As we prepare to transition out of the pandemic and into a hybrid workplace, agencies have a unique opportunity to apply the lessons we’ve learned over the past year and leverage a semi-remote workforce to reinvigorate our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
And after months of isolation with our respective pods — deprived of the daily conversations with colleagues and casual acquaintances from different walks of life — agencies need to make a conscious effort to prioritize and nurture DEI within their workforce.
If we’re not mindful, we can wade into dangerous territory. Invite-only video calls, for instance, make it easier than ever to surround yourself with like-minded people, effectively creating a closed-off bubble.
A conscious approach to DEI is not only good for each of us individually as we broaden our mindsets, but also beneficial for our entire workforce, and business as a whole. Employees that feel included are more innovative and productive. And firms that embrace diversity often have stronger financial results than those that don’t.
Let’s make the most out of this time of transition. Here are three ways to jumpstart your efforts:
1. Channel the borderless digital mindset into everything.
The pandemic opened people’s eyes to the massive potential of the borderless digital environment and now we need to channel that mindset within our agencies – bringing a borderless POV to hiring, workplace culture, creative and more.
We have a responsibility to create ideas that appeal to the entire world and not just the advertising bubble. That translates to a responsibility to create diverse workplaces that better reflect and therefore represent our diverse world. We should strive to generate ideas that respond to and transcend the limitations of our geographical locations.
2. Hire the best people for the job, not just those closest.
With remote work far more normalized than before, our ability to hire people from different countries has become increasingly feasible. Our talent pool is no longer limited to those that live within commuting distance to our office, creating enormous opportunities to expand and enrich our workforce. We’re now able to collaborate with creatives in Kuwait, hire strategists living in Spain and work with interns in school in Stockholm. As long as there’s WiFi, the world is our oyster.
In addition to bridging geographic borders, remote work allows us to overcome income inequality. We can now hire more people who might not be able to afford to live in the big cities where agencies are concentrated, thereby broadening our capacity to those who are most talented, instead of the fortunate few.
3. As you create your hybrid model, make sure it works for everyone.
Most agencies are planning their gradual return to the office, considering how they will accommodate people that want to continue working from home and how they will continue to cultivate culture, collaboration and creativity across a distributed workforce. This moment gives agencies a clean slate to figure out what really makes sense for their employees, including measures to support DEI that may have not been previously explored.
The normalization of remote work, for example, has given many disabled employees the opportunity to work entirely from home. We need to support people to be able to work at their best, which means incorporating adaptations for employees who might find the traditional office a more difficult environment to work in.
The bottom line
The pandemic has proven our unlimited capacity for adaptation; we’ve won pitches via Zoom. We’ve started new jobs in an entirely remote environment. We’ve directed international campaigns across continents using only our smartphones. Why not then seize this enlightened POV and engineer new ways to improve DEI across our agencies?
Sander Volten, Global CEO at 180
Based in Amsterdam and New York, Sander Volten is 180’s Global CEO, overseeing the agency’s vision to see the world not as it is but as it could be. In the last year, under Volten’s leadership, 180 has brought on brands including Rockstar, Under Armour, Pepsi, Mirinda and Mountain Dew for global projects, adding to an already strong roster of clients including Unilever, DHL, adidas, Dior, HBO and many more.