Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to The Jali Podcast, I’m your host Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion and equity. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.
This week, please join me in welcoming Monique Nelson. Monique Nelson is chair and chief executive officer of UWG, the countries longest standing multicultural marketing agency. She took the helm of the agency in May 2012, when founder and advertising pioneer Bryon Lewis retired.
Headquartered in Brooklyn, with offices in Detroit, Atlanta and Miami, UWG maintains a list of esteemed clients, including Ford Motor Company, Colgate-Palmolive, The Home Depot, Bacardi US, Coca-Cola, and the U S Marines and many more. As one of the country’s leading multicultural agencies, UWG services its clients with general market, black, Hispanic, Asian, and LGBT marketing and advertising.
Digital and traditional advertising, consumer insight, public relations, consumer healthcare communications and cultural fluency consulting. Ms. Nelson has expanded the agency’s client list and has led her team in the development of several award winning campaigns that show the wide range of the agency’s expertise, as well as its ability to connect its clients with the growing and diverse cultures of today’s marketplace.
With today’s minorities, becoming the new majority, Ms. Nelson sees the role of multicultural agencies as even more important than when UWG was founded 50 years ago. While a one-size-fits-all marketing campaign might be efficient, it may not be effective according to Ms. Nelson. Thus, her vision for UWG is to continue its history of providing the deep insight, knowledge and cultural nuance that keeps its clients connected to their consumers.
Prior to joining UWG, Ms. Nelson was the global lead for entertainment marketing at Motorola, where she ensured that the technology giants entertainment and music strategies and alliances lived up to their promise as results driven, strategic marketing weapons worldwide. Today, her leadership extends beyond her C-suite at UWG.
Ms. Nelson contributes to many organizations and charities. She sits on the Advertising Week global board, Adweek Diversity and Inclusion Council, The Eagle Academy board, as well as the New York Advisory Board for the Posse Foundation of which she is an alumni. She is a participant in the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing.
Ms. Nelson continues to give back to her undergraduate alma mater by supporting the Vanderbilt on Madison Avenue internship program. She is also a member of the Brooklyn Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. An international, not for profit corporation established in 1946, which is the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organization of extraordinary women who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the cultural and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.
Ms. Nelson has an MBA in international marketing and finance from DePaul University and a bachelor of science degree in Human and Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University. In 2016, she received United Way of New York City’s Women’s Leadership Council’s, Power of Women to Make a Difference Award. Her other distinguished honors include the Network Journals, 25 Influential Black Women Under 40, at ages 40, under 40 and the 2015 Advertising Working Mothers of the Year.
Thank you so much for being here. I am so excited to just have a conversation with you about diversity and inclusion, knowing that you have been in this business for so long. And I just figured I’d start with a question to ask you about, how you got to where you are today? Your own personal story?
Monique Nelson: Okay. I can do a quick and dirty version, born and raised Brooklyn, New York. Left Brooklyn and went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, really enjoyed that. And I went there on the Posse Foundation scholarship, which is a diversity and inclusion scholarship program. So interestingly enough, that’s a fast forward. So, that’s where the journey began.
Left Vanderbilt and went to my first job, which was at International Paper in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. And I lived in a suburb of green Bay, if you can imagine.
Melyssa Barrett: So you picked up and moved to Wisconsin?
Monique Nelson: Correct, yeah.
Melyssa Barrett: Oh! Wow, okay.
Monique Nelson: Came for like two seconds after graduating from Vanderbilt and it was definitely one of those families that was like, “You’re on payroll, so figure it out.” And International Paper offered me a job and they said at the time, “There’s two options. Either you can pick somewhere desirable or you can be somewhere undesirable. And if you work with us, you will have to do an undesirable location at some point.” And I decided to just go ahead and start there.
So I went to Kaukauna, Wisconsin, which was a specialty paper company within the International Paper family. And it was an amazing experience, it really did solidify my love of marketing and sales. And I was able to really learn more than I ever imagined in that environment. Worked on posted notes, worked on… I sold the paper around.
