&I strategy is five-pronged, including Accountability, Career Development, Retention, Supplier Diversity and Education.

Beginning with Accountability at the business unit level, Talton reviews diversity scorecards with leaders on a quarterly basis.  She also partners with the talent acquisition team to implement the Rooney Rule and thus the company expands outreach to diverse communities like students at historically black colleges and universities and the University of Puerto Rico.  Nielsen representatives also attend conferences like USBLN, which unites businesses around disability inclusion.

One way that Nielsen advances its focus on Career Development is through its Diverse Leadership Network, which Talton created in 2013.  The 15-month program, open to mid-career top performers, is comprised of a diverse mix of talent: 25% African-American, 25% Asian, 25% Hispanic, 25% white and at least 50% female.  Talton likens the program to a mini MBA, where associates are partnered with coaches to learn more about Nielsen, complete an online curriculum on core subjects such as financial acumen and use case studies to learn to solve business issues.  "This is a key initiative that demonstrates to the organization a level of un-tapped top talent that previously was not noticed or being cultivated," she says.  "We have literally seen 100% of graduates move into a new position -- either promotion or lateral -- and we've seen over 60% move into a second new position."

A program that showcases Nielsen's focus on Retention is the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).  This collection of volunteer organizations provides recruitment and retention, professional development, community outreach and engagement and education.  The groups build community across departments, locations and countries.  With operations in 106 countries, 70% of those countries have at least one ERG.  There are nine ERGs in total, and the first were launched around multicultural diversity like HOLA (Hispanic Organization of Leaders in Action) and SABLE (Sustaining Active Black Leadership and Empowerment), as well as other ERGs for LGBTQ, Asians, people with disabilities, women and veterans. Outside the U.S. there is Nielsen Generations, which launched in Shanghai to bring together veteran employees with those newer to their careers, and MOSAIC (Multinational Organization Supporting an Inclusive Culture), which launched in the U.K.

"We really believe in making sure that around the globe, a country or region's diversity and inclusion journey must be relevant to the employees in that local community," Talton says.  That's why she created a Global Inclusion Council and enlisted Global Inclusion Ambassadors to use a framework designed to identify programs and initiatives that provide Awareness, Discovery, Understanding, Integration and Realization of how to further diversity and inclusion in their particular area of the world. 

The ERGs also serve as a conduit to connect the dots between diversity, inclusion, innovation and growth by designing, planning and implementing initiatives that can directly impact Nielsen's bottom line.  For example, the ADEPT (Abled and Disabled Employees Partnering Together) ERG partnered with the Special Olympics to develop an athlete's survey that would provide insights and help with changing attitudes and awareness about intellectual disabilities with data.  This initial idea by ADEPT led to a revenue-generating opportunity: quantifying the market power of households with disabilities.  "By leveraging their individual knowledge about people with disabilities, designing a survey to gather data and then sharing the data in a format that would be valuable not just to the client, Special Olympics, but also to the disability community at large; the 'buying power' or value of this community to marketers and advertisers can be quantified," Talton explains.

Nielsen focuses on Education with its Diverse Intelligence Series, where knowledge is shared through free downloadable reports and thought leadership events, thus serving both a commercial and a community purpose.  "The goal of the series is to help our clients [manufacturers, retailers, advertisers or content creators] and those who are not our clients see the population shift and value of these communities," Talton notes.  "We also focus on sharing this information with diverse communities because we want them to know they matter and to understand their value as a consumer group.  As a result, we have seen shifts in programming on TV (i.e. The Good Doctor, Fresh off the Boat, black-ish) and we have seen shifts in products that are being offered in the grocery store (i.e. sriracha sauce, ethnic hair care products)."

These insights also often come to life through Nielsen's client partners, like when P&G leveraged its African-American ERG to develop new products for African-American women.  Realizing this community wanted to wear their natural hair and P&G didn't have products to accommodate them, the ERG was partnered with R&D to create a new Pantene product.  Talton documented this as a case study on ERGs driving business impact in "Diversity: Better Business -- Not Just the Right Thing."

To publicly highlight Nielsen's overall strategy behind its diversity and inclusion program, Talton published the first Diversity and Inclusion Report. This was important to Talton.  "We wanted to connect the dots between D&I, innovation and growth and to share our best practices so other companies could use that information, as well," she says.  "Several D&I leaders and CDOs openly shared their best practices with me five years ago when I began to work in the D&I industry.  It accelerated my onboarding, and I wanted to pay it forward for the next D&I practitioner."

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