Nielsen: Building a Diverse and Inclusive Business

"For us, one of the most effective ways of developing an inclusive culture is through our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)," writes Nielsen's Cathy Earle.

(Nielsen is No. 32 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list)

(Originally published on Nielsen.com)

I was delighted to be invited to speak at a launch event for the Inclusive Top 50 UK Employers, a list focusing on increasing representation at all business levels and building inclusive cultures at work and within communities, in London recently.

It’s the first year we’ve been involved in the Excellence in Diversity Awards, and I was proud to be among such a wonderful group of businessmen and women who are taking incredible strides to make their own workplaces more inclusive.

I was particularly proud to share our story with the audience today. As a business, we are committed to diversity and inclusion. It’s a belief that’s part of our DNA. Having associates with a variety of abilities, skills, experiences and cultural backgrounds, and then leveraging these differences to achieve superior results is an integral part of our talent strategy, and we believe it is crucial to our growth.

For us, one of the most effective ways of developing an inclusive culture is through our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). These are employee-driven groups established to strengthen the link between diverse communities and our business. Globally, we have nine ERGs with over 8,000 members, and each group focuses on the core areas of recruitment, professional development, community outreach and engagement.

And while diversity and inclusion is part of our business DNA, there are two events that happened last year that set me off on a personal journey that cemented my resolve to truly embrace and harness our diversity and inclusion.

The first happened the morning after the BREXIT vote when a member of staff came to see me to say that after working in the U.K. for four years, having settled their family into the community and established roots here, they now needed to consider returning to their home country. Their reasoning had nothing to do with a right to remain, it was an emotional one. They felt upset and disillusioned that the U.K. didn’t want them here anymore. A feeling, she said, that was shared by many.

In the U.K., a quarter of our employee base are non-U.K. nationals. If everyone of them had similar thoughts, that meant that the morale in our U.K. business had just been dealt a serious blow. How were we to support this critical population over the coming months, and even years?

Around the same time, a second event occurred during a standard induction day session for new hires. As part of the ice-breaking session, members of the group told us why they decided to join Nielsen. One story in particular stood out to me as it challenged our perception of diversity and inclusion within businesses, within our communities, and within the U.K. today, and it left me cold.

Petra Tileschova, a highly educated woman with a strong employment record, was originally from Slovakia, and had been living in the U.K. for 10 years. She told us how she had applied to over 1000 vacancies over the course of a year and had received just six responses.

Petra decided to change her CV, she played down her wealth of experience and she changed the name on her CV to Victoria Smith. From a further 36 applications, Victoria received 22 requests for interview, while the CV from Petra Tileschova received just one, and that was from Nielsen.

I am proud that Nielsen interviewed and hired Petra Tileschova and demonstrated that it sees diversity as a rich resource, not a boundary. But I was shocked and saddened at the level of bias that still exists.

I asked Petra if she would be interested in developing an ERG to promote and celebrate diversity across ethnicity and nationality. From this, MOSAIC was born—Nielsen’s ninth ERG,our third ERG in the U.K. alongside PRIDE and WIN (Women in Nielsen).

Launched globally in April, MOSAIC stands for Multinational Organisation Supporting An Inclusive Culture and now has the highest membership in the U.K. of all our ERGs. It has truly struck a chord with our employees.

There is an irony that we live in a world that is more connected and more accessible than ever before; a world where our understanding of one another, of cultural differences, is greater than ever before; and a world with less boundaries than ever before. Yet lack of understanding and unconscious bias, stand in the way of a truly inclusive culture.

The creation of MOSAIC is a step toward changing this. It’s an opportunity to work with the business and alongside the community to educate and raise awareness.

It’s also an opportunity to provide support for our associates as the U.K. journeys forward with its exit from the EU. While we can continue to reinforce that a diverse workforce is an integral part of our talent strategy, the future for many people remains uncertain, and they want practical, emotional support from people who understand how they feel. MOSAIC will play a part in this too.

Being a truly inclusive company widens your network, opens doors to people, to organisations and to the the wider community, but there is still work needed to nurture a better understanding of diversity, to recognize and realize the opportunities that an inclusive culture provides.

We have a global objective that we want people to think about diversity and inclusion in everything that they do, but I wonder if the true mark of success will be when they don’t.

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