'True inclusivity isn't an appendage'

IPG Mediabrands chief people officer on the power of innovation in DEI

'True inclusivity isn't an appendage'

In the fast-paced world of media, growth and adaptability are paramount. Someone who understands this well is Leith Mellors, Chief People Officer at IPG Mediabrands.

Speaking to HRD, Mellors says that during her time at IPG, the media giant has grown from around 300 people to 900 in Canada – a growth that wasn’t just about the number but also strategic prioritization.

"It's about identifying and focusing on what really propels our business forward, while keenly listening to what our employees and leaders need," she says. “In an industry as dynamic as ours, staying on your toes, being flexible and agile is crucial. We constantly iterate, which is critical for growth and performance."

What is true inclusivity?

Innovation in talent management, especially integrating inclusivity, is a key focus for Mellors. She believes in a holistic approach to inclusion, integrating it seamlessly into the company's fabric.

"True inclusivity isn't an appendage; it's a core part of our talent management practices," Mellors asserts. She describes their approach as a two-tiered system - 'big I and little i' - encompassing structured programs and everyday interactions that foster a culture of inclusion.

"We ask about people's experiences of inclusion twice a year, ensuring we have a comprehensive understanding of our workplace culture," she tells HRD. This focus on inclusion has yielded impressive results, with their Inclusion Index consistently scoring in the high 80s.

“I think we're top two or three in the world for IPG Mediabrands in terms of our inclusivity measures. And that just tells me we’re on the right path. Keep doing what we're doing, and it's always that test and learn and iteration.”

And Mellors isn’t alone in understanding the importance of inclusivity – especially going into 2024. According to research from LinkedIn, more inclusive companies earn 2.5 times more ‘cash flow’ per employees – with diverse teams making ‘better business decisions’ 87% of the time. And not only are more inclusive companies in a better position to thrive in the uncertain economic climate of 2024 – they’re also a big attraction factor for fresh, young talent.

DEI as a talent attractor

Further research from LinkedIn found that 80% of people would prefer to work for a company with strong DEI values, while 76% of candidates add that a diverse workforce was an important factor for them in deciding whether or not to take a new job.

For Mellors, inclusivity is intrinsically linked to driving high performance within the team – something she both inspires and measures with clear goal setting and key performance indicators (KPIs).

"In a high-growth, agile environment, understanding the end goal and how it breaks down into tangible milestones is vital," she explains. This process is supported by a robust feedback culture, where inclusive feedback and performance conversations are integral.

“We’re building a culture where feedback is not just given but is part of our daily interactions,” Mellors adds.

And these innovative HR strategies at IPG have garnered external recognition, including an award for the Most Innovative HR Team. Mellors takes pride in their unique Employee Resource Group (ERG) platform, built innovatively using Microsoft Teams.

"Innovation doesn't always mean new; it often lies in creatively adapting existing ideas to fit our strategic needs," Mellors notes. This platform, which started from four groups and has expanded to 29, is a testament to their adaptive problem-solving approach.

Beyond business metrics, Mellors values recognition as a source of motivation and inspiration. While she is primarily driven by the satisfaction of internal stakeholders, she acknowledges the importance of external accolades in highlighting the team's work and inspiring others.

“It's not just about the recognition, but about shining a light on our team's efforts and inspiring others in our industry," Mellors reflects.

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