Why diversity matters

13 January 2020Josie Klafkowska

Companies that focus on inclusion are more successful. Fact. So why is such a fundamentally strategic issue so often reduced to a CSR activity? The Experience Makers unpicks this hot topic. 

If you’re new to The Experience Makers, welcome to our monthly podcast, available on your favourite podcast channels. Introduced by our fabulous host, tech author, Gemma Milne, we unpick the issues of the day with the help of a stellar line up of guests.

This month we’re joined by Karen Blackett, Chair of MediaCom and UK Country Manager at WPP; Tag Warner, CEO at GAY TIMES and Daniel Painter, Senior Consultant at Cognifide. Together they discuss the much-debated issue of diversity and why it’s so important to business, particularly the experience business.

The Experience Makers - Why diversity matters 

Without wishing to give too much away, here are a few highlights but make sure that you download, tune in and subscribe for further episodes. Click on the icon below to listen.

Why diversity is a little bit Marvel

We love Karen’s fantastic analogy to the Avengers. For an issue that so often has negative connotations, viewing it through Karen’s lens is so refreshing. Who doesn’t want a business made up of diverse superheroes with different superpowers? However, if that all sounds a bit lighthearted, she goes on to provide further definition:

  • Diversity is when you have lots of different people in a room coming together
  • Inclusion is when all those people have a seat at the table
  • Belonging is when those differences and different people, with different backgrounds, have a voice that is listened to and is heard

This is when you have true diversity. When it’s appreciated and celebrated.

Visionaries and influencers

Daniel points out that achieving this celebration should absolutely be the vision. However, for many organisations, this may feel a long way off. For many, the reality is about what can be done on the ground to make the small changes that are steps to achieving that vision. There was general consensus that success usually has a visionary leader behind it and that education plays a big role.

“Leadership is absolutely fundamental... you can always look to the top and pinpoint one person and you can almost always guarantee that person was responsible for all of the changes that cascaded down from a visionary perspective”.

Daniel Painter, Senior Consultant at Cognifide

A visionary leader can’t win without educated decision makers across the business because change is only felt when the right decisions are made at every level. And Karen firmly believes that anyone can play a part in making the workplace a better place for everyone. Every visionary leader needs influencers in the organisation that will help to shape the vision and ambassadors who are willing to tackle the challenge of implementing change.

Avoid tokenism

Organisations that are engaging with diversity tend to fall into two camps. There are those that seem to fundamentally understand the issue and have genuine empathy. Their products and marketing are authentically created for and targeted at the audiences for which they are intended. Karen cites both Diageo and Unilever as falling into this camp, getting it right for their consumers.

Then there are the organisations that appear to be trying to make a quick buck by jumping on the diversity bandwagon. The two approaches are diametrically opposed, and the latter stands out like a sore thumb. Tag cites organisations that will get in touch with GAY TIMES in July and August around Pride. He knows instinctively by the timing of the meeting request that these organisations fall into this latter category where tokenism is rife.

Use your emotional intelligence

Diversity is not a science. While data should of course be used to inform decisions, Tag reinforces that getting to grips with the issue requires a self-understanding and the ability to look inwards and examine your whole approach to work. In other words, unleashing your emotional intelligence. A team that may not tick all the diversity boxes on paper, may actually perform better because they’ve been able to do this. After all, it’s all about being seen, heard and understood and that will require empathy and respect for and from those around you. It’s a responsibility for corporates but also for the individual.

Diversity and experience

“Modern Britain is an amazing fruit salad of people”, says Karen. “In order to succeed you need to be able to build empathy with that fruit salad of people”. Marketers and Experience Makers need to understand all the stories of the different people in modern Britain. One individual can’t possibly do this but a team of people from different backgrounds and with different experiences and beliefs can.

You have to fundamentally edit your organisation from an operational perspective. You can’t create an authentic marketing campaign that is inclusive if there is something else going on internally. Consumers these days can’t be under-estimated, and they will see through an experience that is painted through the eyes of someone who doesn’t understand their mindset.

Tag talks about the business psychology around this. If you surround yourself with people who look and sound like you, you are in danger of getting into a kind of self-congratulatory cycle where you sit around and talk about how amazing a campaign was and it becomes the truth. But, in reality, it’s fake news, there’s just nobody to challenge it.

Daniel talks about some of the issues inherent in digital where there’s a kind of accepted way of designing that has been inherited. Often there has been nobody to challenge whether that accepted way is good for a certain community. An obvious example is how the partially sighted use a website. Inclusion is so often just associated with socio-demographic groups but it relates to any minority community.

As ever, Gemma brings the conversation to a practical close with some great tips on what organisations can do to be more inclusive. Listen in to delve deeper into this minefield of a topic and let us know what you think. If you like it, why not subscribe for more.


The Experience Makers - Why diversity matter

Author: Josie Klafkowska
Published: 13 January 2020
diversityInclusionchange managementcustomer experience

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