This year, HRW had the privilege of being invited to speak on a panel at the BHBIA Spring Event: Building a Strong DE&I Culture, which focused on the challenge of placing a stronger focus on DEI both within companies and across our research practices. The event brought people together from across the industry, and the panel even included representation from outside of our industry to provide a more diverse viewpoint.

We were excited to see such a large group of engaged attendees and to hear about the most recent BHBIA commitments and initiatives, including the guidelines that have been developed for inclusive recruitment for market research studies. These guidelines not only provide best practices for recruiting consumers, but also for ensuring that respondents of all backgrounds feel comfortable and respected when participating in market research. Additionally, while reaching a target that is truly representative of a market is an important piece of the puzzle, it is also important to understand how differences among a sample can be accounted for in the analysis process. The BHBIA committee shared that they are currently developing guidelines for ensuring that the analysis process is inclusive and that provide recommendations for looking at DEI features when analysing results.

Beyond these exciting initiatives from the BHBIA committee, there has also been an incredibly positive shift in recent years across the industry as a whole towards placing an emphasis on DEI when conducting market research. A key focus of the panel discussion brought attention to the importance and challenge of creating a work culture where people feel comfortable bringing their full self to work.

While re-thinking how to make our market research practices more inclusive is essential, creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace provides a firm foundation for ensuring that your market research practices are truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We were excited to have the opportunity to share some of the ways that we at HRW have worked to build this foundation. Over the past few years, we have re-examined our culture as a company and implemented key initiatives to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace:

Awareness and appreciation
We started small – raising internal awareness about observed holidays (ex., Rosh Hashanah, Lunar New Year, Diwali, Eid) by circulating regular newsletters. Beyond just explaining what the holiday is, these newsletters highlight employees’ firsthand experiences of celebrating or observing the occasion and the importance of the holiday to them. Additionally, we have taken steps to ensure flexibility to accommodate employees who may be observing certain occasions. For example, each year we provide guidance to managers to support their employees who may need working accommodations for Ramadan. We also developed an internal unconscious bias training and beyond, in which we ensured that the training encouraged reflection and discussion by including exercises to reflect on our work culture, our individual experiences, and why DEI is important.

Focus on language
We also placed additional focus on the language that we use as a company. Around the holiday season, we circulate guidance for inclusive language around the holiday period (i.e. encouraging the use of ‘happy holidays’ or ‘seasons greetings’ rather than ‘merry Christmas’). We have also provided the option to include guidance on name pronunciation on our internal staff database, as pronouncing someone’s name correctly demonstrates respect for their identity and background, and helps people feel valued and recognized in the workplace.

Voices across the organisation
A crucial component of DEI initiatives is that they engage the entire organization in discussions related to DEI, as this creates a stronger sense of ownership and commitment among employees. Beyond our yearly Employee Engagement Survey, which we use to understand perspectives across the organization and track our progress, we have an internal DEI team that includes representation from both junior and senior employees. Representation from across the organization is essential, as it builds trust within the organization and helps everyone feel included in the efforts to promote a diverse and equitable organization.

Flexible working accommodations
A key focus of our discussion was also the challenge of ensuring that our workplaces are accessible to all. The shift towards remote work since the COVID-19 has gone a long way in demonstrating the feasibility and benefits of more flexible working arrangements. Based on company-wide discussions, we have shifted towards a hybrid style, taking into account requests for flexible arrangements to minimize barriers related to accessibility and creating customized work environments that accommodate individual needs.

A key challenge that came up throughout the event is the difficulty of ‘getting it right.’ However, we believe that ‘getting it right’ the first time is not essential, as long as there is an awareness and understanding that it is a fluid process and something that can be adapted over time. The key thing is to commit to growing your knowledge of DEI and what it means for your business – implementation follows with a more collaborative workforce, supported by people sharing their experiences and helping us define what DEI means to us.

By Asha Varma and Jeanette Kaye


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