BRIAN KENNY: If Harvard Business Review is a barometer for the things managers are thinking about, which I would argue it is, then managers are thinking a lot about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. A quick search for diversity and inclusion on the HBR website yields more than 1,400 results: articles, cases, blog posts, podcasts, and entire books devoted to the topic. But if you want more evidence, just look around your workplace. Chances are you’re looking at a fair number of millennials, since they make up nearly 75% of the workforce. And that matters because 47% of millennials actively look for diversity in the workplace. So, if you’re hoping to hire and retain the best talent, you better be able to prove that diversity and inclusion matter to you. And it can’t just be window dressing. Embracing diversity and inclusion takes effort and commitment and investment. And the firms who are doing it well, will probably tell you it’s well worth it. Today on Cold Call, we welcome Professor Katherine Coffman and special guests Erica Coletta and Ibtehal Fathy of Mars, to discuss the case, “Inclusion and Diversity at Mars PetCare.” I’m your host, Brian Kenny, and you’re listening to Cold Call on the HBR Podcast Network. Katie Coffman uses experimental methods to study individual team and managerial decision-making with a focus on the role of gender stereotypes and shaping beliefs. Erica Coletta is the Global Vice President for people and organizations at Mars PetCare. And Ibtehal Fathy is Mars’ inclusion and diversity officer, welcome everybody.
KATIE COFFMAN: Great to be here.
ERICA COLETTA: Great to be here, Brian.
IBTEHAL FATHY: It’s wonderful to be here with all of you today.
BRIAN KENNY: We’re beaming some people in from other parts of the world, and we’ve got people here in the studio at Harvard Business School. So, this is great, this is really a global conversation we’re having. So, Katie, thanks for writing the case and thanks everybody for being here to talk about it. So, let’s just dive in. Katie, I’ll ask you to start by telling us what’s the central issue in the case and what’s your cold call when you start the discussion in the classroom?
KATIE COFFMAN: I like to start with the cold call, What’s the problem that Mars is trying to solve? And it’s one of those questions that maybe seems like an easy question, and then as you start to try and answer it, it’s actually, Oh, that’s hard. And as you were just saying, so many organizations want to make progress on these issues. They want to do better when it comes to I and D, but before we can do better, we have to know what better is. What are we actually hoping to improve? How will you know you’re improving it? And I would argue that until you can answer those questions, it’s going to be really hard to know what to do and whether what you’re doing is working.
BRIAN KENNY: Yeah, and I think that that’s a question that businesses and managers are grappling with all over the place these days. First of all, how did you hear about what they’re doing at Mars Pet Care? And why was it important to you to write this case?
KATIE COFFMAN: I came to this case through someone that I think everyone in this room has so much respect for, which is Mahzarin Banaji, who is just the leading expert in implicit bias. And Mars PetCare was fortunate enough to work with her in some of the efforts we’re going to talk about soon. And as an academic, I’ve always looked up to her and her work, and she was nice enough to connect us and get us started on this fun project together. And it was just such an easy yes to think about writing this case. And as you mentioned, all organizations are struggling with these questions right now, and to have the privilege of working with an organization like Mars, that’s truly global, with so many different functions. I think there are just lessons there for all of our students, MBAs, execs, it’s a really great opportunity to think about I and D in an interesting context.
BRIAN KENNY: Yeah, tell us a little bit more about Mars. Like I said, I think of the Twix bar because I love Twix bars, but there’s a lot more to Mars than Twix bars, right? It’s a big, big operation.
KATIE COFFMAN: Big, big operation. And I think of candy too. I think of M & Ms, and we all love those delicious things. But it’s interesting to note that I believe that Mars PetCare is actually the largest segment of Mars. So, pet care is a big part of what they do. And I remember just even my initial conversation with Erica, with her thinking about the pet at the center of things, really as a member of your family, and all the things you need to be a pet parent. And that’s really what Mars PetCare is trying to do. So, they’ve been around for a long time. You’re probably familiar with lots of their brands like Pedigree and IAMS, Royal Canin, 25 billion in revenue at the time-
BRIAN KENNY: Wow.
