In June 2020, BVA found our agency in the face of an opportunity as we collectively discussed the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

These were issues that warranted open, honest discussions for our whole team. We decided that we could not be passive bystanders, but rather needed to become active participants in solving a systemic problem. Since then we have been hosting ongoing discussions and creating a plan around our diversity and inclusion efforts.

We’re sharing our process and our plan as a first step. We expect to find success in some areas and stumble in others, but that’s okay, because we’re recognizing that every step taken in the right direction is important.

With the desire to make change, we also recognize that the issues around diversity are extremely complex and without one easy solution. We found wisdom in the words of Aubrey Blanch, Global Head of Diversity & Belonging at Atlassian, during a podcast episode for First Round Review:

“There’s not one training or a single program — there’s no silver bullet. This is a 10- to 20-year problem, you can’t solve structural racism by throwing together a year-long program with a few targets.”

Heading into our own Diversity & Inclusion plan with the expectation that these changes are a marathon, not a race - we’re in it for the long haul.

Why We’re Doing This

The simple answer is: Because it matters; to our people and our clients.

OUR PEOPLE

We’re doing this first and foremost for our team members. When we started hosting company-wide discussions around BLM, our team came to the table ready to do more. Our employees expressed their desire to become involved in making the world a better place, and as we’ve started to expand our organization we find that it’s also a very common topic that comes up during the recruiting process. People deserve to work in an environment where they feel they belong, and they also want to work for a company that cares about these issues.

OUR CLIENTS

Not only does our own agency care about this, but so do our clients . BVA’s customers have started to ask us how they can ensure their brands are inclusive to wider audiences, and it is because of this that we know our work can have a big impact. One inspiring resource we found on this topic was the address of BVA client, Nobull’s CEO Marcus Wilson, in June when he spoke to his team about George Floyd and racism issues in commerce.Everything from the appearance of a brand’s fashion models, to digital marketing messaging, to a website’s ADA compliance, can all contribute to a brand’s level of inclusivity and which diverse audiences they touch.

How We Did This

We knew we had to start with a plan. After recently hearing global consulting firm, McKinsey & Co, give their perspective on diversity in business during our Virtual Commerce 3.0 event, we were inspired to take their recommended actions. We used their strategic placemat template as a starting point for creating our own Diversity & Inclusion plan. We researched, listened to webinars, talked with experts and our own employees, and had countless brainstorming sessions.

Leading the charge in these plans is Hilary Callaway, previously BVA’s VP of People, now taking on the role of Chief People and Inclusion Officer. Hilary brings to the table 10+ years of experience in the human resources field, three of those being with BVA. Her personal passion for diversity issues and our agency is driving much of the strategy and investment behind these initiatives.

After months of research and in-depth discussions, here’s a look into how BVA intends to not only change our own agency for the better, but also make a positive impact on diversity in commerce.

BVA’s Vision

When brainstorming around our overall vision for the BVA Diversity & Inclusion plan, our team went through a lot of drafts. These initial vision statements were helpful, but ultimately too detailed and lengthy to be impactful. We wanted a vision statement that not only aligned with our mission, but cut right to the core of what we want to stand for. This is what we came up with:

At BVA, you belong.

BVA wants to judge our employees by their performance, and nothing else. Our team is valued for their unique perspectives, no matter what background they have. A few of our team members have expressed a profound sense of being able to be themselves in our agency, along with feeling like BVA is a safe space to discuss important topics-- regardless of factors like their sexuality, identity, or background. We already have many amazing people who are welcoming and inclusive, and we want to continue to encourage and develop this sense of belonging among our peers and with our clients.

Our Three Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Objectives

These three objectives are the core pillars of our overall Diversity & Inclusion strategy. We created this by identifying which actions would be the most impactful towards becoming a more diverse agency ourselves, and also towards fostering inclusion in our industry.

  • Awareness: Foster a culture of sharing and education.
  • Recruitment: Actively seek out diverse talent.
  • Action: Create programs and benefits that support and promote inclusion.

Each of these objectives aligns with five key initiatives that we have been starting in Q4 2020. These initiatives are geared at what is realistic with our current resources and what is most important to our team.