I sold the peanut butter cup holder for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. As a entry level salesperson, you were what they would call, the throwaway salesperson. So every piece of paper I sold eventually got thrown away.
Melyssa Barrett: Interesting.
Monique Nelson: That was a really interesting way to cut your teeth in marketing and understanding the nuance of sales. And that opportunity led me to Chicago and I then ended up moving in 1999 to Motorola, and I took a global brand strategy role there. And that was, as you can imagine, a phenomenal moment to be in technology and certainly in mobile technology.
I can honestly say, we were there in the time when folks were talking about, “Everybody’s going to have one of these.” And I’ll be brutally honest, I didn’t really believe them. I mean, at the time, we had a big micro [inaudible] putting it through to your face. You just couldn’t quite imagine where we are right now, but it was definitely on the road to that.
And technology actually, that’s where I really built my bones around strategy and marketing and really looking at this burgeoning market, and traveling the world, spending a great deal of time in Asia, in Latin America. And one of my longest international stance was in Europe and I lived in Milan, really hard assignments for sure.
My closet is forever grateful. And I always tell people, “My Milan wardrobe keeps me honest with my size because I never ever want to not be able to wear those clothes.”
Melyssa Barrett: I bet.
Monique Nelson: Yeah. So then came back stateside and worked on Rokr, which was the first cell phone with music in it. So it was really the first iPhone in so many iterations, and that was an awesome experience. And then, point in my life where it was like, “Hey, you’ve got to go home at some point.” I’m an only child, moved back to the city.
Motorola did not have a facility here that was hosting marketing or otherwise, so it was time to move to something else. And I spent probably a little under a year looking for an opportunity in New York and ended up interviewing at UniWorld in the fall of 2006, and fell in love with Byron Lewis, the founder. And I joined them in February 2007.
And I worked at UniWorld in different departments, joined as integrated marketing and brand entertainment and as well as being an account director, and just did a bunch of things within the agency. But most importantly, wanting to make sure that they were digital first, because of course having come from this world, I’m like, you know what? Having seen the rest of the world, marketing is no longer going to live in these three places, TV, radio and print.
This little thing, that are getting smaller and smaller and smaller and more powerful, is really where this industry is going. And thankfully, Byron really valued that, valued my vision around that. And I started to get more and more departments that I was working in. And in 2010, we had a real conversation about what my future would be with the organization.
And in that conversation, it came up that I want to succeed him. And in order to succeed him, that means I had to buy the controlling stake of UniWorld Group. And I made two phone calls, I called my parents and I asked them, “What do you think about us buying an advertising agency?” And they were like, “Sure, why not?”
And I made another phone call, which was to my boyfriend who is now my husband. And I said, “Hey, what do you think about buying an advertising agency?” “Sounds good to me.” And I was like, “Okay.” Went back to Byron and said, “All right, let’s do it.” And it took the better part of a year and a half to figure out how to do that because I had no idea how to buy an advertising agency.
So, a crash course in acquisition, investments, talking to no less than 300 meetings, right? Just, what do I do? Who do I talk to? How do I get this done? I mean, it was just consultants and bankers and lawyers, and it was quite a journey. But by May of 2012, we closed and I have now been the chair and CEO of the UniWorld since May of 2012.
Melyssa Barrett: Wow! What a great story, that is phenomenal. I think it gives everybody a trajectory for, you can do what you want to do, even if you don’t have experience with it, you just figure it out along the way and make it happen. So, thanks for being, that’s so inspirational. I’m assuming there were lots of mentors along the way that helped you.
It sounds like Byron may have been one, certainly to get you there. What was that experience like? Were there folks that took you under their wing?
Monique Nelson: Absolutely, every step of the way. I have a mentor who I’ve known since I was in college. A gentleman by the name of Michael Ainslie, he used to be the CEO of Sotheby’s. And he was just clarifying, like just one of those people that you can always look to and have a conversation with. My parents were just insanely open to whatever I wanted, whatever I wanted to try, whatever I wanted to do.
So there’s just something about that exposure and that ability to honestly, fail too. Get out there and fail, pick yourself up, try it again, it wasn’t really… I was a terrible artist. And I remember saying, “I want to do this class, I want to take the class.”
