Immediate: equality, diversity and inclusion ‘not just an HR issue’
The biggest misconception about equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is that it is solely an HR issue, leaders at Immediate Media have warned.
To tackle this, Immediate’s head of equality, diversity and inclusion, Ridhi Radia, and its chief people officer, Jo Brandl, explained to The Media Leader that a year-and-a-half ago the company decided to take EDI out of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) and instead made it a strategic business priority rather than just a social responsibility.
Radia commented: “The reality is that EDI is a leadership responsibility, and it’s everyone’s responsibility. It’s not going to work until it comes from top down, and it’s not going to work until everyone has a part to play in it.”
Specifically, Immediate’s overall mission is “to drive a culture where people thrive, and be a beacon for talent”, but it has also incorporated “creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where people can be their best” as a specific pillar of its this business mission and made sure this “cuts across” everything the company does from leadership downwards.
Brandl explained the other four business pillars are ensuring leaders are role models driving business and demonstrating the right leadership behaviours, ongoing learning and growth, diversity and talent internally and externally and fostering a culture of care, support and wellbeing.
Since this refocus on EDI, the company has carried out an audit of its workforce with an external consultant, speaking to non-managers and focus groups to understand how they felt in terms of EDI, and then took six months to examine the qualitative and quantitative data to build a dedicated strategy.
On this, Brandl commented: “Assumption is your biggest enemy, and data is your biggest friend and that will help you determine what strategies are the right strategies for your business that can help help drive you forwards”
As a result of the audit, Immediate’s EDI strategy now has four strands to it: empowering network groups, education and training, editorial & external and recruitment & processes, which means the work on improving equality, diversity and inclusion is as much internal looking at the makeup of the company, to external in how they reach audiences and create content.
From this they built out several initiatives including dedicated focus groups including IM Family, IM Proud, IM Women, IM Mind and Bodies, and Multicultural at Immediate, ongoing leadership behaviour training on empathy, inclusion and psychological safe spaces, a menopause support group and resources, a conversation series around neurodiversity and other topics, and a focus on improving external editorial content’s accessibility for those with ADHD and autism.
One key element is to make sure these initiatives bear in mind visible as well as invisible diversities, as well as intersectionalities that need to be incorporated to “truly have an inclusive culture”, Radia said.
Looking forward, Radia highlighted the importance of producing an ethnicity pay gap report slated to come out in September and investing in “blind CV” software in the recruitment process to help with gender balance and shortlists.
She added that it’s not mandatory at the moment to publish an ethnicity pay gap report but it’s critical to building trust, holding the company accountable and moving towards putting in policies and investment in place to ensure fair pay as the compulsory gender pay gap report has started to for many companies.
Challenges in diverse hiring for senior leadership and hybrid working remain
Brandl admits that they still have not got “the magic secret” when it comes to making sure hybrid and flexible working is truly inclusive and brings together the benefits of remote and office working, like many companies.
However, they are trialling “anchor days” for individual teams rather than company-wide days when employees are expected and encouraged to be in the office.
Alongside this, Brandl and Radia both recognised the problem with diversity in senior leadership in publishing in particular, especially as with so many industries there is a historical problem of nepotism.
Brandl revealed currently Immediate’s leadership teams are running at “mid 40%” around gender diversity, and lower on other diversities and she is currently working with a talent acquisition company to look for “a very senior leadership team member” and is very specific to challenge that search company to present them with diverse candidates.
She added: “We’ve got to start somewhere and it’s not about tokenism. It’s about working harder to find and attract the candidates that can do these jobs and not going back to the same pools that we’ve had through our own networks.”
Radia agreed, saying it’s “a huge step” to proactively work around this, rather than just put it down to “an industry issue”.
Finally, Brandl said the other big challenge is around all leadership and helping managers to not only be empathetic and inclusive leaders but understand what that means.
To this Radia said: “Once we crack that, the future leader is an empathetic leader, I think we’re there”.