More diverse teams outperform and out-innovate less diverse teams. Specifically, unconscious bias within the workplace is robbing our industry of talent and energy. Companies are investing heavily in trainings due to this massive unchecked cost. However, growing evidence shows that traditional trainings are often ineffective and can even be counter-productive.
“Groups that typically occupy positions of power may feel alienated and vulnerable when their company claims to value diversity…This may be one explanation for the lackluster success of most diversity management attempts: when people feel threatened, they may resist efforts to make the workplace more inclusive.” (Jan. 2016 Harvard Business Review)
At Publicis.Sapient, we knew there had to be a different way. What if we applied our creative strategy skills inward, treating ourselves like we would our clients? What would it take to start a grassroots cultural overhaul — to move beyond awareness and into action?
Unconscious bias trainings are often facilitated as one-way presentations that may leave people in the in-group feeling attacked or alienated, and people in the out-group feeling hopeless or upset. Our challenge was to create something that wasn’t a training at all. We needed to create an experience that would architect very different emotions — particular empathy. In response, we created Make
Some Room — an experiential workshop that makes the invisible visible by placing employees
in the shoes of their own peers.
Make Some Room is a 3-hour experience that is original, authentic, and thoughtfully executed for real change. An experience that lasts in people’s minds long after the workshop. This was achieved by designing to achieve a very specific emotional journey through Intrigue & Anticipation, Discomfort & Surprise, Empathy and Empowerment.
Due to its early success, Publicis.Sapient is currently rolling the workshop out to all offices in North America, and has also started sharing it with sister agencies within Publicis Groupe. It has also piloted in our London office and will soon be visiting our India offices. Hundreds of pledges are being made, and countless positive actions have already been made as a result.
Our people see this as a very high-value experience. Based on all of the offices visited so far, the average rating for the workshop is 8.8/10.
Although early indicators for the workshop’s impact are promising, we are working to better understand whether or not they are having the intended long-term impact on driving towards a more inclusive workplace. Even heavy hitters in this space, have yet to point to any solid evidence that their significant investments in unconscious bias training are yielding long-term improvements. To better understand the long-term impact of our unconscious bias efforts we are:
• Following up 60 and 180 days after the workshop, to determine whether or not participants are still following up on their personal commitment and asking them to provide examples of how they have changed their mindset and behavior to counteract their biases
• Re-convening prior workshop cohorts for focus group discussions on what long-term impacts they are experiencing/seeing around them