It wasn’t very good and I remember my mother going, “Let’s channel your energy”
Melyssa Barrett: That’s great.
Monique Nelson: Which is awesome. I’ve always been able to deal with truth and everywhere I went, I must say, “I was able to find someone who either I gravitated towards or was able to have an open relationship with and continue that through.” And once I found out what sponsorship meant, then that was another tool in the toolkit to understand that somebody has to advocate for you, and be in that room where you are not.
And one of the markers one of my mentors gave me was, “Decisions about you are made in rooms without you.” And that ultimately means, people have to recognize you, understand your strengths and where you can add value.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes, powerful.
Monique Nelson: Everywhere you go, that’s what you’ve got to find and that’s why a DNA is so important. Because, you need to be able to find that in people that look like you, in people that could feel like you and that’s critical. And I must say, everywhere I went and especially at Motorola, I remember walking into my first day, David Gutman, big shout out to David.
My first day and he gave me a list of three black women in that organization that he wanted me to reach out to.
Melyssa Barrett: Wow!
Monique Nelson: Along with my welcome pack was like, here’s this woman, this woman, this woman, I recommend you reach out. He was like, “As a white male, I don’t know what’s your experience, I want to give you that safety net now.” Again, it just felt normal. So when you figured out and other people didn’t get it, that’s one of the things that’s really important about what we do every day.
And I know there’s been a renewed interest. Maybe I’d call it, a deeper level of understanding and empathy that is being experienced around the world based on a lot of the black experience and certainly other people of color as well. Can you talk a little bit about some of the challenges, and have they changed over time? In terms of what you’re seeing now, compared to maybe what was seen 10 or 15 years ago?
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. And I think, when you started talking about community, he started to create that community for you. And I think a lot of companies today are trying to figure out, how do I focus on inclusion and diversity? What does that look like? And I know UniWorld global being the longest standing multicultural marketing firm in the country, you all have lots of experience about the challenges associated with inclusion and diversity along with solutions for creating it.
Monique Nelson: I mean, yeah. I think like anything, it’s been cyclical in that there’s interest that ebbs and flows. But I think one of the things that’s happening now is, you’ve got a chasm around the demographic shifts. And that demographic shift is not only numbers, but it’s generations.
Melyssa Barrett: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.
Monique Nelson: And what’s happening honestly is that, covered 18 to 35, doesn’t look anything like the 18 to 35 or 10 years ago, or 15 years ago.
Melyssa Barrett: Right.
Monique Nelson: And that’s a significant heads up. And then in this moment, the gravity of that shift is now more obvious than I think it was in the past. We know these challenges have always been here.
Melyssa Barrett: Right, yeah.
Monique Nelson: So the difference right now is, the amplification of it, the fact that we’re all locked in our houses still.
Melyssa Barrett: That makes a difference.
Monique Nelson: We’re still on lockdown.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes.
Monique Nelson: And will be for the foreseeable future, if we want to live because it’s still very real and it should be still very front of mind and top of mind. What’s happening now, which I am hopeful in the regard of, hopeful in, people that are coming with the right meaning and intention, because that’s really going to make the difference.
So the frenzy is great, but we’ve got to have frenzy with order and making sure that we’re attacking the right challenges. We look at it as a three A’s model, we’ve got to acknowledge and assess, then we have to do the appropriate actions and then we have to be accountable. And the challenge right now is making sure that you’re engaging people that want to do all three of those things and not just one.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes, absolutely.
Monique Nelson: Yeah. That’s where we are, we’re seeing that, we are in great client relationships that are looking at this as, “Yeah, we can’t just in and out of this, and we don’t want to just do something fast.” And there’s a lot of sense of urgency right now but this is a process, we’re really talking about business transformation.
Inclusion now has to be a part of your business plan and your business strategy for looking into the future, your P/E ratio depends on it.
Melyssa Barrett: Absolutely. And I think sometimes we forget how lengthy of a process it may be. I think everybody’s looking for, I need to see results right away, but yet this could be a three, five year, 10 year project for sure?
