FEATURE26 May 2022

A welcome approach

Features Inclusion UK

A diverse and inclusive workplace is one where all employees are made to feel equally involved and supported. The Market Research Society’s (MRS’s) Inclusion Pledge is the optimal way for companies to show that they are serious about striving to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) at work, as Colette Doyle discovers.

DEI abstract image

Research has shown many benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace, including higher employee retention, improved revenue growth and greater ability to innovate as a company.

It’s important to remember that diversity is less about what makes people different – their race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and so on – and more about understanding, accepting and valuing those differences. Equity is about creating a level playing field, providing all staff with fair access, opportunity and advancement.

Inclusion, meanwhile, is the extent to which various team members feel a sense of belonging and value within a given organisational environment. The important distinction here is that, even among the most diverse teams, there’s not always a feeling of inclusion. Women might be well represented at senior management level for instance, but still not feel included due to longstanding gender norms, salary discrepancies and issues around childcare.

While employers are keen to embrace the concept of DE&I, it can feel overwhelming and often companies simply don’t know where to start in order to effect real change. That’s where the MRS Inclusion Pledge comes in: it was created out of a desire to address exactly this issue, offering those who sign up practical, actionable steps that they can take to be part of the solution.

With more than 60 signatories to date, the Inclusion Pledge asks CEOs to make specific commitments towards creating safer and more representative workplaces, including publishing pay statistics annually, working towards government targets for women and ethnic minorities at board level, and improving recruitment practices.

There are numerous compelling reasons for wanting to be a signatory to the pledge, as Georgie White, director of customer experience & insight at Holland & Barrett, observes. “Since the insights sector represents the customer, we must ensure we’re taking active steps to create more inclusive and representative teams at every level, otherwise we are blind to bias and will limit creativity. 

“Working with providers that take DE&I seriously and are making active change is hugely important – actions like signing the MRS pledge are a great demonstration of commitment to change.”

She continues with a salient point on how signing the pledge may influence commercial decisions: “I actively consider a company’s approach to DE&I when looking to partner with them, and this acts as a key criterion when reviewing the roster and asking for an RFP (request for proposal).

“It’s hugely helpful to ensure we have shared values and also to learn more about the activity the agency is undertaking that we may not have thought about. Increasingly, organisations engage in this kind of behaviour when they review their supply chains and partners, and it is something that will only become more widespread.”

Showing their commitment to the cause

A number of leading agencies in the MRX space have already chosen to sign up to the MRS Inclusion Pledge; here’s what they had to say about the reasons that inspired them to do so.

Lynsey Showman, head of business development, Basis
Basis was keen to sign the Inclusion Pledge as we recognised that lack of diversity is an industry-wide problem that cannot be solved without agencies from across the research spectrum working together. We need to collectively make a concerted effort to raise the profile of research as a career choice amongst those who may never have come across it; otherwise, we’re perpetuating a continued cycle of recruiting the same profile of employees each year. Once recruited, we need to be sharing ideas for how to make our industry as inclusive as possible; this in turn will help position research as an open, accessible and attractive career choice.

Sam Albert, chief digital officer, Behaviorally
Making diversity and inclusivity a priority for Behaviorally is not only the right thing to do, it’s integral to virtually every aspect of our business – from how we structure ourselves to how we conduct research to better reflect the demographics of our clients’ customers and consumers. We strive for it in our hiring, staff development and who we partner with, but also in the way we design questionnaires, recruit respondents, and even report our results to our clients. By signing the pledge, we publicly committed ourselves to an ongoing goal that is good for our staff, our clients, and the industry as a whole. 

Ben Shimshon, co-founder and managing partner, Britain Thinks
I signed the pledge first and foremost because we recognise that the more inclusive we are – both in the participants we engage through our research, and in the backgrounds, experiences and identities of the teams who conduct and analyse that research – the more effectively we can help our clients make sense of modern Britain. 

But I also signed up to keep the Britain Thinks senior team focused on driving this agenda forward. This pledge reflects our values as a B-Corp and as an employee-owned business, yet there is so much more that can be done. By signing an external commitment, we are supporting a broader initiative that will lead to a better and fairer research industry. I’d encourage others to do the same, and I’d love the opportunity to think together with other leaders in the sector about how we can go further and faster.

