M&C Saatchi on turning talk into action on diversity

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 31 August 2017
M&C Saatchi has many sub-brands

Pay gap analysis, blind recruitment and the 'curve ball' candidate - just some of the ways M&C Saatchi has been responding to its Agency Circle survey results.

In case you missed it, a year ago 15 agencies across Australia asked every employee on the books to complete a survey about their experience in the workplace when it comes to diversity, and perceptions of diversity. It was part of The Agency Circle, which launched in 2016 in response to increasing frustrations around diversity, or the lack of it, in creative agencies.

AdNews has since spoken to Leo Burnett, The Hallway and Clemenger Sydney about their results and now, we catch-up with Nathalie Brady, M&C Saatchi group general manager, about what the agency been doing since seeing its survey results.

Questions the survey asks agency employees to answer span all aspects of diversity, such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability, gender and age.

Read The true state of agencies: The Agency Circle results are in.

The survey is about to go into its second year, which will for the first time offer agencies the ability to benchmark their own progress against their results for the first year.

Any agencies wishing to sign up, become part of The Agency Circle and take the survey so they can start benchmarking their own performance and progress in these areas should contact Emily Perrett at Clemenger before 1 September.

Read: Clemenger bares all in diversity survey.

AdNews: What has been your biggest area of focus since getting the results of the survey back, and why?

Nathalie Brady: Tackling unconscious bias has been our biggest focus. Why? Lack of self-awareness is a trigger for behaviours or decisions which can not only impact staff directly, but also an organisation’s health and productivity, and it’s something that we can actively start changing. It’s a great way to get staff to begin a journey of reflection and accountability, and to start putting some actions in place to minimise any form of discrimination, whether unconscious or not. We also recognise that diversity and inclusion needs everyone’s buy in, from top to bottom of the organisation.

AdNews: What numbers were you surprised to find? Were there any findings you were disappointed in?

NB: What was surprising was “Discrimination disguised as jokes” – surprising that it's still so prevalent. “Feeling different due to age” – surprisingly, both 45+ and millennials (arguably opposite ends of the spectrum) feel different in our working environment. What was disappointing was “Support of staff taking parental leave” and “mothers tend to be overlooked for promotion”– disappointing considering our strong track record with supporting both mothers and fathers in our organisation.

AdNews: How has the survey helped the agency focus on improving gender diversity, and the working environment for staff?

NB: The survey gave us an increased level of data to use when working through our priorities and has had an influence on the diversity initiatives we are focusing on. It also allows us to have a point of reference to gauge our improvement from an agency and an industry perspective.

AdNews: Can you talk about any specific initiatives you’ve put in place and actions taken as a result?

NB: Unconscious Bias - A tailored unconscious bias training program, working with Diversity Australia, across all the M&C Saatchi Group companies, at every level (550 people), with the aim of empowering our staff to check their own behaviours and provide ways in which to call out others.

This is particularly important in tackling the issue of discrimination disguised as jokes head on. We’re also running two hour workshops for all 65 of our managers across the Group, to ensure those with team and recruitment responsibilities can put action plans in place. We are also introducing a diversity measure on all manager appraisals from this September cycle to start tracking specific progress and keep them accountable.

The online unconscious bias tutorial will now be part of our on-boarding for all staff who join M&C Saatchi Group.

Pay Gap analysis - Whilst we have run this analysis discreetly for the past three years to ensure we’re closing any gaps across all roles in the organisation, we have now formalised this as part of our salary review cycles to ensure any gaps are formally presented to managers and the Management team and actioned.

Recruitment initiatives - A commitment to present a 50/50 gender equal shortlist to managers, with a specific focus on creative, PR and tech.

We introduced blind recruitment in key areas of the business and we introduced the 'Curve Ball' candidate – the inclusion of a candidate with a different educational or industry background to enhance the diversity of our thinking.

Emerging Leaders training and mentoring - We tailored our approach to emerging leader training – opting for a program through the Dream Collective for our young female leaders, so that the content was tailored to the challenges they face as they progress. We also put a focus on the female to female pairing in our internal mentoring program. Maternity initiatives • Maternity leave (and paternity leave) available from the day you start (not after a year).

We introduced performance and salary reviews prior to commencement of maternity leave (50% of our mums-to-be were promoted before going on maternity leave over the last year) and a return to work program – early conversations, flexible working options and reduced hours at start to ease transition

Ongoing Focus Groups - Run internally, these focus groups were set up to better understand the differences staff feel due to age (under 26 and over 45), as well as the perception that mothers and fathers are not well supported. Results are being reviewed currently. We now have an active Diversity Working Group – with key actions and responsibilities. We also hold a Diversity Forum twice a year to update the business on our initiatives, achievements and stats and to also get a point of view from our staff.

AdNews: Why is the agency participating in The Agency Circle Survey - what is it helping the industry do?

NB: The Agency Circle is turning talk into action for the industry as a whole. We put our competitiveness aside for the good of the industry and its reputation. In terms of progress, we’re hoping for an uplift on our key areas of focus - through the initiatives we’ve introduced as well as better communication of what we already have in place.

Read The results of the first year’s survey

Read Clemenger Sydney bares all in diversity survey

Read Leo Burnett boosts female creatives by 26%

Read Why The Hallway is moving beyond gender diversity

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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