This summer, IPG released its 2019 EEOC data in response to industry demand for transparency into agencies’ demographic makeup. And like most holding companies, the numbers showed that a gap remains between advertising staffing and what society looks like.
IPG has long been one of the most vocal holding companies about its desire to create industry change. Outgoing CEO Michael Roth had talked about how executive compensation is tied to hitting specific diversity metrics. In a memo to staffers in June, he said that the current state of affairs is a “tipping point, when meaningful change and progress are being demanded to address a situation centuries in the making.”
For its part, IPG-owned agency FCB has often followed Roth’s lead in discussing the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. What makes the agency perhaps different than others is that, for around a decade, it has prioritized behavioral inclusion, which refers to action that intends to include others.
FCB claimed it was one of the first creative networks to make unconscious bias training mandatory and one of the first to create inclusion councils in each of its offices beginning five years ago. However, with a more intense focus on the industry’s shortcomings related to race, FCB aims to create what it calls “universal cultural competence.”
“After the [death of] George Floyd, we needed to look at systemic racism and see what sort of structural racism might be going on within our company,” Cindy Augustine, FCB’s global chief talent officer, said, noting that she worked closely with FCB global chief strategy officer Vita Harris and svp of global talent and organizational development Holly Brittingham.
The goal is to focus on goals in three core areas: workforce, workplace and the work. Workforce refers to building a team that mirrors the full diversity of the general population. Workplace is about an inclusive, engaged and dynamic work environment. And the work hones in on high-quality and culturally competent creative that supports diversity, equity and inclusion.
While building a pipeline of diverse talent is an important first step, it’s their development that can sometimes fall short. Internally, according to Augustine, it’s called “developmental abandonment,” and at its core, reflects a lack of common developmental opportunities like mentorships. But one issue stands out, she noted: feedback.
“There are studies [about] how these kinds of opportunities are not provided to people of color,” said Augustine. “They’re not given feedback that helps them grow in their careers. So it’s not clear what steps are needed to get the next assignment, promotion or account to work on.”
According to Brittingham, constant interrogation of hiring and retention processes helps disrupt old ways of thinking. From there, she said, it is crucial to have “supporting mechanisms of communication to make it align and have people understand, and then to have good measurements and accountability.”
One employee’s experience at FCB
Greg Hines, a senior social media strategist at FCB New York, was initially drawn to the agency after speaking to Harris and associate director of global diversity, equity and inclusion Taylor Yarbrough.
“The biggest thing that I knew coming in was that there were people of color in the executive leadership teams,” he said, noting that Harris, Augustine and Yarbrough are Black. “My perception of FCB was that they were doing something right. I had a gut feeling that this would be a good fit.”
At one point in his two-year tenure, Hines experienced bias on one of his teams and was considering leaving the agency, an oft-heard refrain from talent of color. Instead of telling him to power through, FCB’s leadership immediately worked to get to the root of the issue, customizing a program that moved Hines to a new team while providing support in the transition.