Diversity and inclusion are the latest buzzwords that many are jumping on board with, but really, the issues have been around forever. It’s only in recent years businesses have been embracing them as a means of forging a sustainable future.
Businesses that promote a healthy balance of male and female employees are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, while those with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35% more likely, claims research by McKinsey & Co.
According to Bing’s head of UK sales, Ravleen Beeston, the industry does not talk enough about serious positive business outcomes of diversity and inclusion at the heart of a business strategy.
“Sometimes it just doesn't strike a chord with businesses. They don't see that there's actual bottom line gain to be made when we put this into practice.”
Empowering voices to drive change
Throughout Microsoft, there is a culture that is being driven with an open and clear mission which is about empowering every person, in every organisation to achieve more. That mission, “empower every person”, means that diversity and inclusion has to be a key part of our strategy, says Beeston. “You can't empower everyone if you don't have all those voices within your organisation. This in turn enables you to get close and drives innovation around building products and services for all.”
Companies with inclusive cultures that value diversity regularly report at least three times higher employee engagement, two times higher intent to stay and three times higher levels of innovation along with better decision-making.
In 2014, Microsoft launched its 10 inclusive behaviours which was a game changer for many team leaders at that time, claims Beeston. For the first time there was something tangible showing how to build inclusive teams and environments.
One of the behaviours is about every voice being heard. “What businesses can do is empower their people to speak up when things don't feel right,” says Beeston. “This is driven by an entire business community. Yes, the tone has to be set at the top, and there has to be a genuine authenticity from the tone but then you need to empower your employees to be able to speak up.
“One of the biggest things we can do in our businesses is hold ourselves accountable for creating the changes we want to see. Let’s not wait for somebody else to come and do it for us. Know that the change has to be us.”
Proximity builds empathy
Millennials meanwhile are asking for diversity and social purpose behind the brands they interact with. 47% of young millennials are more likely to support a brand after seeing an inclusive ad.
According to Kantar Millward Brown and Unilever analysis of 186 ads, the most progressive ads are 25% more likely to be effective. They tend to trigger more positive engagement where consumers feel the ads are more enjoyable, relevant, and surprising.
Consumers expect more from the brands they buy from and interact with. 91% of millennials say they’ll switch to a brand that is associated with a good cause
Brands need to be very authentic about what it is they're trying to drive, Beeston insists. “What lands badly is when people are trying to tick a box or trying to do something for sole business gain. It becomes very obvious to the audience.”
“When a brand truly finds something, which is intrinsically linked to their mission and is also about doing good in our society/community/our world, and then delivering that through their products, that's where I think brands are very successful, in showcasing themselves as working for good.”
An area that Beeston is passionate about, is the equal representation of women at industry events. It’s no big surprise when news breaks about male dominated panels but it is something many are trying to break the bad habit off. At The Drum Search Awards 2019, where Beeston was a judge, the panel represented gender equality as well as many professionals from various ethnic backgrounds.
Beeston says: “Having improved diversity in the Judging panel means that we reduce bias in the way we judge nominations. It's a better-quality outcome for our Industry. This is why we wanted to support the category, Diversity and Inclusion Company of the Year, because we feel like The Drum has made a massive statement in what they done, it's a big change. I’m pleased with how things have turned out.”
However, there is still a way to go, and Beeston believes: “There are unconscious biases from the women and men in our industry about what is senior leadership in our industry. Sometimes there are men who aren't as senior that get approached and get those opportunities versus women who are more senior that never get asked.
“As an industry we need to do better.”
Everyone has to be diversity and inclusion
The challenge is in us and our mindsets, Beeston adds. “If we can submit to being the change, we can drive it around us. Everybody can be empowered to do that and to stand up. It has to come from us, we all have to believe it.”
She concludes: “If we want to truly drive change it can’t be just some team that sits in HR that tells everyone what to do. Everyone has to be a D&I person and everyone has to hold themselves accountable.”
Bing is a sponsor of The Drum Search Awards 2019. Teaming up with The Drum, they have introduced the Diversity and Inclusion Company of the Year award, which will reward the agency or brand demonstrating the strongest commitment to these values.