How to entrench diversity into your business

Diversity is not a tick-box exercise. It's important to define your strategy and entrench diversity into your business

On 31 January 2017, Hanson Search hosted an event at The Ivy on the value diversity - how to entrench it into your business. The event brought together media, digital, and talent experts Andrew Mason, former Head of Client Services at Havas, Annette Frem – Founder & Consultant, The Changement Consultancy; Jennifer Gabrielle-Chapman – Group Talent Manager, GroupM; and Beckie Akers - HR Director, Cohn & Wolfe, EMEA; all of whom are experimenting with new approaches to equality and diversity. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to building a more diverse workforce. It must be aligned with your business. Our panellists discussed different approaches and their various challenge and impacts on business, providing practical tips for anyone to adapt and replicate.

Understanding the value of a more diverse workforce

One thing the panel agreed on was that diversity isn’t something that is ‘nice to have’, it is imperative. Beckie Akers noted that a robust approach to diversity had seen her company’s talent base improve at all levels, saying “We’re seeing the value in pitches and our agency is doing really well. It’s certainly not a tick box exercise, it’s really showing business results.” And the key to getting a business on board with diversity is delineating what your business wants to achieve from it and making sure everyone understands just why it is so important. It’s all about approaching the issue in the right way. Annette Frem explained: “It must be anchored to a specific need. Senior stakeholders have to see it as business-critical in order to drive things forward.”

Developing a diverse business

The panel was happy to share tips on how to make vision become reality. According to Jennifer Gabrielle-Chapman, GroupM draws in diverse talent through their ‘open door’ recruitment process, which lets anyone come in for an interview regardless of qualifications and actively works to remove other, perhaps less subtle, barriers such as training in ‘unconscious bias’. “People know what they know, but they don’t know what they don’t know. The training is about ensuring that things like bias don’t become second nature without people even realising it.” Similarly, Beckie Akers described how Cohn and Wolfe re-branded its grad scheme as an “entry scheme” in order to broaden its appeal and deployed SEO to reach a different audience. Considering the circumstances of your audience is also important, she said: “We pay the living wage for internships so that these opportunities are never a matter of whether you can afford to do it, but whether you’re capable of doing it.” Beckie also suggested using blind CVs so those reading them will see a person’s credentials, not their background.

Finding a partnership that works

External partners can also be helpful. Cohn and Wolfe works with a partner to encourage BAME graduates to pursue a career in communications through mentoring. These kinds of initiatives can help you build a diversity pipeline – bringing strong diverse talent into your business at the entry level. “I think it’s about finding a partnership that will work,” Beckie explained. “Organisations like Digital Mums [or The Work Crowd], for example, are a great way of drawing mothers back into the workforce after maternity leave. There are lots of organisations that could suit, it’s just about finding the right one.”

Changing the way we think about talent acquisition

No matter how passionate about diversity a business is, there are undoubtedly challenges that remain out of their control. Many of these pivot around reputation issues. Our panel agreed that it is important to move away from the idea that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ if we’re ever going to build the diverse workforce we need. —

How can we help?

If you are looking for the best talent in your industry, please don’t hesitate to contact me via LinkedIn or on alicew@hansonsearch.com for a confidential discussion.

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Author: Alice Weightman

As Founder and CEO, Alice established Hanson Search in 2002 and has since gained a reputation as one of the leading search professionals in senior appointments across communications, developing an incredible network globally.

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