Use the power of networks to foster inclusivity in the workplace

Helen Matthews, chief people officer, explains how Ogilvy UK is inspiring a culture of inclusion through its networks.

Ogilvy Roots team members on World Afro Day
Ogilvy Roots team members on World Afro Day

Gender inequality. A lack of diversity, both in the workplace as well as in the work produced. An absence of attention paid to diversity of thought. Establishing a balance between family and work. These are all challenges workplaces have faced for many years, and challenges which many workplaces are tackling to create a more inclusive environment for their people.

Networks form the backbone of diversity

More importantly, creating a culture of inclusion – true belonging – starts with actually bringing people together, including them in the conversation in how you inspire change, challenge each other, and take action. That doesn’t come from leadership or a talent team trying to spark change in isolation. It comes from collaboration, a sense of purpose, creating forums for discussion, places where those with similar experiences can come together and feel a sense of unity. That’s why networks are so crucial to change.

At Ogilvy UK, I am so proud to support our networks as they flourish - from raising awareness, to making impactful change in the agency, and to broader society. The networks include Women of Ogilvy, Ogilvy Pride, Ogilvy Roots, Parents & Carers of Ogilvy and our newest – Ogilvy ReWired. It’s incredible to see people from across the business join together to create these groups, working together and helping each other. These five networks form the backbone of our diversity, inclusion and belonging strategy, and each network has an exec sponsor on the leadership team, which I think is vital for success.

Find out about joining Ogilvy

Ogilvy Roots came to life when a group of creatives, account managers, strategists and internal team members wanted a space to talk about diversity in the marketing industry. Fuelled by their passion, Roots has not only grown exponentially, but has created campaigns for the likes of MOBO and World Afro Day, and is now growing to include chapters across the WPP network; they have been integral to championing diversity in advertising, from the way briefs are constructed to how campaigns are casted.

Create policies collaboratively

Our youngest network has been brought to life by one of our youngest founders. She came to Ogilvy as one of our apprentices and saw the potential for a network devoted to neurodivergent minds – a space to raise awareness and to educate, foster understanding, make changes and create a culture where everyone can succeed. In a matter of months, she’s launched an industry-first, and I’m honoured to be watching her grow a passion into a real movement. She has helped us put neurodiversity and diversity of thought firmly on our agenda and has won a lot of hearts and minds as a result. She’s a force to be reckoned with.

Despite the best intentions, succumbing to an echo chamber of the same voices and same perspectives happens all the time. It’s easy for industries across the board to shout about bringing diverse voice into an organisation, but often, this falls short of creating policies collaboratively, including a wider range of points of view.

Bringing all of the networks together within the agency’s first ever Inclusion Board has encouraged more open and honest discussions about which policies within Ogilvy we need to think about, gaps in awareness, and opportunities where we can work together to make tangible change. A reality which would have never been achieved by focusing efforts within a smaller group.

Challenge the status quo

As our networks are brought together to collaborate, new connections are being made and this will help to drive how we bring together talent for every pitch and every client, changing up the tendency towards cookie-cutter teams made up of people with the same backgrounds. This can only be good for our creativity and considered risk-taking, leading to the best possible work.

Beyond the immense value these networks of passionate people bring to the business, it’s truly inspiring to be able to work with all those involved so closely, and to keep challenging ourselves.

That’s the real beauty of internal networks. The whole new realm of possibilities for positive effects on culture, on mindsets, on working together, and ensuring all voices are heard. It allows us to create inclusive people practices through policies, processes and systems. As our networks continue to grow and spread beyond our own walls, I look forward to us continuing to challenge the status quo, continuing to grow, and continuing to learn from one another as we go. As my favourite Einstein quote goes: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results". The collective of our networks will help us avoid falling into that trap.

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