Genuine societal progress often requires a Eureka style moment. One that is so shocking that it persuades businesses (and specifically leaders) to change tact, re-prioritize and make the necessary investment.
For many employers, the trigger to refresh their commitments in the diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) space came in May 2020 when George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minnesota.
While some companies quickly took a second look at their brands and products – for instance, IBM stopping investment in facial recognition software used by police forces and Sephora devoting 15% of its shelf space to products from Black-owned businesses – others seized the moment to rethink their internal DEIB practices.
One brand that did both is Sky.
In 2020, the media and tech giant, which employs 32,000 people across Europe, committed £30 million over the next three years to the fight racial injustice, including by investing more in internal DEIB efforts.
In an exclusive interview with UNLEASH, Sky’s group talent and D&I lead, and chief people officer for UK&I, Claudia Osei-Nsafoah shares all.
She is very proud of the progress made to date, but is very aware that the work on DEIB is never done.
Sky is committed to continuing to build “workplace culture where people can be themselves and express themselves”, no matter their background.
Ultimately by embracing difference, employers “get different perspectives to help problem solve, drive innovation, and have stronger productivity”.
How to drive accountability around DEIB
Representation is one of four pillars that cement how Sky thinks about DEIB.
The European tech giant looked at the demographics of the geographies where it operates and used that research to inform its 2025 representation target of having 20% of UK&I employees – its largest employee population – identify as coming from black, Asian, minority ethnic backgrounds, with 5% of all UK&I roles being filled by Black employees.
But Osei-Nsafoah is very clear: “It is not about targets for target’s sake.”
“It is about ensuring we’re driving a step change in behaviors and culture”, and “thinking about the talent that we want to bring into the organization”.
These targets are built into leadership objectives to drive accountability at the top levels of the business – Sky wants to ensure “inclusive leadership is part of our DNA”.
“What we don’t want it to be is just the HR team that’s pushing this agenda. We need to make sure that all of our leaders are there as well,” notes Osei-Nsafoah.
Another way that Sky is holding itself accountable for genuine progress is by establishing a Diversity Advisory Council made up of external experts.
Examples include Caroline Casey from The Valuable 500, entrepreneur Piers Linney, and Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, the co-founder of UK Black Pride.
“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t marking our own homework. Those external experts can hold the mirror up and sense check [that] Sky is doing what we said we were going to do,” continues Osei-Nsafoah.
That partnership has been very successful over the past three years – “they work closely with us to help shape our ambitions and make sure that we maintain our progress towards driving a more inclusive workforce”.
One of the key focuses for next three years is focusing on the senior leader population. “As you can imagine, there are fewer senior roles so every role counts in terms of the people we want to bring into the organization”.
To move the needle here, Osei-Nsafoah tells UNLEASH: “We’re challenging our internal recruitment teams, hiring managers and external partners to ensure that they are really providing us with the most diverse pool of candidates out there”.
“Of course, we’ll always make merit based decisions, but we want to make that we’ve got the right pool…in the first place,” she adds.
Being a force for good outside Sky
Importantly for Sky, its commitment to racial injustice is not just internal – “we’re 33 years young”, notes Osei-Nsafoah. The company still has a “startup mentality in terms of wanting to challenge the status quo and continue to bring that fresh and innovative perspective to everything that we do”.
Along this vein, the second pillar of Sky’s DEIB focus is ‘using our voice’, particularly around the content it produces.
Osei-Nsafoah states: “We want to make sure that we’re providing content that represents broader society” – to help here, Sky created an assistant commissioner program, and bespoke content teams, that focus on having diverse voices to “bring fresh perspectives to the programs that we’re making and [to] make sure it is representative of society.”
Sky has also teamed up with various partners to push forward its commitment to be “a force for good” and drive societal change.
Examples include Lewis Hamilton’s Mission 44, the Black Equity Organization, Kick It Out and the Creative Diversity Network.
It also works with 60 charities through its volunteering program – Sky Cares – to encourage employees to “help their own communities to create a better future”.
All Sky employees get two volunteering days a year, and since the initiative was launched in 2019, “our people have volunteered over 120,000 hours”; “the plan is by 2025, we will have over 250,000”.
This impressive progress isn’t just about DEIB, but also links to Sky’s wider social and sustainability agenda.
Moving beyond pay, and towards progression
UNLEASH was keen to find out how Sky’s DEIB and ESG work is impacting its ability to attract and retain talent in this challenging labor market.
Osei-Nsafoah shares: “The workforce is changing. I’ve been in this field for 20 years, and what was important to ten years ago is different now.”
“Pay is not the only factor people consider” nowadays; they want to know more about the wider employee value proposition, the company’s culture, benefits, learning and development opportunities, as well as commitments around DEIB and corporate social responsibility (and especially sustainability).
“We know that when companies demonstrate a clear focus on these areas, they have the power to attract different experiences, perspectives and ideas, to ultimately deliver for customers,” she adds.
Sky is already reaping the rewards of its commitments around DEIB, sustainability, and beyond, but it is not resting on its laurels, particularly around the final two pillars of its DEIB strategy: culture and progression.
In terms of culture, the media and tech giant is leveraging its employee networks to ensure employees have visibility about the progress that’s been made.
“The work is happening, but it’s making sure that everybody in the business feels connected to that work,” states Osei-Nsafoah.
It is also dialing into wellbeing, particularly in the context of a challenging economic environment. “It’s had a real impact on our employees,” she adds.
Sky says it listened to employee concerns, and made £1,000 payments to 70% of its UK&I employees to help them amid the cost of living crisis.
Progression is all about unlocking opportunities for people, “getting people to think less linearly about their careers”, and instead see the benefits of a more “squiggly career” – this is particularly important for under-represented groups.
Osei-Nsafoah notes: “Learning and development…[is] very organic at Sky. There’s so much going on, you get opportunities to work on interesting assignments and projects that stretch you” – this is linked to the range of work that Sky does, whether that’s customer service, products and tech, content and production, or corporate roles.
But Sky also wanted to create a formal, simplified way for employees to shift their mindsets and “take ownership of their learning” and be able learn on the go. So, it is about to launch a new group-wide learning platform called Sky Learn.
Sky and the world of tech
Sky Learn is being developed in partnership with Cornerstone, and it’ll help workers (and the employer) stay relevant for the future.
“We stress tested the content in Sky Learn with our tech colleagues – they were really happy with the level of digital development options available, and they were confident it would help drive the shift needed in our technical and behavioral skills,” says Osei-Nsafoah.
She describes this outcome as “brilliant”.
“We want to make sure that we engage not just our tech colleagues, but everyone across Sky on the critical skills needed for the future.”
Osei-Nsafoah is clear “what got us here isn’t going to get us there”.
This means so Sky needs to continue to update and innovate its learning and development provisions, and really leverage technology to do this.
“Tech…certainly feels like the future” for Sky, as a business, but also as an employer, she concludes.
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