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Adland Diversity & Inclusion Index 2021: TSLA

Adland Diversity & Inclusion Index 2021: TSLA

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Diversity and inclusion is more than just an internal policy but also translates into an agency’s work. This was one of the beliefs that got The Secret Little Agency (TSLA) to ensure its diversity initiatives were all-encompassing and extended beyond its agency. Its five-pronged approach, which included creating a cultural research desk to address misrepresentation of the Asian community, impressed the judging panel at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Adland Diversity & Inclusion Index.

A creative company, TSLA’s ambition is to be home for the world’s most creative minds, where the company can be home to an equally diverse and culturally rich workforce. Globally, it is part of creative network Mother.

For the agency, diversity is an intentional practice of appreciating difference. Together with the Mother family, TSLA launched its "Five everyday commitments to diversity" in 2019. It also shifted its internal focus from "Making our mothers proud" to "Making our children proud". The team wanted to ensure that its employees are making everyday decisions that that it can ultimately "make our children proud".

TSLA understood that its commitment to "Make our children proud" had to start from within. The agency knew it needed a framework that helped it set out shared values, beliefs and goals around DE&I with its clients, to allow the agency to choose clients and work that reflects its values and intention towards its commitment to diversity.

To address the misrepresentation of the Asia community, the company launched JUNK Asia, a cultural research desk focused on helping thinkers, creators, and brands have a deeper understanding of Asia, for more progressive, human representations of culture across Asia. By working with collaborators across 20 Asian cities, TSLA was able to get closer to fringe cultures and emergent behaviours, unearthing answers to client questions as creative fuel for its work whilst maintaining an independent editorial collective with its own explorative agenda.

Increasing representation and educating employees on bias, inclusion and diversity were also at the top of TSLA’s D&I agenda.

The agency first evaluated the percentage for each race within its workforce. By being actively aware of where TSLA stood in terms of recruitment diversity, related training was conducted. For example, recruitment teams and hiring managers had to source candidates from overlooked groups as well as working with external recruiters to tap into neglected pools of talent. This included looking for talents in non-conventional places, hiring outside of advertising and marketing, prompting internal referrals, to go beyond relying on inbound applicants.

To ensure that there was a clear stand of diversity and representation in every aspect of the business, employees from leadership roles had to be carefully selected to reflect this commitment.

Through this initiative, the company saw improved levels in representation. As of January 2021, 70% of the talent pool, 90% of the leadership team, and 64% of director roles were made up of women. There was also an overall increase in the racial diversity of the director teams, where it now consists of Singaporeans, Malaysians, Koreans, Indians, Filipinos, British and French citizens.

Client partnerships have also shown significant upgrades, where the company was able to work with National Heritage Board, National Youth Council and AWARE Singapore. All of which were clients that had positive impacts socially and culturally.

While the agency has always kept its doors open to talent from all around the world, it recognised the need to be specific and intentional about representation and DE&I. It saw that its people wanted to be more inclusive but may not know how or are unaware of the unconscious bias they have and the steps they needed to take. Hence, it recognised that education and training were key to overcoming this hurdle.

Last year, TSLA had quarterly training sessions organisation-wide to address DE&I issues such as unconscious bias, micro-aggressions at the workplace and more, across all levels. It engaged external trainers to equip the team with the tools to build a better, more inclusive workplace. According to TSLA, these were well-received by employees, who participated actively in the different workshops and shared their feedback.

Aside from fostering a more inclusive and diverse workforce, TSLA also saw the need to create a safe space to promote and amplify voices. The agency recognised the importance of psychological safety in the workplace as it would allow the creation of divergent voices, less groupthink, and birth more representative, unique and creative ideas. To do so, it invested in Culture AMP in 2020 which gave employees a safe space to share anonymous feedback with colleagues, encouraging teams to speak up.

This also led to check-ins where necessary to address negative feedback given to employees, accompanied with a discussion and plan on how to move forward. To curb the mental challenges from the pandemic, the company has organised workshops with external mental health professionals and invested in Intellect, mental health care app. TSLA remains committed to its journey to make not only mother’s proud, but children of the future as well.

To read the rest of the agency initiatives in the Adland Diversity & Inclusion Index 2021, click here.

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