Monique Nelson: Should be.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. And I know you all have some unique opportunities in terms of helping build solutions. Is there anything you can share in terms of, how a company might get started or how they would engage in this area?
Monique Nelson: Sure. I mean, first, you’ve got to do a scan of your organization. None of this is new because you would treat this like any other business initiative. If you were going to go into a new line of business or if you were going to acquire a business, I know enough now. If you want to really take your company in a new direction, you’d probably put a task force on it.
Melyssa Barrett: Absolutely.
Monique Nelson: You would do some research and find out, well, what does that mean? And what will that mean for my business? How would that affect my bottom line? How is that going to affect my current environment? Will it change it? And if so, how? But if this was a life or death business pivot that you had to make in your organization, you would do all steps.
And this is the same thing, we have to figure out what does this mean for your business? And not something that… Again, an assessment process. Let’s figure out how it affects it, how it could help, what if we do something wrong? How does it hurt? You do that SWOT analysis and we would land on that.
And then we put strategies in place, and tactics. We would do all of that work to say, okay, if this is where we’re going, we’d have that ridiculously long spreadsheet, we’d have a project manager like we did for Y2K, I was around for that. And we’d put energy and everyone would have a part to play in terms of how this transformation is going to work, and how this new business is going to affect how we work every day.
Human resource people are involved in, how’s this going to change the culture? What does that mean for how we work? And what does that mean for collaboration and high performing work teams and matrix systems if that comes into play? So you would do that and then of course like with anything, you’d measure whether or not it worked, or how it’s progressing, or what is working or what’s not working?
And if it’s not working, you’re going to go in and you’re going to tweak it. You’re not going to abandon it, you’re going to tweak it.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. And to that point in terms of, because I think there’s a couple of things there with respect to the process. One of which I know I have been vocal about is making sure that you include the community that you’re talking about. Because, I think sometimes people will say, well, I’ll fix it and I’ll let you know how I fixed it as opposed to actually incorporating connections with the community so that the community is actually involved in providing that.
Monique Nelson: Absolutely. That’s where that task force comes into play. That comes with, those are the voices that are going to help you get there, they should be extensions of these advocacy groups.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes.
Monique Nelson: Again, if we’re going to say, we’re going to go after people of color. Well, I hope you have people of color figuring out how to go get them.
Melyssa Barrett: Right, yeah. That would help.
Monique Nelson: That would be.
Melyssa Barrett: It wouldn’t be helpful, especially, I think a lot of times we expand our net and we forget to include folks in the community to help get the community. You don’t want to show up at Howard University and not be able to identify a community of people that are welcoming to your own company, so that’s fantastic.
Are there specific areas in terms of the assessment that you would highlight in terms of, how to get started?
Monique Nelson: Sure. I mean, our organization is very data driven. Some of the things that are really important to us would be things like, your numbers. We do want to understand where you are. I think there is something to be said about, baselining and putting a goal in place. And I’m not talking about numbers and counting people. What are the goals? What are you trying to achieve?
So we would spend some time around your strategies, and what are some of the things you’re trying to achieve over the next five, 10, 15 years? You’re long-term vision, we don’t want to fix something for now. So, it would be a matter of, “Hey, we’d be more than happy to come in and really talk to you about what that strategy looks like.”
We really do want to make it something that is part of what you would do every day. We don’t want it to be that extra work, this shouldn’t be your fourth shift job, we all have enough work. What we want to do is, make the work that you’re doing now, more inclusive. Let’s make it part of the habitual stuff you’re doing, let’s not make it an extra thing.
That’s the way we approach it because we do want it to be sustainable. So that early assessment time is important and we spend quite a bit of time talking to senior management. We do want to understand that commitment level. We do again, want to understand how your organization works and does it quite honestly, and why are some of these things not flowing?
Because most leaders are like, “I’m not trying to have an exclusive organization.” And if they are, then this wouldn’t matter to them. But if you do care, then this is something that you’re trying to figure out, what’s the challenge? And we want to go and identify it and we want to identify it in small pieces.
