Published in News Features
Lack of diversity is one of the biggest issues threatening the advertising industry today. Not only does this challenge the credibility of the industry, it also means that businesses themselves are not being run as effectively as they could be. Research from McKinsey has proven that diverse businesses deliver 35% better results than non-diverse businesses.
For much of my career in advertising, I have been part of a management team consisting primarily of white university-educated men, with the addition of the odd token woman. In the past, I justified my hiring policy by saying that I have always hired the best person for the job, but I have come to realise how short-sighted this is. This is why I've spent the last few years to finding new and better ways to solve the diversity issue.
How do you hire a diverse workforce?
My advice first and foremost would be to consider each hire based on the value they can add to the team, rather than simply in a specific role. It is not always about hiring the best person for the role, rather the best person for the team as a whole. If you have gaps in diversity, then task those who are filling the role with finding candidates who can fill those gaps. Make it compulsory for all roles to have a shortlist that at least contains one strong male candidate and one strong female candidate.
Review every stage of your recruitment process. What kind of job profile do you send out? It is commonly quoted that female candidates only apply for jobs if they think they fulfil 100% of the requirements (whereas men will apply if they fulfil 60%). Avoid advertising a role based on meeting an extensive list of previous experience and focus on what they need to achieve in the future.
Finally, ensure that you have built an environment where everyone can thrive and have a voice within the business.
Go against your bias - and teach others to do the same
The first thing you need to do is get people to understand that they have unconscious bias. Get them to take the test developed by Harvard. Making people conscious of it is the first step, then offer them training and implement processes that seek to rid them of bias.
Be aware of the fact that most people will unconsciously hire someone in their own image. Encourage others to look for complementary, varied skill sets that will make the team stronger.
Make it as easy as possible for parents to thrive in the business. Only hold meetings between 10am and 4pm and never go to the pub after a meeting as it excludes parents from the conversation that is certain to continue afterwards. Ban sending emails between 6pm and 8am and offer everyone flexible working if it is suitable for their job role.
Work out what skills and attributes are missing from your current team
Keep a database at every level to measure how well you are doing. make it part of the board agenda to review this on a regular basis and understand changes that need to happen. Obviously the first place to look is at the board itself. There is no silver bullet at senior level, although I believe it is no longer acceptable to have an all-male board. Bring on non-executives if you have to and make it part of their role to help increase diversity at board level.
Ultimately, culture change is never easy. But if you challenge everyone in the organisation to constantly look at ways to both attract minorities and ensure they can thrive, you will soon see positive change within your business.