Pushing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Into the Business Mainstream

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It isn't enough to drive systemic change. The most effective way to advance DEI is to make the practice a business function -- not an HR program. That's according to Christena Pyle, Chief Equity Officer for dentsu Americas.

Pyle emphasized that HR is a critical partner, particularly in having "the right objectives and best practices" across talent recruitment, development and retention. What's more, DEI programs that are business-driven provide one of the most effective means to improve upward mobility in the economy, according to the 2020 Josh Bersin report.

Harvard Business Review reported this back in 2016, as well.

Pyle brought this up in a panel discussion at the recent Advertising Week New York conference. During the conversation it was noted that there are three factors that determine employee engagement revolving around their connection to their direct manager, belief in the company's purpose and a deep sense of belonging. Research has shown that a company's leadership and culture have a significant role in creating more equitable and diverse workforces.

According to the Bersin report, less than one third (32%) of companies require any form of DEI training for workers, and 34% offer managers such training. DEI is treated as more of a compliance issue, according to the panel, and this is supported by research that shows 75% of companies do not include DEI in leadership development or overall learning and development. An estimated 80% of companies are just going through the motions and not holding themselves accountable.

Pyle pointed out that one of the underlying factors driving The Great Resignation, which reached a record-breaking 11 million open jobs as of the end of July, is employee disengagement. She highlighted that high-performing companies "define the business through DEI and have done so for many years." Importantly, they "live by the culture and not just the metrics."

The Bersin report also reveals that the highest performing companies -- Accenture, ADP, AstraZeneca, IBM, Johnson & Johnson and Target -- take a business-centered and macro view of engagement, which goes beyond the DEI or HR office. The companies connect DEI to culture in a deep, meaningful and actionable way.

An essential strategy is to listen, hear and act. Companies that do so are 12 times more likely to engage and retain employees; 8.4 times more likely to inspire a sense of belonging, and 8.5 times more likely to satisfy and retain customers, the report found.

More insights came from Anita Patil Sayed, Executive Vice President, Commercial Operations, dentsu, who spoke on a different Ad Week panel that was focused on the future of work. According to Sayed, companies can adopt other strategies to accelerate cultural transformation, including strengthening HR capabilities in all roles, clearly defining DEI's mandate, securing senior leadership commitment, setting goals and measurements and creating accountability for tangible results.

Pyle noted dentsu's relentless focus on transparency and how their first dedicated DEI report took a holistic approach around four pillars: transparency and accountability, representation and sponsorship, education and continuous learning, and client and community impact. These success pillars created an urgent call to action for diverse representation at all levels by "creating an even stronger culture of inclusion for all employees and producing powerful, representative campaigns with and for clients."

The dentsu DEI report is very intentional in being both the first public record of accountability and a way to highlight gaps and to celebrate the tremendous progress that has been made over the past year, recognizing mistakes with full vulnerability. According to Pyle, dentsu operates from the principle of "collaboration and transparency and is willing to share its best practices, with no firewalls or IP restrictions, as we are committed to advancing the industry."

This openness is reflected in the ecosystem of partners and strategic programs that dentsu has forged, with organizations such as the 4A's Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP) and the American Advertising Federation's (AAF's) Most Promising Multicultural Students.

Dentsu's strategic Navigator series keeps clients at the cutting edge of how multicultural consumers' needs, behaviors, perceptions and preferences are evolving. This impact is further accelerated through the agency's investment arm that assesses opportunities through the lens of equity.

Through its own creative and media work dentsu has launched award-winning campaigns such as Oreo Proud Parent and the audio series More Than That with Gia Peppers and the Sports Emmy-nominated The Cost of Winning to showcase the stories of underrepresented communities.

By exposing the failures of the past and the structural inequities that still plague our industry, dentsu is working towards an inclusive and equitable culture inside the agency, and then using that impetus to accelerate systemic change through brands, partnerships and its talent.




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