Let’s focus on inclusion

Let’s focus on inclusion
Published: 24 March 2020

HR Directors are asking me more about inclusion; who does it well and why? We spent time speaking with Vikki Leach, Global Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Kantar, about her experience in this role and how they have successfully implemented inclusion as a core part of their business. Kantar has recently won an award at the European Diversity Awards 2020 and developed their own inclusion index to help transform other businesses’ culture and overall success.

Both Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) will continue to be high up an organisation’s agenda. The two words are spoken together constantly, resulting in them often being seen as the same thing. It is important to recognise that they are not. Diversity is a range of people or things that are very different from each other. Inclusion is defined as ‘an equal opportunity to all’.

Looking at companies and how they speak about the topic, I think it is fair to say that, in general, the ’D’ part has usually had more of an emphasis than the ’I’. I believe that concentrating on, and valuing, inclusion rather than diversity creates a healthier outlook and work environment. By focusing on inclusion, it also allows people to see that the agenda isn’t just gender equality (for example); it is all-encompassing.

You can measure and control inclusion very easily, simply by looking for policies and procedures that are not inclusive and removing them. It would be difficult for people to argue that they feel discriminated against when their organisation is doing everything they can to make everyone feel included. This, in turn, will help companies act and feel more diverse.  

When reflecting upon her own career and personal life, Vikki feels inclusivity has been a common thread; from involvement in team sports through to community investment in CSR and her role in I&D. Her strong values of empowering, supporting and including are central to who she is. Vikki is just about to finish a Master’s degree where her dissertation is based upon ’inclusive leadership’.

Vikki joined Kantar, a data, insights and consulting company that employs almost 30,000 people, nearly three years ago in the newly-created role of Global Head of I&D. The role was spun out of a workshop the CEO had with senior women, who were voicing their anger that they weren’t included in the decision-making at a senior level. Initially, Vikki was brought in to focus on increasing female representation at all levels within the company, and from there her reach and influence grew.

It is worth noting that her role being entitled I&D (as opposed to D&I) is purposeful. Inclusion in Vikki’s mind should always come first; you can be diverse by default, but are you inclusive? By having the full support of the Global CEO behind her, Vikki was empowered to go out and hold ‘inclusive behaviour workshops’ with the top 1,000 leaders globally. They examined how to behave inclusively and how their actions and decisions affect everyone. Following on from this, behavioural interventions were created each year to remind them what was discussed and how thinking inclusively needs to be a constant influence on decisions that they, as leaders, make.

Another of Vikki’s accomplishments has been setting up steering committees in 30 countries, bringing volunteers together to drive inclusive action and behaviours at local level. In order to fully achieve this, they had men in women’s networks and people from all races and backgrounds in BAME committees. This created true diversity of thought, which Vikki stressed is essential.

“In order for a company to truly be inclusive, any I&D role has to report into their CEO”, said Vikki. As well as sending the right message, the job level will mean less time navigating through layers, trying to persuade and influence, and more time accelerating conversations and actually ‘doing’. Vikki believes she would not have been able to achieve so much in a relatively short period of time if she did not have this reporting line.

Vikki’s experience at Kantar demonstrates that an organisation that focuses on inclusion will actually find itself becoming more diverse by default. Instead of adding on I&D as a ’necessary’ role, change the structure, demonstrate the importance of it and let employees enjoy all the benefits that inclusivity and, consequently, diversity yields.

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