Awareness Initiatives

  • Learn who we are through an employee census

    BVA has recently launched an employee demographics survey in order to obtain a baseline of what groups make up BVA. This type of information will allow us to evaluate and tailor our benefits and programs to better support all of our teammates, in addition to letting us monitor our progress towards our diversity goals.

  • Make this a part of the monthly Operational Review

    BVA’s Executive Leadership Team hosts a monthly reporting session to assess all business operations. This group will now start incorporating our diversity goals into these check-ins.

  • Discuss these topics on a recurring basis in All-hands and team meetings

    BVA hosts a weekly all-company (virtual) meeting and uses this time for important discussions. Moving forward, we will incorporate Diversity & Inclusion progress, relevant topics, and guest speakers around these issues as a way to continuously educate ourselves.

  • Strengthen our internal feedback channel

    BVA is launching a new internal anonymous feedback tool for our employees. We want to hear all voices and encourage discourse around these issues.

  • Share our commitment externally

    By sharing our commitment to this plan externally, we hope to inspire others, hold ourselves accountable, and reiterate our agency’s position to the world.

Recruitment Initiatives

  • Continue hiring from different geographic regions

    BVA’s team members have the option to be fully remote, which means we currently have employees across 17 states and two countries. We will continue with this policy, in addition to targeting our open position ads towards diverse cities and regions in order to make them more accessible to diverse talent pools.

  • Crystalize our recruiting messaging

    BVA wants to ensure our recruiting posts align with our diversity and inclusion values. Instead of using the standard Equal Opportunity Act language as a simple footnote on our job boards, we want our diversity and inclusion values to stand front and center on each position listing.

  • Review hiring materials and interview training to limit subjectivity

    BVA’s talent acquisition team will be reviewing the way we assess candidates to further limit subjectivity during the recruitment process, choosing and implementing a bias training for anyone who is a part of interviews. We'll continue to review interview notes to spot for retraining opportunities and, if needed, remove individuals from our hiring teams.

  • Identify new recruitment channels

    BVA can only be as diverse as the talent groups we’re reaching, and historically these posts are not visible to very diverse groups of people. We will be evaluating, joining, and promoting BVA and our jobs specifically in some of these groups. We are also in the process of reviewing and choosing a few diversity hiring boards to start actively posting our open roles.

  • Develop meaningful partnerships with minority networking groups

    BVA can’t do all of this alone. There are already some amazing diversity-focused organizations in existence that have created easy ways for agencies to tap into their networks. Our team has been actively chatting with groups to partner with and leverage in expanding our agency’s visibility.

Action Initiatives

  • Continue supporting work flexibility for those who need it

    BVA has always supported schedules that don’t match a traditional 8-5 job, and going forward we will continue to work with and support our team members in balancing their work and life obligations so they don’t have to sacrifice one over the other.

  • Offer PTO for the holidays that matter most to our employees

    We are a client service business, which means our holiday schedule is set up to mimic the standard U.S. holidays taken off by a majority of our clients. However, we know our team members celebrate holidays outside of this subset. We encourage our employees to take time off for the holidays that are important to them.

  • Implement semi-annual bias training pre-review cycle

    We will be reviewing all of our bi-annual performance review scorecards to eliminate as much subjectivity as possible. Starting in next year’s process, we will be requiring our managers to go through bias training prior to completing employee reviews.

  • Appropriately support our clients’ diverse needs and create social impact through our work

    When we’re doing client work we need to step back and think about who the client is, who their customers are, and recognize that their demographic may not be anything like the team working on the project. BVA will be conscious when this occurs, and identify ways to still support our clients and their customers appropriately.

  • Share our expertise by helping those who need it most

    One of the BVA team’s biggest desires for our leadership team was the ability to do Pro Bono work for businesses in need. We are in discussions with an organization that connects individuals and companies to small, minority owned businesses who need help with services ranging from eCommerce strategy, website development, UX design, and more. Stay tuned for updates about our partnerships in the near future!

Concluding Thoughts

BVA is eager to continue this journey and to share it with others. If you have any questions about our plan, our process in creating it, or how your brand may work to become more inclusive, please feel free to reach out to us.

We’re excited to continue to share as we work through our diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Megan Holett Megan Holett is the Sales and Marketing Coordinator at BVA. Her role involves bridging the gap between sales processes and agency marketing through content creation and other initiatives.