Fostering diversity at Boots by recognising values

Toni Sekinah, reserch analyst and features editor, DataIQ

Boots CRM managers Emma Eatch and Gillian McNulty both know a thing or two about working in a diverse analytics team. At DataIQ, we've previously written about the Boots Personalisation and Digital Insights team, its hiring practices and the previous work experience of those within it. But what is being done to maintain the diversity of the team that has a 50:50 gender split and nurture the skills of those within it? And how exactly can emphasising differences strengthen a team?

"We are trying to break down imposter syndrome."

McNulty said: “We are really trying to break down things like imposter syndrome and keep all those people that I am really worried we might lose from the profession. As much as they are doing really well, they don’t realise that they are doing that well.”

Colouring pencils with nibs in a circleShe wants them to know that a lot of people feel like that and the sessions she puts on with Eatch can offer strategies to identify their strengths. “It’s about making sure that everybody realises that that little bit of difference that they bring to the team is really valuable.”

Eatch and Natasha Sivewright, senior insights analyst set up Inspiration in Insight, a programme with a mission to inspire everyone in insights in their career from every background, in February 2018.

They realised that while there is already a strong training programme in place to help analysts write good decks, and communicate and deal with data, there was room to do more to help the team both understand and make the most of their differences.

Through the programme Sivewright, Eatch and McNulty have hosted several "lunch and learn" sessions. Ruth Spencer, head of global insights at Boots, presented the first one. “It was really great to have a strong female data leader to come,” said McNulty who added that Spencer was really good at talking about how to negotiate a career in analytics and forge one’s own path in quite a new career for the industry.

"We help the team understand themselves and diversity better."

Another part of the programme addressed self-development. Eatch said: “We wanted to help the team understand themselves and the diversity among the team a bit better.” To do this, they started working with Dr Suzanne Ross from Nottingham Business School, who focuses on executive talent, success and derailment.

Dr Ross put on a presentation and a workshop that helped the team to understand where they were on the spectrum of introvert to extrovert. Eatch explained that from this they saw that they have “a whole heap” of introverts, but also some extroverts. Dr Ross also helped them to understand how they could use the traits of each personality type to work better with each other.

Boots Personalisation and Digital Insights team at DataIQ Talent AwardsOne example of this was for extroverts, cognisant of the amount of verbal space they take up in conversations and meetings, learning to say: ‘I know I’m an extrovert. I am going to take a breath and allow the introvert to speak.”

Another action would be for the extrovert to share the agenda of a meeting with an introvert beforehand, allowing them the time to reflect and gather their thoughts on the topic so that they do not have to think on the fly in the mid-session.

There was also a presentation on values, delivered by Eatch and McNulty themselves. This session was actually inspired by one from Martin Squires, former head of customer intelligence and data, global insights at Boots, on managing insight teams.

At the time, McNulty was suffering some inner conflict, having moved career-wise from doing intelligence in law enforcement and “fighting the bad guy,” to delivering marketing. Squires helped her to realise that her drivers were very different from a lot of other people in the same room.

She then looked at her role from another perspective and now really enjoys her job, in particular the part in which she helped the company prepare for GDPR. Her journey of coming to those realisations was expressed in her presentation on values.

"If you understand your values, you can align them to your day job."

She said: “If you understand your values, you can have those development conversations with your line manager to really help you align what you're doing in your day job with your values to make sure you're feeling really passionate about what you're doing.”

And the learning never stops with Eatch and McNulty planning to do an Inspiration in Insights session every other month.

Sivewright has since moved on to WorldPay as a senior analyst. However, she is still just as passionate about the importance of professional development and career-long learning.

She said that a stand-out moment of the programme for her was the realisation that a fair few of their leaders were introverts, a fact that could give reassurance to the more shy members of the team that a leadership position is feasible.

For Eatch, the benefit of the sessions is the framing of differences among the team as assets that can lead to stronger recommendations, which is what the Personalisation and Diigital Insights team is all about. “We’re stronger as a team, we’re stronger in the business. So an introvert using the skills of the extrovert to get their voice across can be really powerful. You need to be a passionate voice of the customer and using those differences is helping us do that.”

Knowledge-based content manager, DataIQ
Toni is the senior features editor responsible for the origination of DataIQ's interviews, articles and blogs.