KATIE COFFMAN: …of the writing of the case. And they do have different divisions. So, it’s not just dog food, it’s pet nutrition, veterinary health, tailored nutrition, and they even have a technology and investment arm. So, we’re talking about a hundred thousand associates, 130 countries, six continents. So, if we come back to that question of what’s the problem they’re trying to solve? You can’t think about that too narrowly.
BRIAN KENNY: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Erica, let me turn to you for a sec. I have a pet, by the way. I have a two-year-old Labrador Retriever.
ERICA COLETTA: That’s great.
BRIAN KENNY: Yeah, so we’ve probably purchased some of your products before, but I thought it would be great just if you just tell us a little bit about your role within the company and a little bit about your background.
ERICA COLETTA: So, in simple terms, I lead HR, which in Mars we call People and Organization, or P & O for pet care, which as Katie said, is Mars’ largest business. I’m Italian with a British passport, very much a citizen of the world. I’ve lived in two continents. I’ve worked in at least six. I still miss Antarctica. And HR is my third career, after working as a lawyer in Europe and a stint in retail banking, in the business. In HR, I worked for a few well-known multinationals before joining Mars four years ago. And my passion is helping business to drive performance and transformation through a compelling people agenda. Especially focusing on injecting new capabilities and driving a progressive talent and the I and D agenda.
BRIAN KENNY: No, that helps a lot. So you’ve been at Mars PetCare for a while now. Tell us a little bit about the culture there. How would you describe it?
ERICA COLETTA: To answer this question, I’d like to give you a little bit of business background, just drawing on what Katie was saying. Pet Care has very much transformed over the last decade. We went from being a traditional FMCG or CPG business in American terms, to a diverse group of business that covers nutrition, health services, diagnostic, and tech. Turnover has more than doubled. We’ve crossed very well over one hundred thousand associates. Predominantly the majority is in services now, which 73% are women. So, it’s a very, very special business. And at the time where the case was written, we were going through significant internal change and significant external change. So, going back to your question, our culture was and is evolving, would be my best answer. So, on the one end, we need and needed, to create a common core with the five principle at the core and the humanity of Mars at the center, which Ibtehal will touch on later. But also, we wanted to ensure that the diverse business we built would keep their pride and the uniqueness. And from a social perspective, which is the way in Mars we call employees, the critical cultural challenge for us, and it still is, on how do we create an environment where everyone can be themselves?
BRIAN KENNY: So, is that the problem? What is the problem you’re trying to solve? To go back to Katie’s cold call to the classroom, how would you set it up?
ERICA COLETTA: The problem that we were trying to solve at the time, was fundamentally how to bring our business into the future and how to really, really put I and D at the center of what we do. And actually, we were really helped by the fact that we had I and D very much in the strategic framework of PetCare at the beginning of 2020. We had recognized that this was far bigger than HR issue. This is a way of how we wanted to drive the business, which was very, very, very helpful. We had a solid foundation, but the external event in ’20 really made us reflect that we needed to accelerate what we were really trying to do. And so ultimately, therefore, the problem we’re trying to solve was on the diversity front, how do we even accelerate more building faster leadership pipelines and visible role models? Because everyone wants to recognize itself in other people. And on the inclusion front, how do we create an inclusive environment that will allow our diverse business to thrive?
BRIAN KENNY: You mentioned 2020, that’s the year the case was written. That was a pretty tumultuous year in terms of diversity and inclusion, Katie?
KATIE COFFMAN: Yeah. Being in the Boston area, we think of what was going on in the United States and our experience here. You’ve got globally COVID. You’ve got things associated with COVID, like the rise in Asian hate and the discrimination against Asian cultures. You also have the racial protests evolving out of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. So, there’s a lot going on, and I think those, tempted to call them ripples, were felt all over the world. And so, it was a time that I think even firms who maybe hadn’t been thinking so much about the inclusion and diversity piece, suddenly realized they had to get up to speed fast. And I think Mars and Mars PetCare was in a fortunate position that, as Erica was saying, this was already on their radar. And now they had the framework or institutional structure in place, to make change faster than maybe other organizations found themselves in.
BRIAN KENNY: I’m sure it was a challenging time for you, Erica. What was the strategy that you landed on for addressing the issues that you described?
ERICA COLETTA: On the diversity front, we had what Katie beautifully described as an institutional infrastructure. And so, we were focusing on gender, onboarding management in P&L, on improving women on leadership teams, and on key aspects of workforce representation, which are very, very relevant for a global business. And for the unique business issues of Pet Care, which I’ve talked about, we knew we had a huge opportunity on inclusion, even more given the events of 2020. I know from my past experiences, that a huge enabler in this agenda is actually try and make process on tackling bias. But we wanted to take an approach that would resonate with a workforce that’s full of people who are led by science and data. We have doctors, nurses, researchers, the clinical experts, and we have a varied crowd of smart leaders also. So, we want to take a science-based approach on a potential emotional topic. And we wanted to take emotions out of the equation. And I know everyone knows that I and D is one of those topics that risk to alienate people if it’s not positioned in the right way, and if it’s not positioned with the intent of not leaving anyone behind. So, we couldn’t just commission another training course. In fact, actually, we forbade the word training completely. We knew it would’ve been easy to buy a training off the shelves and give ourselves a fantastic pat on our shoulders, but we didn’t want to do this. So, if I had to summarize, we actually… There were three important aspects to the strategy we followed. So, number one, we decide to work on inclusion with Banaji, to help us remove some of the emotion. And she brought huge credibility to the effort and huge objectivity to the effort. The second piece was I was very clear I didn’t want this to be an HR effort at all. This needed to be leader led, all our social were owned by our CEO, president as we call it in Mars, and different member of the executive team. And for us, this was a real change management exercise about creating a new DNA for inclusion in the company. And finally, we knew this needed to be relevant for all associates, not just in the US, even if the external event were very relevant in the US. And we wanted to deliver in a way that was trying to bring curiosity, bring a learning attitude to it, rather than being accusatory, in other words.
BRIAN KENNY: I really want to delve into that in a little bit because I thought that was a really brilliant move. And the strategy itself is so smart all the way around. So, we’ll talk a little bit more about some of the ways that you approach those things. But I want to go to Ibtehal now, who’s been waiting patiently here. So, tell us a little bit about your role. You’re in a corporate role. You’re part of Mars Corporate, tell us a little bit about your role and how you interacted with the team at Pet Care.
IBTEHAL FATHY: So, a bit of background about me. I’m from Egypt. I lived across three countries, three continents. I’ve been leading inclusion on diversity globally for Mars Incorporated since 2019. Now, over the course of my career, I led various roles in supply, engineering and HR on P&O. And I worked in factories, I worked in emerging markets, I led local, regional, and global teams. Now, what really drives me and what I’m deeply passionate about, is creating spaces and communities and cultures where everyone feels safe enough to be themselves.
BRIAN KENNY: And I’m sure some of our listeners are thinking that you’ve already got a little bit of a head start at Mars because it’s such a global group of people that are assembled on the podcast today, which is indicative of something, I think. So, I think that’s really great. Ibtehal, if you can talk a little bit about how important it was for the folks at PetCare to align what they were doing with what’s happening on a corporate level at Mars.
IBTEHAL FATHY: Yeah, I think it’s absolutely critical. Our global I and D strategy calls out three ambitious goals on inclusion, gender balance, and workforce representation. And we are supporting those by four key pillars, where our leaders champion I and D. We want to harness the power of diversity, we want to embed inclusion and belonging, and we also want to equip our associates with learning experiences, inclusive policies, processes, and practices. And as part of any holistic I and D strategy, I think it’s really important to build in awareness and buy in. Now, if I think about global pet care, global pet care is Mars’ biggest segment. So, working together on this program by design progresses I and D for the overall company. It helped us also showcase how we can impact and reach a large number of leaders to open up and talk about inclusion and bias as they start to recognize how they process information and how these mental shortcuts that we know are essential to navigating the world, can also lead to harmful stereotypes and wrongful interpretations as well. So, it was important to understand why and how those biases occur, to then understand why I and D’s key to eliminating the harmful behaviors that impact associate psychological safety. So, I think it all really starts with awareness, and with awareness comes desire on buying in to why Mars is on this journey. And why our leaders and associates need to be part of this I and D movement.
BRIAN KENNY: Yeah, and Katie mentioned that Mars had been thinking about this for quite some time. To the extent that you have this framework, these five principles that you were abiding by. Can you describe those for us?
IBTEHAL FATHY: Yeah, sure. I mean, let me just break them down first. So, our first principle is quality. Quality begins with ensuring our best to our people and pets that we serve. It continues through all that we do. The second principle is responsibility, where we take responsibility without being asked and we support the responsibilities of others. And that’s followed by a very close to my heart principle, which is mutuality. And we know that mutual benefit is a shared benefit that will endure. And then efficiency. And we know that our resources are precious. We know that being efficient is going to help us accomplish more and waste less. And then last but not least is freedom. And freedom lets us shape our future and we know that performance allows us to remain free.
BRIAN KENNY: So, Katie we’re talking… I think we’re looking at this and I don’t want to gloss over or be glib about the fact that this is really hard work. Firms that try to do this encounter lots of different barriers along the way. Can you talk a little bit about some of the things that management and leadership generally struggle with as they try to move down this path?
KATIE COFFMAN: Yeah, and you can hear it in the thoughtful responses that we’ve heard from Erica and Ibtehal as well, that they were thinking about some of these common barriers. You have to have that motivation piece and the motivation has to be there beyond just leaders in HR, that might be spearheading these efforts. You have to have the motivation, both from a top down but also a bottom up perspective. You have to give people a reason to want to do this work. Changing is hard. Changing is uncomfortable, even when we recognize that the benefit might be there. We have lots to balance in our lives. And so, you really have to get that motivation and that commitment. I think one of the things we’re seeing now too, as at least the economy in the United States enters more of a perhaps struggling phase, which is recognizing that this isn’t something that you’re going to be able to address one time with one influx of resources. It’s going to have to be fundamental to your strategy going forward. And in part of that is not just talking about it, but also allocating the resources, the time, the people, to support these efforts. Not just in the times where there’s the hot moments and everyone’s thinking about it, but also in the moments where attention has shifted somewhere else, resources are a bit tighter. This can’t be the first thing that gets cut.
BRIAN KENNY: And we’ve seen in the world today, we all have short attention spans and crises come and crises go. I think a lot of times with management change initiatives, leaders may not be fully bought in and they think, Well, this’ll pass. I’ll go along with it. We’ll just go along to get along. This is not the case obviously, with diversity and inclusion, it has to become part of the fabric of your culture and what you do as an organization. So, Erica, let me turn back to you for a second and ask you how vested was leadership in this? I mean, were they really willing to go the extra mile to make sure that this would actually stick?
ERICA COLETTA: Very much so, Brian. In fact, I’d say we were a united front from start. Personally, I believe that these efforts are doomed without the business being vested. Our PetCare president at the time, Poul Weihrauch, who’s now the CEO of Mars, was extremely curious and interested in the topic, was a huge supporter of the efforts. Very, very willing to volunteer a number of personal experiences. And same for the rest of my exec, who’ve actually have been present in all the session, either open them, closed them, doing all the implicit association test that we had offered, to them to do openly. I think what was great for us was how this exercise really helped us to normalize bias and create a real better understanding of inclusion and a safe space for vulnerability. And if our leader were not with that, we would not been able to do this basically. Because all the rest of us saw basically the leadership really interested, invest in all of this efforts.
KATIE COFFMAN: And I can tell you too, having done dozens of interviews for this case with people across the organization, how much that piece resonated. I remember that leader standing up in front of us, talking about what he learned about himself and where he was struggling. It’s just so interesting to walk into these separate conversations and have that same moment told back to you. You can really see, okay, this had an impact on how people thought about the investment in this work.
ERICA COLETTA: And Brian, we had leaders in front of hundreds of associates volunteering, that they had personal bias on this and a personal bias on that. And I didn’t know about this, and they were planning to be much more willing over the next experience to really pay attention to it. And I think that’s something. When you talk about change, that’s how change happens. One action at the time, one disclosure at a time.
BRIAN KENNY: And being vulnerable in that way is hugely important as a way of demonstrating leadership on a difficult topic like this. We all grappled with our own emotions in 2020 with the things that were happening, but we all came at it from our own perspective. Ibtehal, let me ask you, what was the employee base at Mars? How did they react to some of the things that were going on? Were they clamoring for leadership to address this?
IBTEHAL FATHY: Yes, definitely. So, if I just go back, and when I joined I and D in 2019, we already as an organization launched our enterprise people strategy. We identified I and D as an integral part of our people strategy. And therefore, to enable this, we’re already on the journey of building a strategy, a five-year strategy with goals that encompasses our 140,000 plus associates, spanning over 80 countries across segments and industries. Now, 2020, as we all know, was a challenging year all around, I mean, between the widespread social injustice, COVID-19 pandemic, and also the shift to remote work for office-based associates. So, many companies including Mars, we were focusing on how we must accelerate our I and D efforts to create a more inclusive work environment. Our associates wanted that, our leaders wanted that, and therefore, it serves as a catalyst to an already important and strategic agenda that we had. If we look at the past couple of years, we can see how this has also helped us successfully build a strong foundation where we ensure that and I and D’s integral in our business strategy. And when we think now in 2023 and we look back, we know that we’re at a different juncture. We know that we still have more work to do and we’re not done yet. I don’t think this is a journey that will ever be done, but we know that now we want to shift our focus on how do we support line managers to lead inclusively? How do we strengthen sponsorship and allyship? How do we level the playing field?
BRIAN KENNY: I want to dig into the work a little bit, and Katie, I actually want to start with you because we’ve talked about bias here. We’re all aware that everybody has bias. It’s such a charged term, and I think we all feel very judged by it. I’ll speak for myself, I’m projecting, I think we all feel a little bit like, Oh, does my bias make me a bad person? But can you just define for us what it means in this context?
KATIE COFFMAN: The type of bias that the Mars Pet Care efforts was focused around, is called implicit bias or unconscious bias. And that’s the idea that it’s not operating at the conscious level of, Oh, I want to treat this person differently. It’s happening in sort of the subconscious associations we draw that are often tied to the characteristics of race, of gender, of ethnicity, of sexuality. Our minds are programmed to draw subconscious associations across all kinds of things. That’s how we navigate the world. But when they show up in these spaces, they can be really problematic. And so, you bring up this aspect of being judged. I think there are these two important pieces. And Dr. Banaji she’s just spot on in this, which is both the idea that, Yes, we all have implicit bias. But no, that’s not okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person per se, but you also need to recognize that that means in some respects, your behaviors are going to be at odds with the standards you hold yourself to. Your values and the way you want to behave, implicit bias is preventing you from living up to those. I think you can hold both in your head and realize, okay, it’s okay, but it’s not okay. If that makes any sense?
BRIAN KENNY: It makes sense, it makes sense. I want to talk Erica to you, about how you were able to get this out of the way with the leadership team. You said you were leading with data and analytics. That makes perfect sense. I think that’s a really smart move, but how were you able to get them comfortable with being vulnerable and recognizing their bias but not doing it in a way that made them feel guilty or bad for having a bias?
ERICA COLETTA: Yeah, I think this is a great question.
BRIAN KENNY: It’s like a therapy session for me here, so this is good.
ERICA COLETTA: We used the implicit association test, which are available online. And we encourage everyone to go with the flow and identify which particular area of culture, or religion, or body weight, or gender, or sex orientation, whatever test they wanted to pick, where their curiosity was. So, we didn’t make anyone feel judged. And with many smart leaders and in a science-led business, this really helped immensely taking emotions out of the equation. And then as I said, we had leaders starting the journey and going first. And volunteering disclosure, and taking this test and sharing their personal experience in public. So, we didn’t make anyone feel judged and we actually had a lot of fun through it, I have to say.
BRIAN KENNY: And I should point out, this wasn’t like 10, or 20, or 30 leaders. This was 3,000 leaders across the company. This was a massive effort. Can you take us inside one of the sessions and talk a little bit about what those were like?
