Finding diverse talent is easy - there’s a bevy of schemes to help you. But retaining that talent is when it gets hard.
For many agencies, the last few years have seen a (much-needed) drive for greater diversity in their recruitment. Whether they are aiming for more female leaders or to attract junior talent from non-traditional backgrounds, the emphasis has been on moving away from a middle class, white Mad Men image of marketing.
Commercial Break was created in 2012 by Susie Burdekin and James Hillhouse to provide a pathway for working class juniors into agencies. In the last 8 years, they have seen a number of Commercial Breakers (some shown in the photo) join agencies of all shapes and sizes. But too many have quickly become disillusioned; plagued by feelings that the industry wasn’t for people like them.
Susie and James have therefore shared their experience of where agencies have missed a trick and how businesses can ensure they are more likely to create a truly diverse team that allows everybody to bring their whole self to work.
Audit yourself, hard
This all starts with you. Put simply, you have to audit the fuck out of yourselves. Garner honest perspectives and concerns from your staff.
Figure out the issues that exist within your operation that are going to make you fail or succeed. It’s a big, time-consuming piece of work. If it sounds too hard, then that might tell you whether you should be doing it at all.
How well are you set up for diversity? What do you need to change?
Diversity is a really baggy term. If a client used it, we’d immediately nail them on it.
So, what do you really want to do? Do you want to attract more black talent? Do that. Is your focus autistic talent? Great, do that. But don’t ever say, ‘we want more diverse people’, because that’s a group that just doesn’t exist.
What do you really mean by "more diversity"?
Disband your D&I team
We might lose you with this one, granted. But unless your D&I team is the most powerful voice in your agency, shut it down. Now. Then put your D&I effort at the heart of the agency, and make it a collective focus. This is no longer an agency initiative, it’s your agency.
How powerful a voice does your D&I team have in the business?
We're leaving recruitment to fourth, because it’s absolutely one of the last things you should do. And here’s some advice, when you do recruit, recruit big. Don’t get in one or two people. You’re better than tokenism. Replace your grad scheme. Get in 5. Get in 10. If all you ever get is a drip feed, nothing will ever really change. Jump start it instead.
How many people are you going to recruit?
Hold yourselves to account
You are going to get things wrong. But worse, you are going to get things wrong that you think you’ve got right. You need to be held to account. And not by yourself, but by someone independent. Get yourself some hard truths once a quarter. You might not like what you hear, but each review will make you better.
How will you track progress? How will you keep each other to account when the pitch deadline is looming?
We have a golden opportunity in our hands right now. But if we rush into it without due care and attention then we’ll let it slip through our fingers before we’ve even started.
Let’s not just do this, let’s do it right.
Susie Burdekin and James Hillhouse are the Founders of Commercial Break