We can’t eat the elephant, you can only do it one bite at a time. And that is the way we try to work methodically to get you to your goal. And that’s what we do, we see it as a holistic piece, we really are uniquely positioned, we believe to do inside and out. Because, of our 51 years in knowing this consumer, which is also the person that works for you.
Melyssa Barrett: Right.
Monique Nelson: It really does give us that unique position of being able to diagnose what you need to do internally to make yourself a more inclusive culture internally with respect to your brand. But also how does that translate into your outside world? And what does that mean as the demographics change, shift, tastes, in times evolve?
Melyssa Barrett: That’s a great point because I know in a lot of cases, there was a term we used to use, eating our own dog food. When you think about, your internal branding in terms of how that culture is created and nurtured over time can have an extreme effect on what your brand looks like on the outside, as people are out there carrying that ambassador for your company. Let’s pause for a moment, we’ll be right back.
How do employee resource groups or even allies fit into these challenges when you talk about making it part of your every day? Because I think, probably every employee resource group I know, they’re all doing it as a third job. And it’s like, there’s a lot of work to be done and they rarely get recognition or pay or anything associated?
Monique Nelson: Yeah. That’s the part that needs to change.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah.
Monique Nelson: That ERG should be on your evaluation. The work that you’re contributing to that is adding to the contribution of your organization and it shouldn’t be, and if it is, it’s the development job. You should also be scored on the fact that, that’s something that you’re willing to do in service to your organization.
Melyssa Barrett: Right, yeah.
Monique Nelson: Right. It should be part of how you’re evaluated. It should be seen as a stretch assignment because it is real work. Absolutely, I was on the ERG and Motorola, I remember being the one going to the job fairs in addition to doing my job.
Melyssa Barrett: Right. On Saturdays at night
Monique Nelson: And Sundays at night, being at recruiting events and making sure that, yes, Motorola showed up like me. Because, it was important that Motorola show up like me at a black enterprise event.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, definitely.
Monique Nelson: With other black employees at Motorola so that they could say, “Yes, this is a place for you.” Look at our team? And I was honored and proud to do it. But no, it wasn’t something that was on the side. It was absolutely, my department knew I was going, they understood that it was something the organization wanted me to do. And, yes, it counted for me not against me.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Well that’s important because I think that’s a huge shift certainly from the folks that I know of that are working in ERGs. I think, the subject is coming up more often but it’ll be interesting to see how that evolves over the next few years and how companies really provide some of that. Whether it be compensation, recognition at the very least for all that they are doing because I know there’s tons of folks over organizations making a difference.
And they’re just doing it because they know it needs to be done and they love to do it. So then in terms of allies, so there’s been a lot of dialogue. I think just even the fact that people are creating some safe spaces for vulnerability and conversation. I think you probably had at least one with your own staff and employees.
Monique Nelson: I literally got off one.
Melyssa Barrett: I mean, how important are those? And are they things that you’re incorporating into the way you all do business? How does that work?
Monique Nelson: Yeah. No, I’m sorry and I know that was part of the previous question too. [inaudible] but yeah, I mean, our relationship is critical and part of the safe space is to continue that open dialogue and allowing people to express themselves as we go through this uncomfortable transition.
This is stuff that we’ve never talked about at work. We are now all of a sudden telling black people, gay people, Hispanic, Asian, whatever you are to now be vulnerable in a place that you were told forever to never show your emotions.
Melyssa Barrett: Right.
Monique Nelson: And now we have to create a space where that has to stay. You can’t tell people to come out of their shell and then go, sike.
Melyssa Barrett: Right.
Monique Nelson: We just told every person of color to pour their heart out, in most places, at least the places that I’ve worked with. So you can’t stop now, you can’t.
Melyssa Barrett: Because, I think there’s that level of trust, right?
Monique Nelson: Yes, that it has to be there. And I am finding that more and more allies are so engaged in that part because that’s where the community is going to [inaudible], because that’s where you’re going to hear the truth. The truth is so important in this moment and it doesn’t mean an indictment, but it is a truth about this is still a challenge.
