Addressing Unconscious Bias in a Remote Environment at Hasbro
At IBIS, our clients inspire us as they identify new best practices in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), despite being in a pandemic and often in a remote work environment.
Energized by the work of IBIS client Hasbro, we reached out to Bryony Bouyer, Senior Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at the storied toy maker, to ask her to share the best practices emerging from this dynamic company.
Hasbro is a 6,000+-person company headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island that focuses on creating play experiences for children. The consultation with IBIS has included DEI Interactive Theater sessions, Ongoing Consultation, Unconscious Bias Training, and more with the support of IBIS project manager Nicole Chininis.
Bouyer has a key message for all organizations struggling to create culture that engages and supports all employees. “If I could say anything to companies, it would be this: understand the insight your employees can share. Just like you wouldn’t build a product or service for a consumer base without understanding the need, don’t build a DEI program without hearing employee insight.”
Use Remote Work as a Strength: Create New Networks
“Working remotely allows us to break down any geographic walls,” says Bouyer. “In the past, we would have to do DEI training by region. We would put people in Rhode Island with other people in Rhode Island; people in England would train only with other people in England, and so on. But when we started having virtual sessions, we realized that being virtual means that those walls are gone.”
As a result, during the shift to remote work as a result of the pandemic, Hasbro conducted their Unconscious Bias training virtually which allowed them to eliminate geographic walls, and bring employees from all around the world together to discuss their respective experiences. “It made for an interesting exercise,” reflected Bouyer. “It proved to be a great way of building relationships with folks who may never be in the same room together.”
It’s Not Just What You Do…It’s How You Do It
“Most companies have the same DEI pillars – educational platforms like Unconscious Bias training, inclusive talent programs for all employees, diverse interview slates, employee networks, and so on,” explained Bouyer. “But the key to success is figuring out how to operationalize these solutions within your company, and each company is different, so understanding when, where and how to pull these diversity levers are key in achieving success.”
“In general, both the COVID-19 and racial injustice crises accelerated our work,” she continued. “Our diversity efforts were already underway, but they’ve been accelerated based in terms of the level of interest, the numbers of programs and the pace that we are moving towards execution. We also realized that we needed to drive these efforts from multiple parts of the organization so we’ve recently launching regional and business unit D&I councils that work in concert with our corporate programs as well as the tools that we’ve provided managers and employees to ensure that these conversations and behaviors are being practiced up, down and across the org.”
Listen to Your Employees
In June, during the height of the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, Bouyer worked with other senior leaders at Hasbro to facilitate a total of 18 open forums to talk about the reality of racial injustice. “The number 18 only came about because there was such a need,” she explained. “We would do one and employees and key leaders would ask for additional sessions. It was important that employees not only speak to the head of D&I, but they also wanted to hear from other senior managers around the company. Through these forums and a global panel, we were able to engage nearly half the Hasbro population.”
Know the Nuances
As a follow on to the forums, Hasbro launched a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging survey to better understand the nuances of the information that we were receiving. “Surveys are more scientific because you can cut the results by age, race, seniority and other categories – and in every category, there are insights you are gaining from your employees,” she explained. “Different pockets of the organization have different needs. For instance, tenured employees might have a very different perspective than millennials. By carefully listening and responding to employee insights, companies are able to refine their strategies and/or provide additional focus on a particular group of employees. As an example, how you develop and communicate a particular program might be different based on the audience you’re targeting.”
Focus on Fundamentals
“One of the other lessons that both of these crisis teaches us,” continued Bouyer, “is that we need to treat people how they want to be treated and the only way to do that is to carefully listen and empathize with what someone might be going through in their life.” She drew on an inspiring quote to define the power of connection and dialogue in the workplace. “Michelle Obama says, “It’s hard to hate up close.” Once you get to know someone on a fundamental basis, you will start to really see them as human first—and just like you can’t teach a hungry child math, it’s hard to have a difficult business conversation with someone if you don’t have a sense of what is happening in their personal lives.”
Cedar Pruitt is a Senior Consultant at IBIS specializing in leadership and culture that allows everyone to thrive, whether it’s at a competitive university, mid-size financial firm, an innovative start-up, or something completely different.