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October 05, 2020

By: Perri Grinberg, VP, HR, US

RAPP has always valued and promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion. All that is currently going on in the world has given us a platform to really amplify that message and make a difference, as people are truly listening and paying attention.

Employees and managers within our dynamic company want to see societal changes and are partnering to make it happen. If there is any silver lining to what is unfolding in 2020, it is that people are finally coming to grips with generations of injustice and realizing that sweeping changes need to be made. We want to be part of that equation.

We believe that the strength of our diversity helps us create our best work and shapes our culture for the better. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core focus areas for our network — in the way our brand presents itself internally and externally, in the way our teams behave (from interns to global leadership), and finally in the way we express our values. And we believe in harnessing the strength of all our Fiercely Individual people — and the beautiful differences among them — to positively impact our business and network culture.

The challenge, then, is how we accomplish these noble aspirations when many of our colleagues are working remotely. How do we achieve close connection and promote inclusion while we’re so far apart?

A Multipronged Approach

Businesses everywhere are grappling with how to handle two crises — the unending pandemic and ongoing social upheaval — at the same time. Both can be overcome with a healthy dose of empathy and thought.

When I first started at RAPP, it was assumed that agency work couldn’t be done from home; collaboration was key and required everyone physically being in the office. Since then (even before the pandemic), we started to see more and more flexibility in regard to where and how work got accomplished. Today, our leaders are seeing that you can be collaborative without everyone sitting in the same room, and they are prioritizing understanding and flexibility in all of our employee interactions.

When it comes to dealing with long-standing inequalities and injustices, meanwhile, RAPP took a multipronged approach. We recently performed an evaluation of our metrics, deep dove into our processes, spoke with employees that sit on our diversity, equity, and inclusion committee (called “The Neighborhood”), and took recommendations from two tremendous groups — Black Advertising Professionals Demand for Meaningful Action and In for 13. The goal is better representation for minorities and people of color, both within the marketing industry and in the advertising content that these agencies produce.

Marketers can take a lot of action to effectively build more diversity into their teams during the pandemic. Here are several we’ve undergone recently:

  1. Avoiding selection criteria that can have unconscious bias.When leaders have an open position, it’s important that they are not asking for requirements that limit the candidate pool and adversely affect diverse talent. We make sure the job descriptions and requirements don’t have unconsciously reinforced biases.
  2. Including as many people in the interview process as possible.At RAPP, we are ensuring that 50% of the candidates submitted for a job are from diverse backgrounds and that equal proportions of diverse talent are included in the final rounds of interviews.
  3. Scrapping the exclusive lingo.We are no longer allowing “not a cultural fit” as a reason to disqualify a candidate. We are focusing on “cultural add” instead.
  4. Establishing a DE&I committee.Having The Neighborhood (our diversity, equity, and inclusion committee that represents employees of many diverse backgrounds) allows us a place to brainstorm ideas, gives us a forum to effect change, and amplifies the voice of the people.
  5. Taking a hard look at the numbers.We’ve analyzed the metrics in regard to demographics within our organization, at our management level, and with compensation. Also, we continually audit agency policies and culture to ensure the environment is more equitable and inclusive.
  6. Performing diversity and inclusion training.At RAPP, we’ve offered unconscious bias training in the past, and we’re partnering with new vendors so we can continue our individual growth and collective learning.

It’s a challenging time, but a little bit of empathy will go a long way. If we can take a step back and appreciate that everyone has different situations and difficulties — remote learning for children, elderly parents who are at risk and need support, Black and Brown employees who want to be heard and see change both in the work world and the real world — we can have hope for a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow.

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