No, it’s not fixed yet. No, this what I need from you. And that’s really important and we have to keep that part going. That’s what’s going to carry us through this, is the fact that people will continue to be able to be honest and express themselves. And I mean, not everywhere all the time, that’s why it’s called a safe space
Melyssa Barrett: Not at every meeting?
Monique Nelson: Not every meeting, but it’s the meeting that you can actually go and say, this is still a little messed up, or somebody still hurt my feelings this week, or whatever. And how can I become a better version of myself? And I’m finding organizations doing great work. I’m super proud of my partner at WPP, who’s really been putting these microlearning sessions together.
We’ve been happy to participate and put anti-racism training together and a place to talk about race and people learning a bit about where this all came from and that we can dismantle something that was a figment, a myth. This is all built on a myth, so we have to go in and deconstruct that myth, but we’ve got to know where it came from.
But most of the time, I’m seeing more allies showing up in that space willing to lean in, which is the part that, again, I think was probably missing on so many levels. The last go round or it was there, but then it was lost somewhere in between. But we’re all in this together and it’s important that we all understand where we came from so that we can do a real comprehensive fix.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Even with respect to, because I think everybody comes to this from a little bit of a different place in terms of, whether it be their own guilt about understanding just their own privilege. Maybe they weren’t quite aware of how privileged they were and how challenging it has been for people of color.
I mean, where do you start with that? Because I think in some cases they’ve been conversations about, increasing levels of representation by lots of different companies and certainly they can do it in a variety of ways. But it seems like maybe there’s been a lot of focus on inclusion and diversity over the last say five years and we’re still struggling to get representation.
So I don’t know, I think that was probably few different questions?
Monique Nelson: Cool, I mean, okay. Again, and you’ll find me repetitive in that, you can do stuff or you can be intentional. And the problem with just counting, which is what it sounds like, you’re just going to get more people, your environment still sucks. Sometimes part of the reason people aren’t there is because they don’t feel comfortable.
So you can continue to march people through, and they’re going to walk in the front door and right out the back because it’s not comfortable, nobody’s made any accommodation. I got a question the other day that said, what do you do when you’re bringing the first one in? What if we aren’t all in whatever environment? And actually, I went through this.
I remember when I bought UniWorld, one of our offices was all black. I thought it was weird, I really did. I said, “This is strange. We should have more points of view in this organization.” I said, “We need more perspectives even though this particular assignment was an African American assignment.”
I said, “I don’t want to only know how African Americans feel about an African American assignment because we live amongst other people too.” Like this is weird. And I remember getting pushed back because, I don’t understand, it’s the same thing. And I remember hiring the first white guy and I spent a tremendous amount of time telling him, he was going to integrate an office.
You’re the first white person to be here, I really don’t know. But let me tell you the resources to ensure that I’m going to put in place to ensure that, you’re not the last. We want more other people in our organization and I need you to work, I need this to work. So we had to put stuff in place to make sure that the white guy felt good. It’s the same thing.
Melyssa Barrett: Right?
Monique Nelson: If you’re going to do that and you know that your environment has never been inclusive, how are you expected to make it stick? You’ve got to put some other things in place. You’re just going to have to.
Melyssa Barrett: And so you alluded to some training and other things, are those the types of things when we’re talking about, whether it be unconscious bias training or other things? Are you thinking that those are items that should be required or how does that actually get executed?
Monique Nelson: Sure. I think that should be part of everybody’s onboarding. If this is part of what you’re doing, especially in the foreseeable future. If that’s what you’re trying to do, I mean, what’s happening is the fact that, we need to get everybody up to speed as to what this feels like, looks like.
And I remember there was a time when training was inclusive of that. That part of your cultural indoctrination in an organization meant that you went through certain trainings. And really in service to the values of the organization, that’s what it should be. When everybody’s values are all very lofty and aspirational, we serve the world, we’re saving this, we’re doing… So they’re always very big.
