Keywords Studios’ Group Director, Client Service Delivery & Capability Trina Marshall, who is also a leading light in International Dog Rescue voluntarily in her own time, has been considering the importance of advocates and allies in the workplace, whether being a strong advocate or ally is an intrinsic personality trait and how companies can better attract and nurture the advocates and allies they already have and are yet to hire. She talks to Women in Games…

You’ve suggested that those who are effective advocates and allies in the workplace very often are also involved in advocacy and allyship outside of the workplace. What do you mean by that?
After another demanding weekend volunteering for the not-for-profit dog rescue organisations I support, I got to pondering why the strongest advocates and allies I have known at work have also been advocates and allies for others (human or otherwise) in their private life.

This led me to idly question in my own head whether being a strong advocate or ally is something that forms part of one’s own moral compass, and therefore a trait that you naturally bring with you into every setting. Or, whether it is something that you take on in one area of your life and then transfer to other areas?

I concluded, from my own personal point of view, that it’s a character trait that is so strong that once you feel safe to be your authentic self, you bring your desire to advocate and be an ally into every aspect of your life – it’s like a hidden motor that drives you.

Why should businesses care?
Many organisations now realise, and are starting to acknowledge through direct action, that fostering workplace cultures that are inclusive and diverse can only be a good thing. This relates to attracting and retaining the best talent, uncovering new dimensions of creativity, and driving innovation to name but a few advantages of a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

To be successful in an organisational Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) mission, I would argue that you need a highly effective distributed cohort of natural advocates and allies in your workforce to assist in motivating and sustaining your organisational DEIB objectives and efforts at scale.

How could a business attract more of this kind of professional, to support them in their organisational DEIB mission and encourage them to continue their advocacy work outside?
If I think back to when I created my first resume some decades ago now, I was told to include ‘hobbies and interests’ at the end as it was important – but nobody could really tell me why.

Then, as I progressed in my career, and became a hiring manager myself, I always found myself going straight to the end of a resume. I was eager to understand what motivated people to put effort into something whether inside or outside of work, as I found it to be a key ingredient to being able to identify the right candidates to curate and sustain highly motivated and successful multi-dimensional teams.

I adopted, and still do, a ‘whole person-centred approach’ to hiring. In simple terms, it means being interested in the whole person, not just their work-related achievements and capabilities. By taking this approach, it was easier to identify candidates who are practicing or seeking to become effective advocates and allies on behalf of others in the workplace as a natural extension of who they are outside of the workplace.

I’m not naïve though, as I know for much talent, being ready to bring their whole selves to both their professional and private lives is either a journey in progress or not yet even started and their ability to advocate may need some focused nurturing.

So, to not miss out on that hidden or emerging advocacy and allyship talent, organisations in hiring mode must make a concerted effort to demonstrate that the prevailing culture is one which is ‘safe’ and one where you’re encouraged to explore and build on a path to advocacy.

What can businesses do to encourage individuals to feel safe, to advocate on behalf of others?
Organisations need to invest in creating opportunities and experiences which foster a culture where it’s ok to share, as openly as you are willing to, details about your advocacy and allyship work both in and outside of the workplace.

Colleagues individually and collectively have a role to play in leading by example and taking the time to showcase the amazing advocacy and allyship talent that exists within the company, and saying, ‘we love having advocates and allies in our organisation because they bring so many dimensions to everything that they do!’.

Social media is a great tool to bring spotlights to human stories evidencing that it’s okay to advocate…in fact it’s positively encouraged!

Within Keywords Studios, what do you do across the group to support these individuals?
Alongside my primary role at Keywords Studios, I am heavily involved in developing our Group Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging strategy. As part of our DEIB programme for example we have the Global Women at Keyword Studios Affinity Group and the Strategic Partnership with the Women in Games organisation – supporting, sponsoring and encouraging Individual Ambassadors within our own organisation, as well as beyond.

Recently, I opened and participated in the Women in Games’ Individual Ambassador Only event in May and one of my favourite sessions was the speed networking. Initially, I was full of trepidation, but I pushed myself and jumped in headfirst. I went on to meet some incredibly insightful people all individually shining advocates for all Women in Games, willing to share their stories and to hear others.

Keyword Studios also has a pretty extensive Keywords Cares programme that works with teams and individuals in and outside of the organisation who might be partnering with a charity, or fund raising to advocate for others. The team or individual can submit a qualifying project and Keywords Studios will match donations.

We also have a great Community and Social Engagement programme as one of our ESG pillars. For example, we recently planted 25,000 trees to celebrate Keywords’ 25th anniversary, which is all about advocating for the environment and the local communities that will flourish as part of that process.

As part of my primary role as Group Director of Client Service Delivery & Capability, my primary focus is to advocate on behalf of our key Client accounts. In that role, I aim to be the voice of the client when they’re not in the room which is hugely important when they’re trusting you with elements of their game development!

In summary, without people to collaborate with who are equally passionately motivated by the notion of advocacy on behalf of others, all of those things I’ve just described would be so much harder to create and sustain momentum in.

If you were to give three pieces of advice to the Women in Games Individual Ambassadors, some of whom will be in the early stages of their careers, what would you say to them about advocacy and allyship?
Be yourself! Even at my time of life, I’m still working that one out. However, as I’ve got older it’s got easier to reconcile with who you are and to consciously create space for self-advocacy.

Focus on outcomes that improve the experience of others as a highly rewarding endeavour. Those outcomes can be in your private or professional life. If you have a deep passion, are involved in voluntary work or fund raising, make time to fill your life with more than your work.

Make sure to encourage others as you grow on your own journey. Look behind you at all times and make a point to bring others along with you. Before you know it, you will have a community with you and your force for good will be amplified.