Sonia Cochet is Head of People and Talent at Gate One. The company is a boutique management consulting firm specialising in business transformation. Gate One employs around 120 people in London and is opening up offices in France, the US and Ireland.
Sonia joined the company two years ago. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) have always been a focus. They run an all staff quarterly away day where the topic is the focus, tackling questions like, ‘What does DE&I means for each of us?’ and ‘How can we be better allies?’
Gate One had a general annual plan for DE&I focused on education and awareness, attraction and recruitment, and progression and development. Sonia contacted Toby following the global focus on racial discrimination and inequality sparked by the killing of George Floyd. DE&I had accelerated up the agenda at Gate One’s parent company, the global marketing and communications agency Havas Group which has a big presence in the US.
As part of that family, some DE&I targets and metrics were introduced at Gate One. These included increasing the diversity of the workforce and removing hurdles for people from marginalised backgrounds and women in leadership positions.
As an HR generalist, Sonia wanted input from someone external with expertise and experience. Toby was recommended as an expert in the field to another leader at Gate One. Sonia got in touch.
The first task Toby suggested was to survey staff and set a baseline. There was a good response to the survey. This helped Sonia understand how inclusive the culture felt, how the team were feeling about DE&I and actions in the space. A baseline gives leaders like Sonia insight into what needs to improve.
Sonia said, ‘Toby followed up and complemented that survey by doing listening groups, which generated qualitative data which was useful. We presented the results to the whole team, with Toby leading a specific session for our Exco team. That was the starting point to refine our plan.’
The Power of a Bespoke DE&I Plan
Organisations may have generic plans that could have worked anywhere. Toby’s work with Gate One provided the business with a targeted plan specific to their needs. Sonia added, ‘That’s important for us at Gate One. We want people to feel really included and that they belong, that they’ve been listened to and that they can do their best work on day one. Now with a targeted plan we know how best to do that, achieve that for our people.’
Toby’s involvement with Gate One and the links made with the DE&I managing partner sponsor has also influenced the culture. Sonia described the importance of this saying DE&I ‘has permeated through everything’. She reflected on the micro-work going on, which filters through everything from recruitment, team events, and our performance management in appraisals. Sonia described this as a ‘real shift’.
Working with Toby
Sonia describes working with Toby as a partnership approach, where she could call on him for his expertise and feedback. His style is developmental and consultative. For example, Toby might say to me, ‘What you’ve done is great, but to take it to the next level, how about trying this? Working with Toby is definitely future-focused and positive.’