Getting started with your diversity and inclusion strategy


Renae Shaw

Head of HR


Company News

There are several reasons having a diverse workforce benefits both the company and the employees. Diversity brings with it a broader range of skills, leading to better creativity and problem-solving, and research has found that companies with good gender balance are more productive than those without balance.

The digital marketing industry faces some tough challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Men still outweigh women in the US tech sector, and only 10.9 percent of creative vacancies are filled by black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidates.

While this imbalance is largely due to systemic factors, such as a shortage of girls picking STEM subjects in education, there are positive actions companies can take to improve these statistics.

Here at Search Laboratory, we pride ourselves on being a diverse organization, and we’re committed to continuing to build a culture where everyone can thrive, where differences are welcomed, and where everyone feels involved, valued and respected. However, while there are things we’re doing well, we believe there will always be things we can improve on and do better and we will continue to strive towards achieving further diversity.

In this blog, I have shared what we have learned so far during our diversity and inclusion journey, as well as our top tips for getting started with a diversity and inclusion strategy.

1. Be clear on what you’re aiming for

It’s important to understand exactly what it is you are aiming for so you can set clear goals and actions.

Equality means treating everyone fairly and without prejudice, bias or discrimination. This doesn’t necessarily mean though that we should treat everyone the same; it’s about recognizing the specific needs of groups and individuals and removing barriers that would otherwise stop them from being able to access opportunities equally.

Diversity in the workplace means having a workforce that includes people of varying gender, age, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, background and ability. A diverse workforce brings different perspectives and new ways of thinking to the table.

Inclusion means having a culture where differences are proactively sought and highly valued. Within an inclusive culture, colleagues can feel their voice and contribution is valued and respected. To be an inclusive workforce, you need to support equality and diversity.

2. Assess your culture and where you are now

Before you set out to improve on these areas, you need to assess where you are right now. There’s no point sticking an equality policy in your handbook if your company culture will eat it for breakfast. How far off having a culture where everyone can truly come and give their best and feel valued are you?

The next step will help you to understand just how much of a cultural shift you’re asking for, but it’s important to gauge what your starting point is before kicking off any discussions, as this will help you to tailor your overall approach.

3. Speak to your employees

The best way to get a full picture of your current company culture is to listen to your staff; what is their day to day reality? Develop a listening strategy that covers all your key employee groups. A survey is a great first step as it allows you to gather broad feedback, before drilling down on the detail through a series of focus groups. Find out what you’re doing well and where you can improve.

4. Critically review your website and job advertisements

Take some time to critically review your website and job advertisements. Outwardly facing, are you somewhere everyone would be comfortable applying to? Are your advertisements written in a gender and age-neutral way? If all the pictures on your website and social media are of a younger digital workforce, for example, or if most of your benefits are geared towards parties and ‘free drink Friday’, you may have some work to do to attract individuals of different ages. Review equal opportunities data through your candidate management system and monitor how broad a candidate pool you’re really reaching.

5. Get commitment from the board

Ideally, the responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion should sit at the board level. As a minimum, targets and progress should be reported to the board, and everyone involved should have a clear understanding as to why these are important to the success of the business. Find a narrative that resonates with your directors; for example, the danger of not being able to attract and retain top digital talent, or how client relationships may be at risk if they favor agencies already embracing diversity.

6. Provide awareness training for staff

Raise awareness and promote good practice through regular training and guidance. Rather than a PowerPoint presentation on how to avoid discrimination, stimulate a meaningful dialog about which elements of your culture are threatening inclusion. While there’s a place for training managers on avoiding bias in decisions about progression and recruitment, this won’t fix deeper issues. Simple changes like not having a single-sex interview panel and raising the profiles of underrepresented groups can be really powerful.

7. Adopt a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination

Discrimination destroys equality, diversity and inclusion. You’ll need to adopt and communicate well-defined policies and make sure line managers understand their role in enforcing them. The mechanisms for raising a complaint should also be made clear, and managers will need to be taught how to handle these fairly and effectively.

8. Set targets

What can’t be measured can’t be managed. You should by now be clear about where your gaps are, so set realistic targets and milestones for making improvements. Share your vision, as well as progress and successes, with staff.

9. Take flexible working requests seriously

Remove barriers from retaining talent. Flexible hours, job shares and working from home can help to attract different people who may otherwise have been unable to apply for a role or stay with the company.

Just because someone has worked full-time in a role for ten years, in the office 9 – 5,  doesn’t mean the role can’t be handled just as effectively as a job share or working from home. It may be harder to figure out these adjustments for some roles more than others but where possible, take flexible working requests seriously; and offer homeworking and school-time working where possible.

10. Help local schools

Schools are crying out to work with local businesses. Volunteer to showcase digital and your company at a local school; I volunteer as a school Governor and know first-hand just how valuable this is for schools and their pupils. By working with schools, you can help children understand how their skills can be applied in an exciting and growing industry. Highlighting the opportunities available outside of traditional career paths can hopefully influence more girls into STEM too.

I hope these tips help you get started with your diversion and inclusion strategy and I’m looking forward to sharing more about our progress and learnings as we continue our journey and work on these areas.


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