By Gloria Lombardi

Lack of diversity is a pervasive problem inside many enterprises. While modern companies recognise that being diverse can only help them to function well, access top talent, drive performance and innovate, still much needs to be done to turn inclusion into a daily reality.

Deloitte UK is committed to challenge the status quo. As part of a wider internal campaign called ‘Respect and Inclusion’, they have created ‘Ask yourself…’ – this short film urges everyone inside the organisation to think about their personal responsibility when it comes to treating all colleagues as equal.

I recently spoke with Internal Communications Managers Matthew Gale and Shaheeda Sabir to explore the impact of the campaign on the perceptions of employees towards diversity as well as the actions that the business is taking to diversify its talent.

Gloria Lombardi: What prompted Deloitte UK to launch the ‘Respect and Inclusion’ initiative?

Matthew Gale: Several reasons. Firstly, Deloitte is a very diverse business – from Audit and Tax to Deloitte Digital we have many different types of people within the organisation. So, we have to create an environment where we can be ourselves and respect everyone for their own strengths so that they can be their best. Additionally, our clients are very diverse too.

Secondly, Deloitte research has shown that a big number of organisations are not investing enough resources in making people feel included. Firms can take many actions to make their organisations more diverse, but they can get the best of their diverse talent if people feel very comfortable for being who they are.

So, Emma Codd, the firm’s Managing Partner for Talent, decided to put together a plan with a lot of different actions to help embed respect and inclusion across the company. Those actions were support by the CEO and the firm’s Executive and involve improving education and training, communication and escalation channels. For example, our 1,000 partners have already attended thought provoking workshops and we are now in the process of doing the same with our directors.

GL: How does ‘Ask yourself…’ fit within the overall initiative?

MG: The film was created to help raise awareness of the actual plan as well as to encourage people to take personal responsibility.

Shaheeda Sabir: ‘Ask yourself…’ is part of a multi-channel campaign which shows what it means to work in a firm where respect and inclusion are considered key parts of the environment. Both from a production point of view and the message itself we wanted to spark wide conversation, interest and self-introspection to make people think about their own behaviour.

GL: How did you create the film? Are the characters actors or real Deloitte employees?

SS: We did consider using our own people but ultimately decided to have actors. It was very important that the film was going to appeal to different people and spark a variety of reactions.

MG: We do have own people in many different internal videos but we felt it was not right for this one. We thought it was too hard for an employee to convey that message and emotion without speaking – one of the requirements of the film was for it to work on our digital signage – and so we opted for actors. However, the casting was very important to us. This is something that we debated a lot internally within the communications team and the talent team that commissioned the film to The Edge Picture Company.

Diversity is a difficult topic to communicate anyway and we were keen that this film was reflective of the whole organisation. We wanted to ensure that anyone could potentially see themselves in one of the characters and that they could relate to that.

SS: We did not want to create a sense of disconnect among our people; we did not want them to watch the film and say ‘This is not us’. It had to be authentic.

GL: How did you launch the film to your employees?

SS: The film was launched on our internal video platform called Dplayer. Engagement was high; over 3,000 people have watched the film through the platform alone, our highest figure since the platform was introduced last year.

GL: What other channels did you use to communicate the existence of ‘Ask yourself…’?

MG: The film was communicated across Yammer – Dplayer integrates with the enterprise social network, the intranet homepage, posters, emails from the Head of each Deloitte service line, as well as during new joiner inductions. It was also shown at events ran with the 30% Club, our LGBT network summer drinks and an event to celebrate Trans inclusion.

Additionally, while we would not necessarily make an internal communication activity available externally, this time we thought that the relevance of the topic would make an appeal to external organisations too. So, we uploaded the film on YouTube and allowed our people to share it on other social media channels such as Twitter.

GL: What types of reactions did you receive?

MG: We have received great feedback both internally and externally. On Yammer as well as on Twitter, our people were saying that they felt inspired by the film and were very proud to be at Deloitte. Other Deloitte organisations from across the world such as Deloitte Australia and Deloitte Canada wanted to use it internally. The same was with Europe and America.

The film on YouTube also went viral with over 12,400 views so far. The beauty was to see our employees genuinely inspired to share the video across their personal social media accounts. Additionally, some big international clients from the UK and the US asked us whether they could use the film with their own staff.

SS: The reactions we saw show that sometimes a video can help to think through things and change the perceptions of people. As part of a wider campaign a film can help convey behavioural shift.

GL: Can you give me an example of your last point Shaheeda?

SS: Last week I was in a meeting talking with a part-time mother. She said, ‘I really love the film. To me it sends the message that just because I am not a full-time employee does not mean that I work less hard than anyone else; it does not make me less valuable.’

GL: Did you receive any controversial reaction to the film?

MG: We did not receive negative feedback. Probably, this is because the film was not made in isolation; it was part of a wider plan, which outlines the specific actions that we are taking to deal with diversity. It has been made very clear that those actions are going to be taken.

SS: While the video wanted to raise awareness about respect and inclusion, we made it clear that we certainly did not want to stop there. The film was actually the starting point.

GL: The most successful business initiatives often rely on the commitment and involvement of the leadership. Is this the case with Respect and Inclusion at Deloitte?

MG: The focus on respect and inclusion is strategic. It is happening with great commitment from the top and it is part of the way of managing talent in Deloitte. Our CEO David Sproul is actively leading the way. For example, he used one of his town halls last year to talk about inclusion, with a focus on women in leadership.

Our Managing Partner for Talent Emma Codd is the person responsible for driving the firm’s talent strategy. It is a big agenda for her. She often speaks publically in press on agile working, gender balance, unconscious bias and inclusion.

Also, the Executive group were the first to attend the workshops we talked about earlier, and felt so strongly about the subject that they agreed that all other partners, without exception must also attend a session.

GL: You talked about taking action. What are you going to do now?

MG: One of the key actions points is to have a number of senior people to act as Respect and Inclusion advisers. Currently, around 20 leaders are having tailored training to be able to support our people and provide confidential advice if and when they come across any instances on disrespectful behaviour. This is a model that we have already applied successfully with mental health.

We have launched big initiatives around women in leadership as well as programs where straight employees are showing support for our LGBT colleagues. In terms of numbers, we have set some public goals such as achieving 25% of female partners by 2020 and 30% by 2030.

SS: With regards to the film itself, we will continue to use it to keep the conversation going. We are very keen on promoting the longevity of the film and its message. As an organisation probably we are not alone here – there are other companies that have the same challenges – and we want people to know that there are actions that can be taken to change. If people see or hear something that is not appropriate, they should know that they could go to someone and talk about it because this is not tolerated. Ultimately, we want people to choose to work for an organisation that is respectful and inclusive.

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate