15 June 2022

At YIN United, they call Serviceplan one of the mostdiverse agencies in the industry. To fully embed diversity and inclusion intothe Serviceplan DNA and translate the diversity that exists into inclusiveness,the two are working intensively together on a D&I canvas. So that thisknowledge is not lost on future generations too. Serviceplan's beautiful office in Woluwe oozesatmosphere, if possible, even more so on the day of appointment. That's whenall Serviceplan employees came together to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Therewas cooking, tea and laughter, but also open discussion about the customs andmeaning behind the Eid al-Fitr celebration. It is a great example of theD&I moments the agency regularly celebrates together. With these moments,the agency wants to pay attention to the diversity in their team - with 14mother tongues they are! - and thus encourage mutual dialogue andunderstanding.  To turn that diversity into inclusiveness and equity(more on this later), Serviceplan partnered with YIN United. This initiativewas founded two years ago by Emily Rammant and Liesbeth Dillen with the missionto nurture inclusion and innovation in the creative sector, and meanwhile alsoin many other sectors. "From diversity to inclusiveness and equity: that'sa journey we take sa- men with our team members. Because we love being togetherand celebrating, we chose to use 'celebration' as a starting point, hence ourcelebratediversity.be project. Without being blind to the complexities andchallenges that are part of the evolution towards inclusiveness," says AnRietjens. She started as creative leader at Serviceplan Belgium in September2021. "Creativity and communication fascinate me, but representation wasalso part of the consideration. There are relatively few women in leadingcreative positions in our sector, let alone women of colour. At Serviceplan,diversity had already grown organically. A more formal D&I track tomaintain and further develop that is a logical next step." 

Dialogue 

YIN United works with a three-step plan: discover,design & do. "In the discovery phase, we look at what is really goingon in the company. We do this using an anonymous tool where we havedigital conversations with employees. This is important because inclusivenessis not a monologue but a dialogue. In the second phase, the design phase, welook at strategy and sit with the co-workers in weekly jam sessions, looking ata whole range of issues: How are meetings organised? How are decisions made?What are the norms, values and rules here? What does the employee &customer journey look like?" In the final phase, we finally look at how totranslate those insights into a solid policy and, also importantly, how tocommunicate that to the outside world: partners, customers, the industry. What came out of that for this agency? "That itis a forerunner compared to other agencies. What struck us is thatServiceplan's management really encourages this. They give employees a chanceto talk openly by not being too present at the sessions themselves and managetheir teams correctly. They really want to get this right. What did emerge isthat there is still work to be done in terms of inclusion," Rammant andDillen echo. That it will be necessary proves the agency's hefty growth:"Serviceplan has doubled in terms of staff numbers in one year," saysRietjens. "That ensures that sooner or later you need to reflect. We thinkdiversity on the shop floor is very important and believe that creativity andinnovation require different points of view, but the question now will mainlybe how we can work together even more inclusively. That is why we think it isimportant to set our canvas together with experts and our employees." 

Here to change 

Just to clarify; diversity and inclusiveness are twodifferent concepts. As Emily Rammant and Liesbeth Dillen put it:"Diversity is counting people, inclusion is making sure they count.Inclusion contributes 42% to innovative behaviour among employees, so thatmakes it a very decisive factor. Young people enforce that societal shift: theywant not just nice words but also nice deeds." When we talk aboutdiversity, we quickly think of ethnic diversity. Yet it is about more thanthat. There is also diversity in terms of culture, orientation,gender, age, neurodiversity, etc. "'Ageism' (45+ =released), for example, isone of the most persistent discriminating factors in our sector, both among menand women, while the consumer pyramid is also made up of this agecategory," say the ladies of YIN United. What's first and foremost on the table at Serviceplan?"One of the first important things I think is psychological safety. Thatpeople feel safe enough to be who they are and express what they think. Forcreatives, I have always found that very important, because I realise wellenough that putting an idea on the table feels very vulnerable," says AnRietjens. "Our industry likes to look at itself as progressive, but formany people we have been the promoters of the status quo of the big corporates,which have perpetuated things like racism and sexism for years. If you want to change that as a communications agency,you must dare to look at yourself differently. Working on D&I is acontinuous commitment as an agency, as an employer, as a colleague. Newquestions and challenges are always emerging. The goal is to keep evolving;we're not here to shame, we're here to change." 

A special thank you to PUBMagazine for the article and to An, Emily and Liesbeth for the insights intothis journey.  

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