How Sony Pictures Networks Drives Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In recent times, mass-scale movements, cultural shifts, and global conversations have moved the needle on accepting the need for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in almost all public spheres.
Researchers from Harvard, in consultation with leading experts on discrimination and bias worldwide, revealed that long-held implicit and explicit attitudes/ beliefs about minority groups – especially basis gender, gender roles, or race/ skin tone – have improved in the past decade, with shifts in as high as 33% of the population. They also suggest that these attitudes are likely to change for the better in the long term. However, we must be conscious to proactively embrace this change across all forms of diverse groups – including those of age and ability.
Over the past year, the new normal has showcased the potential to unlock a larger universe of talent – working parents, second career women, dual-career couples, single parents – thanks to the ease or difficulty alike with which one can now deliver. However, with more pressing business priorities at hand, organization efforts and budgets for DEI may take a backseat, and growth in DEI largely could remain lukewarm. In the quest for solutions, we need to answer a very fundamental question – what works?
At Sony Pictures Networks, inclusion is at the core of what we do. Therefore, it is a critical business need that cannot be solved in silos. I believe that DEI, like any other strategy, is a continuous process where progress can be seen organically. For this, I use my TAG: Track, Awareness, Growth philosophy.
Track – Fine Tuning the Process
As management guru, Peter Drucker said, “what gets measured gets managed”, it is essential to track diversity metrics over time and across different organization levels. An easy way to begin is to identify workforce composition before moving on, tracking movements in hires, promotions, departures, compensation, and even grievance redressal. Temporal analyses of data help in three things:
- It identifies trends and gaps in what we wish to see (Where we are now)
- It helps us set goals, which can then be built into the org DNA through performance metrics, organizational goals, awareness, or other means. Sometimes, apart from closing gaps, we may want to introduce newer workforce groups, which is also possible through this method (Where we want to be). E.g. at SPN, our talent reviews ensure that our top talent and promotions represent a diverse employee profile. This helps retain over 95% of our top talent, with attrition reaching an all-time low of 7% in the last year.
- Evidence-based insights help maintain transparency and keep management accountable, such as CXOs or CDOs (How do we get there). This also helps build inclusion at a systemic level, such as through inclusive HR policies and programs or leadership efforts.
I find that technology and AI are excellent enablers of DEI in workplaces, primarily because they can tune out implicit biases that go into the selection processes. One such example is the several hiring applications out in the market help provide unbiased views of candidate profiles in ways relevant to the recruiter.
Awareness – Moving Beyond the Metrics
DEI is not just a change effort at a central level; it needs to permeate the organization as a prominent facet of workplace culture. For this, the last mile, the immediate contact, the managers and employees need to be involved. Often, minority groups struggle with a lack of role models, being taken as poster employees, or may face hurdles at every stage due to unconscious biases or a gross generalization of their experiences. For this, organizations must:
- Coach managers to understand the how and why of employee experience of underrepresented groups so that we can build personalized experiences for these employees. At SPN, people managers are regularly trained on Unconscious Biases, with real-life theatrical examples of challenges faced by underrepresented groups. These sessions are often an eye-opener for many, and they become mindful of their choice of words and decisions in their daily lives. This needs to reiteration via communication, and our internal campaigns on #byebyebias ensure that we don’t lose sight of this significant mindset shift.
- Act as a change catalyst to actively network underrepresented talent for their development and advancement and create accountability for talent growth among leaders and managers.
- Build awareness among workgroups on the pitfalls of maintaining biases, which can hamper business performance in the long run. E.g., as a content powerhouse, SPN is committed to building progressive and inclusive narratives in its content. To this end, we train our employees to represent marginalized groups in our content accurately and even review past content for course correction. This has helped us maintain a unique standing and raise SPN to become a household name for progressive content which shatters stereotypes.
Growth – Moving Ahead
I believe in the philosophy of small wins. With small wins, growth is incremental and continuous. Not only are we diagnosing problems and designing solutions, but we can fine-tune these based on feedback in real-time and implement these learnings on the next goal. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for DEI- instead, solutions must be localized to the context. At SPN, despite our considerable strides, we like to believe we’re just getting started!
To conclude. DEI has evolved as a compelling business case to adequately represent, provide an opportunity to, and advance societies’ cultural fabric. Not only is it desirable for organizations to have diverse talent, but inclusive executive teams also are 21% more likely to witness above average profitability in business. Creating an effective strategy through incremental efforts, being inclusive about underrepresented narratives and cracking down hard on numbers to achieve goals is a definitive way for systemic inclusion, thereby allowing people from all walks of life to tell stories beyond the ordinary.