Merkle a leading technology-enabled, data-driven performance marketing agency, today announced it has been awarded the 2018 Bing Agency Award for Diversity and Inclusion Champion of The Year. Merkle received this award for continually demonstrating a strong commitment toward a culture of fairness and equality, both in day-to-day operations and through specific activities and initiatives.
“We are thrilled to be recognized by Bing for the continued emphasis and priority we have placed on promoting diversity and inclusion at Merkle,” said Libby Barden, chief people officer at Merkle. “Diversity and inclusion are integral to our company culture. Getting to an environment of true diversity is a journey. We are in the relatively early stages, but we’re committed to stay on it. Being courageous about changing the mix of people in our organization is hard, and sometimes uncomfortable. It requires a lot of intentionality, but it is definitely worth the effort. The work we do for our clients is better when it’s built by a more diverse workforce that challenges assumptions from varying perspectives. As a data-driven company, we also believe in focusing the facts, which is an essential element of this change. That’s why we measure and report every step along the way to ensure that we are making progress.”
Over the last several years, diversity and inclusion have been high on Merkle’s priority list. Company president and CEO David Williams personally champions the ongoing commitment to diversity at Merkle. He has established a Diversity and Inclusion Council to monitor the company’s progress in this area, charged with fostering a corporate mindset and culture that espouses a multicultural workforce.
“I care because my employees care – but I also care because I believe in fair,” said Williams. “I believe that every person who works for our company should have a fair chance of fulfilling their dreams – whatever they might be – limited only by their own abilities and performance. I want my employees to have a fair shot at their aspirations, regardless of their gender, regardless of their race, no matter their sexual orientation, nationality, religion, physical ability, or cultural background. I want the best talent to run our company. Period. I don’t care what package that talent comes in.”
Merkle’s Diversity and Inclusion Council continues to develop new initiatives in response to the challenges faced by the advertising industry, such as slipping employee retention rates and the lack of women in leadership roles. For example, a few years ago, Merkle established a Women in Leadership program, providing ongoing communications and events focused on developing exceptional female leaders through education, mentorship, and practical experience. The company also began tracking data on their interactions from a gender perspective at key points in the employee lifecycle (e.g., the mix of males vs. females applying for roles, being interviewed, offered positions, accepted positions). Once on board, the analysis turns to how many males vs. females are engaged, retained, high performers, promoted, etc. With a simple focus on the numbers and a commitment to follow through, Merkle has made continual positive progress. There are no ‘set quotas,’ but Williams says he believes that anything less than 50/50 implies a ‘systemic issue’ that needs to be addressed.
But Merkle’s initiative is about more than one program. In the beginning of 2018, Merkle brought together dozens of employees across several locations to conduct research, assess internal data and make recommendations for improving the agency’s culture, policies, and daily life for all employees. As a result, it has placed an emphasis on understanding the employee life cycle, measuring diversity across the organization, identifying and analyzing compensation gaps, conducting diversity pulse surveys, and hosting an employee blog center to highlight key issues that directly impact employees. The Diversity Council approach currently supports efforts around gender, LGBT, mental health, ability/disability, religion, and ethnicity, but according to Barden, this focus will continue to evolve.
In addition to those internal initiatives meant to advance an environment of inclusion, Merkle also works with external partners and is a long-standing sponsor of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA)’s #SeeHer campaign, which seeks to accurately portray girls and women in the media. The company hosted a session with the ANA and #SeeHer at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to discuss the challenges and bias women in advertising face. In addition, Merkle participated in the new D&I track of Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit. Celebrating thirty years as a company in 2018, Merkle continues to prioritize the well-being of its employees and clients to create much needed change in the industry.