Jun 13, 2024

Why diversity and inclusivity are the key ingredients for a supportive, empowering environment

Unleashing the superpower of diversity and inclusivity has helped Mars Wrigley and its agency EssenceMediacom be at the vanguard of creativity and innovation in China

(L-R) Mars Wrigley China's Jelina Wan and EssenceMediacom China's Dan Hui
(L-R) Mars Wrigley China's Jelina Wan and EssenceMediacom China's Dan Hui
This article is part of a content series on diversity, equity, and inclusion for Campaign Asia-Pacific and Greater China’s Women to Watch, created in partnership with EssenceMediacom.

EssenceMediacom is represented in China by offices in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. However, over 55% of its employees are not originally from these cities. In addition, approximately 5% of EssenceMediacom China’s 400 employees nationwide are foreign-born. The agency’s MD Dan Hui said, “Since over 50% of our clients are global, employees have to collaborate closely with teams from various backgrounds and countries." 

A key client of EssenceMediacom, Mars Wrigley is a great example of such diversity. Operating across verticals including pet care, food, and snacks, Mars Wrigley services a billion consumers in China via headquarters in Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai, with over forty branch offices, six operating sites, and 10,000 plus associates. Jelina Wan, marketing VP at Mars Wrigley China, said, “Our associates are recruited from all over China, and work with local as well as international teams.”

Given the spread of Mars Wrigley’s business, teams are constantly working with colleagues from different job interfaces and educational backgrounds. Geographic diversity is at play since most of the marketing team is based in Guangzhou, with some operating out of Shanghai and Beijing. The variance extends to educational backgrounds — there are both locally and foreign-educated staff, across a diversity of disciplines. Marketing teams collaborate with manufacturing who typically have engineering or technical backgrounds. The marketing department also works with scientists from R&D and given the pervasiveness of digitalisation, experts in algorithms and data science.

Turning diverse backgrounds into an opportunity
A plethora of cultural and educational backgrounds, and language barriers could present challenges. However, for EssenceMediacom and Mars Wrigley, this has been a great opportunity to foster innovation and creativity.

At EssenceMediacom, a diverse staff helps arrive at a deeper, more holistic understanding of potential consumers. Mars Wrigley has enshrined its culture in five principles — quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom. These principles help overcome differences in work habits and preferences. Respecting differences in work culture can improve the understanding of how to collaborate, foster respect for individual needs, and incorporate varied lifestyles to support career development and personal lives.

To ensure that teams from diverse locations interact more effectively, EssenceMediacom's Mars account team, which is spread across three offices, has devised buddy mechanism that connects employees and allows them to collaborate to reach a time-bound goal. "Employees feel that they can benefit from the different experiences of their colleagues, creating synergy instead of misunderstanding," said Hui.

Respect as a foundation for conflict-resolution

Conflict is unavoidable in diverse teams. Therefore, EssenceMediacom trains its teams on conflict resolution and communication skills. Hui observed that with training and toolkits, “Employees become aware that if we know how to learn from each other, differences can help us grow and achieve goals.”

A common tension point for a worldwide corporation is taking a global strategy locally. Speaking of how Mars Wrigley resolved such situations, Wan said, “The first step is to ensure we understand each other as human beings who share similarities — we all want to be heard, seen, and respected — versus our differences. We must strengthen communication and talk openly, making it easier to increase shared understanding and find a solution. This aligns with one of our five principles: mutuality."

Diversity and inclusion as a catalyst for innovation and creativity

An increase in employee mobility has added to the mix of diverse influences in advertising. Under the ‘China Passport’ programme in 2019, ten agency staffers from other geographies worked on China-based projects at EssenceMediacom, either online or in person. Staff from China have also worked in other markets. Hui said, “Working with people from different cultural backgrounds helps accelerate experience sharing, trade problem-solving methodologies, and market insights. This results in increased productivity and a strong sense of belonging.”

At Mars Wrigley, two approaches are in place to promote inclusivity and diversity. First, a culture where everyone is at ease being themselves. Wan noted, "We have a theme day each year — last year was ‘I can be me’ — which aims to inspire everyone to be completely themselves. Furthermore, we offer training and skill development projects to enable individuals to discover their own path." 

Mars Wrigley has also collaborated with Harvard Business School to create ‘Women Live Purposefully,’ a three-month course for senior leaders which helps them make an impact by leveraging resources, including within their own organisation. The company holds the Asian Female Forum which focuses on helping women pursue their goals, not just in terms of career development but personal growth.

Mars Wrigley also communicates inclusivity through its brands. Wan said, "The purpose of our brands is to create a world where everyone can belong. Our everyday communication, not only with customers but also with our associates, demonstrates our dedication to creating an inclusive and varied environment. We are confident that once associates feel completely at ease being themselves, they will be able to release their full potential, promoting productivity and innovation."

EssenceMediacom China has implemented a variety of programmes, including wellness packages for employees at various life stages and from different groups, for instance: LGBTQ, women,etc.
Every March is commemorated as Female Leader Month, inviting speakers to provide training, and sharing, as well as senior executives from around the world to discuss their professional trajectories and inspire young leaders. The training is cross Female wellbeing, work life balance, professional image building, and female career and leadership development, etc.
From 2023, we leverage the partnership with Women Alliance Group, started a visiting study trip to visit multiple organisations for DEI, to learn and exchange experience and practice in DEI area.
These initiatives have yielded successful outcomes and garnered acknowledgement from the staff. In annual surveys conducted by WPP, over 80% of employees reported feeling empowered and respected after participating in DEI activities for two years in a row. Hui, "This has resulted in a strong sense of belonging, enhanced productivity, and higher employee satisfaction, all of which will benefit our company."
Mars Wrigley and EssenceMediacom serve as great examples of organisations that prioritise diversity and inclusivity. By embracing the unique backgrounds and perspectives of their employees, they have fostered a culture of creativity, collaboration, and mutual respect, ultimately driving innovation and success.



Campaign Asia

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