Diversity & Inclusion – our way

26th February 2020

If you've been following any Omobono content recently, you've probably heard something or other about Omobono 2.0 and the work we're doing to transform the way we operate as a business.

However, what you might not have heard about yet is what we're trying to do with our Diversity & Inclusion programme.

A piece of research released by Deloitte a couple of years ago included the following statement.

“Leaders who demonstrate behaviours such as courage, curiosity and cultural intelligence tend to enable cultures that encourage inclusiveness”

That is exactly what is happening at our agency right now. In August last year, one of our board members (COO, Sarah Pettinger) reached out to me to ask if I was interested in trying to kick off some form of D&I team at Omobono. Let me tell you a few of the things she said.

  • “The board want us all to start having conversations about and embracing diversity in the agency”

  • “We know that we don’t have all the answers, and we all have a lot to learn”

  • “Just getting someone to come in to deliver some training feels uninspiring, and not very Omobono”

Before we had even started our work on creating a D&I team, the leadership of Omobono were showing all 3 of the behaviours of successful leadership outlined by Deloitte. Courage – in admitting that we as a business need to work on this and that they don’t have all the knowledge they need. Curiosity – to discover more about what isn’t familiar to them, to discover the benefits of a diverse working environment can have on a business. And finally, cultural intelligence, knowing that the people in the business would want better than just a tick in the box yearly D&I training. We were off to a really good start.

5 months later, we have a D&I team of 10+ active volunteer members representing both countries we operate in and all 3 of our office locations. 

This wonderful bunch are meeting twice a week, and it has been wonderful to see just how much enthusiasm and excitement there has been from the people of Omobono to get involved with this really important programme.

Engaging the agency with active and open discussion

From the very first meeting, one of the key priorities for the D&I team has been to create an open culture for discussions related to diversity and the topics that fall under that umbrella.

We have wanted the D&I team to be a safe space where people can bring concerns, worries or difficult questions without fear of repercussions or judgement for doing so.

We’ve also not wanted to act in isolation, we’ve wanted the D&I team to speak for the opinions of the agency. Not just for the opinions of the people in the room.

As such, in November of 2019, Omobono published its first-ever D&I Survey. This allowed us to set our baseline for diversity in the agency and allowed our people to tell us their thoughts.

We asked them how they felt about the agency now, what they’d like to see done in the future, were there any glaring issues we should tackle first and what were the most important aspects of D&I to them.

We had an 81% response rate! As an Experience Specialist, I’ve sent out quite a few surveys over my career, and I’ve never seen a response rate that high to any of them. It made me, and the entire D&I team to see just how much the people of our agency wanted to be involved in this work.

From the data we collected in the survey, we were able to identify 4 core areas of Diversity that we wanted to focus on.

  • Race

  • Gender

  • Mental Health

  • LGBTQ+

These pillars are not the only areas of D&I that we will be trying to work on (there are loads of things we want to do), but they were the ones that were most commonly called out by the business.

So what next?

With those 4 pillars in mind, the D&I team has identified a series of projects that we want to work on to try and start making a real difference within the agency. Each of these projects has a mini team assigned to it from within the larger D&I team and other willing volunteers.

The Mental Health Project – our D&I survey told us loud and clear that we need to do better in promoting healthy and positive discussions around Mental Health in the business. We want to create safe spaces, techniques and tools to enable our people to talk about how they’re feeling without any fear of judgement. We want to enforce the importance of thorough and active self-care as a part of taking control of our mental health.

The Speaker Series Project – one of the clear messages that came from the agency was that they didn’t want to be “trained” in D&I, but they wanted to learn. We are working on hosting a series of talks from individuals who represent many different backgrounds and identities. We want our people to hear first-hand the experiences of those who have different lives to us. We want them to feel comfortable to ask questions and push themselves to challenge their preconceptions.

The Diversity in Recruitment Project – we are looking across our recruitment and application process for ways that we can help to promote diversity in our applicants and hires. We want to provide our hiring managers with tools to minimise the impact of any unconscious bias in the decision-making process. We’ve reached out to our partner recruitment agencies and asked them to remove any names, pictures and references to gender from the CVs of our applicants. We’re also looking at how to create connections with local schools and colleges to try and discover new channels to find more diverse and creative people.

We’re excited to keep going with this work and look forward to keeping you up to date with our progress this year.

We’ve already made an impact

If you’ve had an email from one of us recently, or maybe you’ve looked at one of our profiles on LinkedIn, you may have noticed that some of them now include our personal pronouns. Mine, for example, are She/Her.

Normalising the use of pronouns when introducing ourselves to others, may seem like a small or insignificant act. But actually, it is incredibly powerful when it comes to promoting everyone’s right to self-identify their gender and how they wish to be addressed by those around them. A real step forward in actively supporting the needs and rights of the Trans community.

We’ve seen a wonderful response from within the business when the D&I team started including pronouns in their email signatures, and I think I can safely say that the majority of the business now have adopted this practice. All of the D&I team have heard some lovely feedback on this from within the business, but it is also being felt externally. Comments from other businesses and personal thank-yous from people emailed directly to us.

“Because that’s how the industry is” isn’t a good enough answer

If you look at the statistics, the Design industry currently sits at 90% White and 60% male employees. So yes, we’re facing an uphill battle trying to make serious improvements to our diversity statistics in the office. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.

We don’t want our work on creating a safer and more diverse place to work to stop within our walls, we want to pay it forward and pass on the benefits to our peers and colleagues throughout the industry.

More diversity breeds more creativity and if we’re not trying to promote creativity in our industry, what are we doing?

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