Andy Crysell, founder & chief executive & Dr Matilda Andersson, group managing director, Crowd DNA
Signing the MRS Inclusion Pledge has been an important milestone for us. It runs in parallel to other DE&I work we are undertaking: team training, encouraging open and frank discussions, improving representation, protecting against bias in hiring and making certain we design our projects with sound principles in mind. The pledge signals our intent to our team, makes our aspirations more tangible and gives us targets to aim for. It demonstrates our commitment to playing a role in creating a fairer and more inclusive version of the industry that we love.

Ruth Partington, chief executive, Empower Translate
Signing the Inclusion Pledge was a ‘no-brainer’ for us. I was surprised to see that the commercial benefits were instant, as we secured new business from like-minded clients and were able to reinforce existing relationships. Most significantly, however, this pledge is undeniably key to our industry’s legacy for future generations.

It was important for me as CEO to be able to publicly commit to values and actions that have long been at the heart of Empower, and I strongly encourage others to do the same. The resources and support from Jane [Frost, MRS chief executive] and her team have been phenomenal, and my hope is that this gives other companies and teams the framework to build a brighter, fairer, more successful insights industry.

Warren Saunders, global president of sales & marketing, GfK 
Signing the MRS pledge was a statement of intent and an acknowledgment of an ongoing journey. As an industry, it is critical that we appropriately reflect the society we claim to speak for. Along with the other signatories I am absolutely committed to working towards a more inclusive and diverse industry wherever possible, and of course, hope we reach a point where such a pledge becomes unnecessary.

Tim Wragg, global chief executive, Hall & Partners
We’re fortunate to work in an industry entirely dedicated to understanding people. This requires both curiosity and empathy, which arguably has made it relatively accepting of humans in all their rich variety over the years. We need to continue to build on this to address bias as a moral imperative, but also so that we can access the very best talent and provide the very best advice to our clients. Signing the pledge signals our commitment at Hall & Partners to creating a culture inclusive of ethnicity, LGBT+, disability, mental health, socio-economic status, age, gender and neurodiversity.

Bob Qureshi, chief executive & managing partner, i-view 
In the world we live and work, the idea and implementation of equality, diversity and inclusion should be a given. Signing up and committing to a charter, stamping it and driving it across your organisation, letting all those looking in know it’s something that is embedded in the fabric of your business – it’s why i-view signed up to the pledge, with the ongoing aim to have others sign up too.

Nicole Duckworth, head of Europe & global commercial excellence,        PRS in Vivo
I’m a huge advocate of giving everyone opportunities to achieve their potential and I want to work in an environment where everyone is valued for the skills that they bring. We have signed up to the pledge as part of a rebranding and restructuring initiative that also involves becoming a B-Corp. Our aim is to make our societal contribution as important as our economic mission. Our people tell me they appreciate being in an environment where they are supported, nurtured and challenged. They are welcoming of the fact that diversity of thinking is encouraged and constructive challenge is embraced.

Andrew Cooper, chief executive and founder, Verve 
At Verve, we’re designing and growing our business in a way that celebrates and actions diversity – we are founded upon a broad respectful culture, not a cult. We’re committed to building career environments across the world that are representative, rewarding and enjoyable for all. Easy words to say, but I also believe we are taking action to make it happen; for example, in South Africa we’re well on the way to building a team that is more representative of the country’s culture than is typically the case. We respect that it is a work in progress – but it’s work that we are doing.

The market research industry is hugely competitive when it comes to attracting great people. I strongly believe that embracing inclusivity and ensuring that the principles of the MRS Inclusion Pledge are woven into the way we operate will help us find and keep the best people to build our business.

There’s a clear need for us and industry colleagues to do this and it encourages us to look in new and different places for great people, including paid internships, non-traditional educational backgrounds, career paths and so on. The pledge formally recognises some of the fundamental values that everyone in our industry should be working to – in fact, it’s hard to understand why any enlightened research business wouldn’t sign up to it.

Click here to see new MRS guides and FAQS for ensuring research is inclusive.