ERICA COLETTA: This was a multiyear change program that we started taking one step at the time. We had two phases at the beginning. The first one was in 2020 where, exactly not to create fear or judgment, we simply wanted to learn what unconscious bias was at the beginning. I was influenced by many factors, whether it’s background culture, how to increase our awareness. There was a lot of time for personal disclosure, and they were all followed by an open offer and team workshops across the organization using implicit association test. Step two, which actually happened in 2021, was a step forward. Was same format, but this time was practical tools on how to mitigate bias in the workplace and in personal life. We covered 3,000 people twice, and then there was a phase three, which has been 2022 and 2023. Where we’ve covered more than 16,000 associates by fundamentally bringing this workshop in the CPG and veterinary business, especially in the US. What we did was create energy and interest and curiosity on a topic that could have potentially been emotional, but became something people truly interested in to understand themselves better. Both in the workplace and their personal lives.
KATIE COFFMAN: In addition to maybe taking the emotion off the table a bit, this approach also makes it more relevant for a global organization. So, you could imagine that what might be top of mind for associates working in the United States in 2020, while you take associates working in a different part of the world, whether it’s Europe or Asia. They might be thinking about a different set of issues related to I and D, and in particular different forms of bias. And so, implicit bias is something that’s going to show up in all different spaces across the world, and I think that gives everyone a reason to want to be interested and want to learn more.
BRIAN KENNY: So, there is an importance to, I guess, localization in some regards to how you address this.
KATIE COFFMAN: Yeah, I think it needs to feel relevant to folks.
BRIAN KENNY: Of course.
KATIE COFFMAN: It can’t be that, Oh, why are we doing this? Let me get back to my desk. You have to be able to connect it to where you are, who you are, and what your work is. And I think if you don’t have those pieces, it’s going to be hard for people to really be invested.
BRIAN KENNY: Right. Ibtehal, let me come back to you for a second and ask you about what success looks like here. How do you know if you’re succeeding with such a huge population of employees? How do you even get your arms around that part of it?
IBTEHAL FATHY: Brian, I wholeheartedly believe that the ultimate success in I and D is when I and D is fully integrated into everything that we do. For me, I and D is about how we make decisions, how we value, how we connect with one another, how we show up, how we respect each other. It’s about care, fairness, empathy, and support. And there are ways for us to know whether we’re on the right path or not. Feedback loops, measurements of progress. We think about our associates’ resource groups and their thoughts and their focused areas. So, I’ll give an example in terms of how we’re measuring our progress. If we think about our Mars associate survey, we’ve seen that our associates are having more trusting relationships. They are more able now to bring their whole selves at work. And as we look at diversity, we’ve seen progress on representation of women in management and leadership roles, as well as better regional and racial workforce representation across all levels. I think for me, the other really important signal that I think both Erica and Katie talked about, is around the importance of seeing more and more associates and leaders owning I and D. The I and D is not quote unquote, the job of the I and D team or HR, but that everyone else as well owns and plays a role in furthering I and D.
BRIAN KENNY: Are there particular areas where you feel like you just can’t make the progress that you want to make? Are there particular obstacles that the leadership team runs into as you try to move down this path?
IBTEHAL FATHY: In 2019, I’ve actually interviewed about 75 leaders across the globe, across segments and geographies, to understand how I and D’s perceived at Mars and what are some of the challenges, successes, opportunities. And what I found was some leaders were passionate advocates. They got I and D, they felt energized by this work, but also some were fully bought in but needed to understand how they may make up meaning of full action or create an impact. Others felt that they needed to be better equipped. There was this fear of saying the wrong thing. And then there were also others who didn’t fully understand why I and D matters in a context of a business that values merit meritocracy. So, like many other organizations, I’ve also seen that I and D sometimes could be perceived as an us versus them. So in other words, there’s this scarcity mindset, where if somebody else is going to gain something, it’s assumed that someone else is going to lose. And when you think specifically when we talk about targeted programs towards women and underrepresented groups, and therefore does that then mean majority groups are not being cared for? So, it actually took us back to the point where we had to think about the bigger why. We had to really have a compelling business case that we can bring, to really answer and support leaders on their journey. We looked at external research and how companies that prioritize I D outpace their competitors and market growth and longevity. We looked at how I and D also helps us create a bigger impact on talent attraction and retention. And in how us leveling the playing field enables everybody to reach their full potential. It empowers both minority and majority groups to feel respected, to feel valued, to feel psychologically safe and to be at their best.
