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Case studies:

Developing a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Clarion Events

clarion events, People Insight


Developing Diversity and Inclusion strategy is high on the agenda for organisations; in fact Fast Company reported that just 6% of companies surveyed are not focussing on D&I in 2021, down from 25% last year.

However, when it comes to putting a D&I strategy in place and addressing issues around Diversity and Inclusion many organisations feel wary of getting started. What if they get something wrong or mess it up? 

Clarion Events is a great example of an organisation who overcame these fears to develop and deliver a best-practice Diversity and Inclusion strategy. At our webinar “How to develop your D&I strategy in 2021” Cheryl Busby, Clarion’s HR Director, shared their journey to creating a D&I strategy that is sustainable, enduring and goes beyond ticking the box. It’s a brilliant Diversity and Inclusion strategy example, with practical takeaways and tips for other organisations. 

Why did Clarion need a Diversity and Inclusion strategy?

Clarion Events is the 3rd largest international events organiser in the world, with almost 2000 employees spread across offices in Europe, Asia and the US. Despite a challenging 2020, Clarion is a highly successful organisation and an employer of choice within the industry.  

Like many organisations, they were D&I compliant with the right policies and procedures in place, but that was as far as their strategy went. Looking at their success, some might have believed there was no need to change how they were doing things. Their investors were happy. They attracted and retained top people and their most recent employee survey with People Insight revealed a 72% employee engagement score. 

Clarion felt that it was not appropriate to align their brands and business with external campaigns, and communicated this message internally when asked. They continued thiapproach in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in May 2020 – a decision that Cheryl recognises was not the right one.  

Engage your leaders with D&I: The business case for Diversity & Inclusion 

BLM: A wake up call for Clarion

In the wave of reaction to Black Lives Matter, Clarion received strong feedback from employees that they should have a voice and address the issues being raised. Their employees needed their support.  

Initially Clarion sent an email via HR to their UK employees. It acknowledged the impact of BLM and invited colleagues to message or call Cheryl to discuss this furtherCheryl received lots of heartfelt feedback from employees who felt Clarion could do more to oppose racism.  

People wanted to hear more from their management board and wanted a place to share their thoughts and feelings.  

This was a real wake-up call for Clarion, and in particular for their management board. The importance of D&I for the future success of their business couldn’t be ignored.

Getting Clarion’s D&I strategy off the ground

Clarion’s is a great example of a Diversity & Inclusion strategy that hit the ground running by incorporating employee listening, leadership engagement and communications. For example, they:  

  • Talked and listened to employees 

Having recognised the need to engage current and future employees around D&I, Clarion’s management board members arranged to speak to each and every employee who had shared feedback about the silence and inactivity around BLM. Through these conversations, the management team wanted to understand colleague views and ask how Clarion could do better.  

Consult your people about returning to work: Free survey question-set 

  • Admitted they were scared 

Cheryl acknowledged that as a senior team, they felt afraid of messing up. They were a devolved business with teams across the globe, and knew they had significant gaps in data and knowledge around the diversity of their people.  

  • Asked for help  

Clarion discovered a hidden gem amongst their own team; a recently employed Group General Council who had been part of a global D&I initiative at the BBC. Having this internal knowledge boosted Clarion’s confidence as they developed their D&I strategy 

  • Added D&I pages to their internal website  

Clarion built and launched several pages specific to D&I, to communicate their programme, activities and objectives to employees.  

  • Launched quarterly listening forums  

In response to employee feedback, Clarion created safe places for colleagues to meet and share their experiences, ideas and questions. These forums are moderated by an independent diversity consultant, with senior leaders invited to attend from time to time.  

  • Appointed employees as diversity representatives 

Clarion felt it was important for the forums to have a mechanism to give feedback to senior leaders, so they invited employees to apply to be “Diversity Representatives” via their new D&I web pages.  Clarion’s 14 Diversity Reps attend the listening forums and take it in turns to share feedback at quarterly management board meetings. The reps also join bi-annual meetings with Clarion’s owners, to help raise and consider D&I issues. For local impact, the Diversity Reps meet with their regional MDs to focus on local D&I differences and make local plans. 

A D&I strategy example: Clarion’s plan on a page

Clarion held their first D&I listening forum in September 2020 and it soon became clear that the forums were a great start, but that employees wanted to see their leaders commit to D&I actions and KPIs. They were looking to their leaders to set the agenda. 

Cheryl remembers that as a senior team they felt panicked at this prospect. They worried about over-promising and under-delivering but, realising they needed to be seen to lead, they set out objectives and actions for the year ahead and wrote their first D&I strategy.  

Their D&I strategy for phase 1 included their mission statement, their aim for the first 12 months and their business priorities.

Clarion Events Mission

Listen to Cheryl explain Clarion’s strategy on a page

Phase 1: Clarion’s 7 strategic steps

Based on the business priorities in their D&I strategy, Clarion went on to identify 7 steps for the year ahead.  

For each step, they made clear:  

  • The actions that would be taken 
  • The outcomes they believed each step would achieve in Phase 1  
  • How they would measure the success of each action e.g., its impact on employee engagement, feedback from employees and willingness of employees to share D&I data  

To ensure that leadership were engaged and accountable, each Board member was appointed as sponsor and responsible for 1 of the 7 steps. Clarion were determined their D&I strategy would be lead from the front.

7 strategic steps

Lessons learned and Cheryl’s advice for others

1. Listen, listen and listen some more! 

Listen to employee feedback – don’t interrupt, be defensive or self-justifying. Just listen. Clarion partner with People Insight to run employee surveys that capture feedback about all parts of the employee experience, which Clarion use to shape business changes and priorities around the needs of their people.

Find out more about People Insight’s employee surveys 

2. It’s OK not to know what to do or say 

You won’t always know what to do, or what the answer is. And that’s OK. But it’s not OK not to do anything.  

3. Set employee expectations  

Be clear about what you can and cannot do – particularly given the current situation.  

4. You don’t have to do it yourself 

Find support from others who have already been on that journey. Like Clarion, you might discover this experience in your current team or need to look externally.

And finally, we asked Cheryl what her 2 pieces of advice would be for someone developing a D&I strategy

  • Make sure to be curious and brave. Learn to sit with some of the discomfort. But above all, be committed to act.  
  • From a business point of view, D&I must be led from the top. Nothing really happened for Clarion until their CEO and Board Members got behind, pushed and promoted their programme. 

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People Insight help organisations of all sizes and sectors measure D&I and use the insights to create a more inclusive workplace. For more Diversity and Inclusion strategy examples, or to speak to us about how we can help please get in touch.

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