During a recent college recruiting trip, I asked a group of students to stand up if they were carrying their resumes with them. About a third of the audience did so. I then asked the rest of the students to join them. They looked a little bewildered. “You are all carrying your resume with you,” I explained. “Your real resume is your values and how you carry yourself. Your real resume is how you show up in life every day. You are your resume.”
You might not think this has a lot to do with diversity, but at Wunderman, we believe it’s critical. We know that businesses have tried (with varying degrees of success) to foster diversity through hiring. But the chief challenge around diversity is not one of recruitment, but of inclusion: creating a place where people of all kinds can thrive.
Inclusion requires a commitment to embracing every employee’s true self in all of its uniqueness. A true self is a lot more than a resume. It’s a person’s identity, hopes, dreams, interests and so on. And to build a diverse and successful business today, we believe you have to support all of that—not just the part of a person that earns a paycheck.
Over the last year at Wunderman, we’ve focused our company around this concept. We want to make our business a place where people are comfortable being themselves, no matter who they happen to be. We don’t want people to simply fit into our culture; we want their unique attributes to add to it.
The most obvious change we’ve made (and one that caused a few heads to turn in the industry) is that we eliminated performance reviews. No one likes them, and they don’t seem to help with performance. So good riddance. Instead, we instituted a practice called YOU Time. This is a one-on-one offsite meeting in a casual setting between an employee and a manager. The goal of this exercise is for managers to get to know their employees as people. What are their employees’ life objectives and passions, both at work and beyond? Who are they as people? What interests do they have? And how can we help them achieve all of their goals, not merely the ones they have at work?
For example, I have an employee who has a cause that is near and dear to his heart. While success at work is also important to him, as with most people, it’s not the only thing in his life. When I learned about this, we worked out a plan where, no matter what fires we have to put out, he can always leave on time on Mondays to go volunteer for his cause. As a result, he doesn’t feel like he’s making compromises between work and life. And we get a more engaged employee who feels connected and included in his own unique way.
We also have a new approach for how we work across our global network. We call it Collision. It is a conscious attempt to bring together diverse viewpoints to solve problems. Today, our projects are staffed and addressed by people from all of our three major disciplines: creative, data and technology. The idea is not merely to do better work, but to have an organized way to include different viewpoints and enrich our collective understanding of the world.
This may not sound like a traditional diversity program (we obviously place a high priority on recruiting as well) but it’s necessary if you want to produce an environment where all types of people can grow and thrive. As I told the students that day, people are much more than what they can put on a piece of paper. At Wunderman we believe that to build a durable and diverse team, we must embrace not just our employees’ professional selves, but everything they are and can become. That hopefully makes our company a special place to work and one that people enjoy coming to every day.
Judy rejoined Wunderman in December 2015 after 15 years. She previously held talent leadership roles at IPG Mediabrands, Digitas, BBDO, Planned Parenthood, ABC television and Essence Magazine.