BRIAN KENNY: Yeah, we often have cases on Cold Call that deal with things like environmental sustainability, or diversity and inclusion, and none of these things are necessarily, at least on the face of it, core to the business strategy. But they’re all really, really important to sustaining a business over time. And we realize that business leaders won’t do things necessarily because it’s the right thing to do, or it’s a feel-good thing. If you can make the business case and make it compelling, then you’ve got a much better chance of having it succeed. So Katie, let me ask you what you think our listeners should be thinking about as they try to sustain momentum around some of these things. How do you continue to make that case compelling enough for business leaders to want to stay with it?
KATIE COFFMAN: It’s a great question. And I think Ibtehal’s dead on when she says, “We’ll know we’ve made that progress and have that success when it’s fully woven into our other functions in our processes.” You could think about that from a big picture perspective, but also from a small picture perspective, which is we need to get to a point where we don’t have to think about it all the time because it’s already built into what we do. And so, that can happen through attitude change, you reduce the amount of bias people hold. That would be a fantastic long-term goal. But in the short run, or in parallel, you might need to recognize, and I think Mars and Mars Pet Care has, that you’re going to have to build the right processes and systems. So that it doesn’t have to be that every single individual shows up at work thinking, Okay, how am I going to mitigate my bias today? Because that’s just unrealistic over any stretch of time. So, you need to help them do that work. Give them the tools, the processes, so that if they are thinking about other things, they’re still going to be meeting those standards and values, that you the organization and them, the individual, hold themselves to.
BRIAN KENNY: Yeah, that’s great insight. This has been a fabulous conversation. We’re just about to sort of wrap up and I’ve got a couple more questions. And this is one for you, Erica, which is just tell us where you are now on the journey and what you think comes next?
ERICA COLETTA: We’ve made progress on gender. We have made progress on inclusion significantly, but there’s more work to be done. And in particular in our newly acquired businesses, we’re putting significant efforts now behind ethnic representation in particular in the US, and we’re not taking the foot of the gas on neither gender balance, nor progressing further on our inclusion journey through a number of tools. And because we really want to move the needle, and while the makeup of our business and our associates is incredibly diverse, we’re really, really focusing now on what truly unites us, which is the five principles, our inclusive culture. And as you were saying at the beginning, we’re about pets here, so we want to make a better world for pets. So, this is what we will continue to drive in the future.
BRIAN KENNY: Well, that’s a perfect way to segue over to you, Katie, for the final word on this, since you are the case author. If there’s one thing you want people to remember about what Mars Pet Care is doing about this case, what would it be?
KATIE COFFMAN: So often, we’re thinking about the big picture when we think about inclusion and diversity. And in order to see results on this, I think you have to think about the small picture too. And that is, when your associate comes in to work that day, what specifically are they going to do differently? And that’s how you get to change. So, you’ve got to connect that grand, big picture vision to the small, everyday decisions and you know, need concrete strategies for how you’re going to do that. So, maybe it’s process change, maybe it’s about changing the representation of who’s making decisions. But you want to think about how you’re going to translate that big picture into those really less exciting, small everyday changes, because those are what stack up to create this real success in these spaces.
BRIAN KENNY: Yeah, it’s hard work, but it’s important work. Katie Coffman, Erica Coletta, and Ibtehal Fathy, thank you for joining me to talk about this case. It’s been great having you.
IBTEHAL FATHY: Wonderful to be here.
KATIE COFFMAN: Great to be here.
ERICA COLETTA: Thank you so much.
BRIAN KENNY: If you enjoy Cold Call, you might like our other podcasts, After Hours, Climate Rising, Deep Purpose, IdeaCast, Managing the Future of Work, Skydeck, and Women at Work. Find them on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen, and if you could take a minute to rate and review us, we’d be grateful. If you have any suggestions or just want to say hello, we want to hear from you. Email us at [email protected]. Thanks again for joining us. I’m your host, Brian Kenny, and you’ve been listening to Cold Call, an official podcast of Harvard Business School and part of the HBR Podcast Network.