by Marcus Ryder, following the announcement of ScreenSkills D&I Playbook

Setting targets are important but to be effective should be different for every organisation.

What does success look like?

What are we trying to achieve?

The idea of businesses having S.M.A.R.T. goals is part of the foundation of management training programmes across the world.

Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

To put it more colloquially when it comes to media diversity it is important to ask ourselves the questions; “What does success look like?” and “What are we trying to achieve?”

Central to this is setting targets that will both enable us to form relevant policies to achieve them and enable us to measure whether we are progressing in the right direction or going backwards.

A new Inclusion and Diversity Playbook from ScreenSkills in association with the University of Glasgow, is an important intervention in an ongoing debate around the targets the media industry uses when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

It sets out clear and transparent reasoning in how organisations should think about setting targets and the metrics they should use.

Importantly I think the playbook should be a road map for how we set targets as opposed to what the targets and metrics should be. This is because every organisation – even ones in the same industry – will have different goals and be trying to achieve different things. For example, ScreenSkills plays an incredibly important role in the media industry focusing on training, this however will be different from a broadcaster who’s primary focus may be on producing television programmes.

In the former the best metrics and targets to measure success with regards to training may be around “head count” diversity and employee numbers. When it comes to broadcasters however the best metrics to use may be percentage share of a company’s salary spend, or percentage of production spend on types of programmes.

There will be times when it is more important for an organisation to focus on intersectionality and times when targets around one particular characteristic will require attention.

Finally when setting targets and metrics to measure success and inform policy we must be careful that we do not confuse targets with strategy a phenomenon called “surrogation”, an issue that Professor Bill Tayler at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business has written extensively on,

Taylor, writing in the Harvard Businees Review in 2019 explained “We all know that metrics are inherently imperfect at some level. In business the intent behind metrics is usually to capture some underlying intangible goal—and they almost always fail to do this as well as we would like.”

In this regards he does not advise on not setting targets and metrics, but recognising that you will need multiple targets and metrics to inform policy and measure success. And they need to be revisited regularly as businesses are dynamic and the environment they operate in changes.

For too long, as an industry we have given little thought about the targets we set and the intellectual underpinning that forms them. I hope the ScreenSkills playbook is the first step in the media industry interrogating underlying assumptions and asking ourselves those all important question; Why do we need diversity and inclusion? And what does success look like?

For me that is why this playbook is critical reading for anyone working to improve diversity in the media industry as it forces us to look again at the work that we do and how we do it.


Pippa Considine

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