Diversity is not just an HR topic, it’s a reflection of culture which influences how we live, how we communicate, what we need. It also influences business.
cu·mu·la·tive: increasing or increased in quantity, degree, or force by successive additions.
Here is a troubling moment for me: when credit-card companies ask to verify past addresses. I have moved more times than I can keep track of, but I have carried the lessons and cultures from all these places with me.
As Alana Conner, author of the book Clash!, puts it, culture is cumulative.
In setting up and running R/GA Sao Paulo, and now as I come to work daily at R/GA San Francisco, I see how this collection of references brings results to a business. Our team has over 20 nationalities, 25 American states, and 19 languages represented. There are enough opinions and backgrounds to create healthy disagreements and discussions (we like that). These discussions have not only helped us understand the differences in our world and the world better, but have also contributed to producing work that is better suited for an audience outside our walls.
It’s more than obvious that diversity is not just an HR topic, it’s a reflection of culture which influences how we live, how we communicate, what we need, which in turn influences the work we do as agents between our clients and the people they want to reach.
As an agency expected to deliver innovation, we cannot create innovative work if our teams are homogeneous.
Imagine what would happen if everyone at an agency thought and acted the same way? There would be great chances that the people this agency was trying to reach did not think the same way. An opportunity to connect, to dialogue, to leave an impact for that product would be sadly missed.
Here are two frameworks we use to secure diversity within our workforce.
“The best ideas emerge when very different perspectives meet.” — Frans Johansson,
To help bring diversity of thinking and perspective into our work, we created a framework we call 2×4. For two hours, four people meet — people with different backgrounds, expertise and points of view — to react to a brief, stimuli, or tackle a problem. Along the way, many of these can happen, and the four people will change depending on the milestone or progress done. For the work, this helps spark conversation, and creates natural dialogue and contributions from people with very different perspectives on how to solve that same problem.
But as different teams participate and contribute, people get to discover and appreciate each other’s personalities and differences. It is rewarding, and reinforces a culture where it is safe to disagree and discuss.
To maintain a diverse environment you have to attract and retain people of different backgrounds, needs, and moments in their lives. Which means we also need to think of what we need to do to adapt to changing lifestyles and workstyles.
A company’s support of diversity needs to go beyond the work it produces.
How a company adapts to different religious needs, new moms and dads, people that care for older parents, people starting their careers in new cities, people commuting, people moving to new countries (and so on) has a direct correlation to how it attracts and keeps talent feeling supported and motivated.
The wheel of experience influencers
It is also important to take time to listen and understand the whole person, not just the professional, so we can learn the needs and wishes behind each employee.
In the past couple of years, we started to shift from annual performance reviews (solely based on work performance) to check-ins every four months. A reference for these conversations are the employee’s “experience influencers”. A person who is single and early in the career may be chasing different objectives and goals than a divorced parent with additional responsibilities and in need of extra flexibility.
If you consider (again) how each of us are different with different priorities, the combinations of factors can be endless.
On an individual level, understanding these experience influencers and taking the time to discuss (and readjust) them, allows managers to support diverse needs and ambitions, and help teams chart their path. It’s surprising how little time people take otherwise to think about this, and how helpful this understanding can be to shape the team, projects, clients and career path for a person.
On a company level, this also helps uncover local and global collective insights: benefit offerings, additional support, organizational and structural changes we can make to make our workspaces more inclusive and rewarding.
Great talent won’t settle for a less-than-great experience.
And we need great talent to do great work.
In the end, diversity is important for a business to recruit and retain smart talent.
For our employees, diversity shows that we support and respect differences, and reflect this in our environment and the work we produce. More great people will join a business that cares for and celebrates them.
For our clients, diversity allows to build curated teams and a diverse point of view that can help them be more relevant to the people they are trying to reach.
It’s a business no-brainer.
It is great to see that some businesses started to realize the competitive advantage that a diverse team represents — as well as some of the initiatives, frameworks and methodologies they have been using to push for a more diverse work environment.
Our next step in this series is to understand other things we could be doing to push for more diversity: in our recruiting process, in the work we put out in the world, in each of our design deliverables.
See you in the next article.