Adland Diversity & Inclusion Index 2021: Wunderman Thompson

Diversity and inclusion is not just about a few stand-out pieces of communication for Wunderman Thompson Singapore. Instead, the agency takes pride in pushing for change, at scale, everywhere and for everything it touches. Its efforts to create “allyship” within the agency impressed the judging panel at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Adland Diversity & Inclusion Index.

The Allyship Initiative which was conceived on International Women’s Day 2020 and inspired by one of its clients, LUX. The focus was to create allies for women when it comes to sexism. According to the agency, women were found globally to be twice as likely to have lost their jobs, and taken on significantly more mental and physical unpaid work than men.

This year, a “10 ways to be an ally” initiative that rolled out across all of Asia Pacific in conjunction with International Women’s Day. When the pandemic hit, it became clear to Wunderman Thompson that everyone needs an all”, as everyone is fighting battles that are family related, or related to loneliness, work stress or anxiety. As an agency, Wunderman Thompson wanted to inculcate a greater sense of empathy and sensitivity in the way the employees interacted with one another.

To focus on how to better create allies, the company decided to zoom in and understand what people needed from allies, and where they felt like they were currently lacking one. This was done though crowdsourcing from every office with APAC individuals, with three questions:

  1. Specific examples where they felt like they lacked an ally?
  2. Specific examples where they HAD an ally and what that person did?
  3. What do they wish they had an ally for?

From there, there were a total of 33 individual responses from women. The responses were then consolidated into three key findings. Wunderman Thompson found that not everyone was thriving with the work from home practices and some also struggled with work-life balance as work encroaches on personal time. Meanwhile, loneliness and isolation were also evident among employees.

The junior staff, for example, felt that an ally was needed, as some of them were troubled with their ability and confidence to speak up in zoom or facetime meetings. Meanwhile, mothers and working parents, in particular, struggled with work-life balance. Wunderman Thompson realised they required allies to avoid the dinner rush as well as schedule meeting times that are only beneficial to them. With the help of an ally, these individuals are able to be at ease when spending time with loved ones after work hours.

Meanwhile, employees also wanted a safe space to talk about underlying issues or someone to reach out for a genuine conversation without having an agenda. Following the launch of its “10 Ways to Be An Ally” programme, Wunderman Thompson noticed that employees were interested to know and do more, but felt unequipped and still felt they weren’t senior enough to be an ally. This, according to Wunderman Thompson, was a misconception. The agency does not believe that an employee needs to be senior or powerful enough to make a difference.

Hence, it turned its “10 ways to be an Ally” programme into a “Train the trainer” programme for two representatives in each office who would then be responsible for driving it forward and training more people. Through an interactive and inclusive 120-minute session, the representatives are empowered with tools, resources and knowledge to conduct the same training for people in their own offices.

A firm believer that good leadership has to start from the top, APAC CEO Annette Male spearheaded the APAC leadership team into joining the training first, in which they provided their own stories and feedback for improvement.

The company then realised one of the struggles that an employee could face, would be the perception that being an ally was reserved for senior talent. Either that or that one couldn’t make a difference to someone if they were junior. This was further reiterated during one of the interactive sessions where people were asked what would stop them from showing allyship behaviour. It was a good indication to the trainers that Wunderman Thompson needed to tailor and customise the programme. Therefore, the agency created versions for middle managers and junior staff as well as working parents.

These programmes saw its merit when the agency witnessed a positive impact after conducting short interviews and requesting for qualitative feedback. The programme also managed to reach employees across 20 markets. From there, three additional “Train the Trainer” sessions have been conducted and run from the core team, which resulted in 45 people across APAC.

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