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Diversity in the modern agency landscape – a practical guide

June 03 2016

There is a rather sad fact that the higher you look up the organisational tree of many creative, advertising and communications agencies, that diversity becomes diluted. 

Changes have been made in recent times and we have seen a far greater and diverse mix of ages, sexes and ethnic backgrounds represented.  But more needs to be done and not just in the boardroom. 

What’s required today is for agencies to consider what diversity means for their own agency and offer.

As we have said, a new definition of agency diversity is required - What does diversity mean in modern agency terms? 

By the very nature of the creative agency – diversity needs to be a true reflection of society, encouraging people from all walks of life into every layer of the agency.

Take action:  Diversity and the need for change within your own organisation will be unique to your agency.  Examine the need and benefit of greater diversity by looking at the mix and make-up of clients, brands and agency teams and aspiration of the agency.  Look ahead, consider the changes and requirements over the next 3-5 years.  What benefit could diversity bring to the creative, managerial or agency process?

Avoiding classic and cultural pitfalls - The ‘White Ad Man’ had become the norm and too often hiring strategies simply meant hiring versions of themselves, there by perpetuating a vicious circle.

How can we address this to encourage more diversity?  The IPA made a call for 40% of senior leaders to be women by 2020 – will this be enough to enhance business success and fresh thinking?

There is a need, especially within some agencies, to change culture.  Aggressive, macho environments which celebrate long hours, force ‘presenteeism’ and inflexible working practices.  These cultures don’t reflect the workplace needs of many today, isolating and precluding people. What cultural changes must your agency address?

Take action: Look at what meaningful initiatives are working and what new ones are required.  Avoid diversity being just a nice to have short-term idea.  Build it into the centre of the agency culture.  This may require bold decisions to totally restructure the agency to reflect humanity.

Finally, if you have been motivated and want to take action, here are some further five practical approaches to talent and recruitment to build in diversity into the agency:

1.    STOP doing the same thing within recruitment.  Change behaviour now.  Work with search consultants who pro-actively focus on identifying diverse shortlists.

2.    Consider how working hours could be adapted to foster greater creativity, to encourage working mums or to allow ‘own project’ time.

3.    Consider whether it is time to scrap “graduate schemes” where not only graduates but “red brick” graduates are selected creating homogeny from the bottom up in agencies?

4.    Examine when was the last time you hired or worked alongside a person with a disability, was LGBT or did not have a degree? But most importantly consider the skills, ideas and perspectives this would bring to the agency skillset.

5.    Create an agency environment and culture which is open and allows people to bring their ‘whole-self’ to work.

Successfully bringing diversity in the agency environment will deliver a competitive advantage in the form of richer, broader and more authentic work.

To hear more about The Blueprint’s approach to building and attracting talent diversity in the agency, contact Gareth on gareth@theblueprint.co.uk