An inclusive culture means a more empathetic workforce who get your consumers
A view from Rachel Barnes

An inclusive culture means a more empathetic workforce who get your consumers

The business case for cognitive diversity of teams should not be ignored by any brand or company looking to encourage growth from within, writes Rachel Barnes, Marketing's editor, as we explore the big ideas in our new October issue of Marketing.

"If we in marketing are not curious about a big chunk of our own workforce, how can we profess to understand the same part of our brand's customer base?" This question, posed by Aviva's Jan Gooding, cuts through to the business case for diversity.

Diversity is rarely off the business agenda these days, but we don’t yet comprehend the true shape and make-up of the marketing sector. For Gooding, the fact that there is no data on the number of LGBT employees or their experience at work is shocking in an industry that prides itself on understanding attitudes and behaviour.

In this issue, we’re not looking at diversity by tickbox. We’re looking beyond the labels, the tokenistic inclusion, the quotas, to explore what we can all gain by working in teams with cognitive diversity. Echo chambers are out, harnessing the varied thoughts and experiences of the entire workforce is very much in.

"The boss isn’t really the boss any more," says Upping Your Elvis’ Chris Barez-Brown. His point is that the changing workplace demands a different mindset from leadership, and a culture of experimentation will encourage growth.

For shoe retailer Zappos, the new model is Holacracy. This replaces traditional hierarchical structures, with self-managing circles – but it works only if people want to make a meaningful contribution. According to Zappos’ Matt Burchard, the collision of passion and autonomy results in heightened creativity.

From the boss sacrificing 90% of their pay to ensure fairer salaries, to ditching job titles and promotions, the case studies for new workplace models are many and varied.

No business should let things just potter along as they always have

Speaking to one marketer this month, he explained how strategy meetings had evolved from a quarterly fixture to a monthly meeting, then ramped up to weekly, then daily.

The next stage? No more strategy meetings. Strategy became a constant, organic, evolving process, with everyone empowered to make decisions to keep up momentum and change.

One thing is clear, no business should let things just potter along as they always have.

As Gooding points out, there is an additional prize up for grabs in marketing. "If we achieve an inclusive culture, we will have people working for us who have a more educated and empathetic attitude to each other and can help us get it right for customers. What a brand does is more important than what a brand says."

This new thinking underlines all your roles and brands today. And here I segue, ahem, neatly to say I am delighted to reveal the shortlist for the Marketing New Thinking Awards, with the night of celebration to be held at Somerset House on 12 October. These inaugural awards have been quite the eye-opener, in more ways than one, but we’re immensely proud, both of what we’ve created and the brilliant work we’ve seen.

Evolution of the work structure is central to creating an environment that encourages new thinking and innovation. It would be fascinating to know which of the winning brands, to be announced on the night, have undergone their own workplace shift.