And if that is the case, then that should be a part of how an organization onboard’s you. And those values should come through that onboarding. So yes, I think training is a continual effort. And if this is part of what we call, inclusive leadership, everybody should be a part of being inclusive and what are those skills?
We really do want to make sure that it’s applied to how you do your work every day and how that’s going to improve how your teams work and ensure their high performing and productive. We believe training needs to be thoughtful in terms of how it’s going to affect your team. And for some environments, click the button works but it usually doesn’t work for stuff that’s culture based.
Melyssa Barrett: Right.
Monique Nelson: I’m good for click the button for data entry or, here’s how you do your expense report. But that’s really tough when it comes to, how do I get a team to work effectively together that are on six different continents? And have multiple challenges around product delivery. Click the button is not going to help that situation, that inclusion.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. That’s a great, great point, because I think when you think about culture and identity as a whole, it is really the core of you. And so, when you’re moving around to different locations or corporations, it can be challenging. So when you’re thinking about, we’ve talked a little bit about, casting a wider net to try to incorporate representation.
But obviously, there’s a lot of focus on retention and development. And you spent some time talking about development and how people can move up within a company. And it seems like every time I have a conversation, there is some sort of middle that happens and there’s something going on in the middle of the organization where the top and the bottom think they’re on the same page, but getting up through the organization seems to be more difficult?
Monique Nelson: Ooh! The frozen middle.
Melyssa Barrett: Are their strategies that companies can think about? How do you break that ice there?
Monique Nelson: Ooh! That frozen middle, that career level, that hard sensor is a very interesting space. It is a total part of organizational dynamics and we really believe that they deserve a WIIFM which is the, what’s in it for me?
Melyssa Barrett: Absolutely.
Monique Nelson: The WIIFM is critical. You have to figure out how people who are sitting in the in between positions because they’re too big to be small, too small to be big, but they’re valued. You’ve got to find value from them and a lot of times that’s the consternation there is because they’re not being utilized, and not being rewarded or acknowledged for their work at that level. Because, the senior people are getting paid, that’s all it is.
The junior people are like, “I’m so happy to be here, this is awesome.” And these are the people that are doing the work.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah.
Monique Nelson: Either they’re trained and the ones that need them or they’re giving it up to the ones above them and you’ve got to figure out how they get there’s and how do we reward them for being the conduits? Because, the organization doesn’t work without them. I mean, I was in the work force when they cut middle-management out, and you know what happened? Nothing.
Melyssa Barrett: Right. Where did our productivity go?
Monique Nelson: Who did that? Ben, did you just let go like, 20,000 of them? So they have to have a reason to believe too, and sometimes those reasons are different. So we now have to align the fact that yes, senior level, very clear, junior level, usually very clear, but the middle is usually very collegial.
And you’ve got to start to give value and give reasons to believe so that people can then move the organization forward. And you can do that, but you’ve got to figure out what that WIIFM is. And it may not be what you think it is, it could be time, it could be access, it could be education.
Melyssa Barrett: And I’m assuming that loops right back around to your assessment process?
Monique Nelson: Yeah. Got to find out from the people. At some point you’ve got to talk to the people.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. That is awesome. I mean, I have truly enjoyed this conversation. I feel like I could talk to you for weeks on end and you have all these nuggets and morsels of wisdom. So thank you so much for sharing with us today. And I look forward to continuing to watch UniWorld global as you are in fact leading in setting the stage all over the world for the standard on inclusion and diversity.
So I thank you so much for the work that you are doing and your teams are doing. I know you’re massively busy and I so much appreciate the time that you spent.
Monique Nelson: Thank you so much. And I love the fact that you have renamed us Uniworld global, I think I’m going to do that.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s who you are, right? Did I say the name wrong?
Monique Nelson: It’s just UniWorld Group but I’ll go with global.
Melyssa Barrett: Oh! I like global.
Monique Nelson: I like global too.
Melyssa Barrett: I think you’re already there, so what can I say? It was a [inaudible] slip maybe for you. Awesome. Well, thank you again.
Monique Nelson: Thank you Melyssa. You guys are awesome.
Melyssa Barrett: Thanks for joining me on The Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.