How we created and evolved our Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Charter for Change

People & Culture

In this blog, Lucy Doubleday, Managing Partner and Kate Corrie, Head of People and Culture share how they have evolved our Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Charter for Change.

We all know that advertising has a problem with diversity. When it comes to representation, the industry as a whole has repeatedly shown to be in a state of inequality.

In 2018, while we recognised the importance and benefits of having a diverse team, we didn’t always have a consistent approach to achieving this. We had grown quickly and relied on word of mouth or recommendations from our team when it came to hiring, and we had a lot of interest in being involved in D&I initiatives, but little structure.

We realised that to build an inclusive and representative team, we had to change. We began thinking about recruitment differently. We started making changes such as cracking down on nepotism by stopping casual work placements.

We then formalised the actions we’d been taking (and added new ones), and held ourselves accountable for progress, through creating and publishing our first official Diversity & Inclusion Charter for Change, a three year programme of action.

Fast forward to 2021, and we decided the Charter would not run for a three year period, but a one year period. The three year cycle was just too long – the shorter time frame allows us to maintain momentum and share more regular progress with the team. The Charter would include a fresh set of ambitions, across our People, Culture and Work – and would ask existing and new clients to agree to certain behaviours.

This is the current structure of our Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Charter for Change – and it’s safe to say that it’s been a process of continuous evolution. Here are the key learnings that we’ve gathered along the way.

Roles and responsibilities have to be crystal clear

Initially, members of the leadership team ran different areas of the Charter, but this resulted in a case of ‘too many cooks’ who had busy day jobs. We’ve learned from this, streamlined and re-focused the management of the programme – roles and responsibilities are now incredibly clear. Our CEO Jim Coleman signs the Charter and stays actively involved with the initiatives, and we now have a single overall owner – Kate Corrie (Head of People & Culture) – supported by Lucy Doubleday (Managing Partner). We’ve launched more employee resource groups to ensure the business is closer to the experiences of the different groups represented in the agency, but ultimately all actions are being driven from a central point. We’re also very clear with what is mandated in terms of agency participation – some training sessions like unconscious bias, for example, have to be undertaken by everyone.

Data is important, but it’s not everything

We started off with a heavy focus on data and numbers – targeting certain percentages when it comes to representation, for example. We realised a few things quite quickly here – first we needed really great initial data sets to work with in order to effectively track progress, so we had to improve our data collection process across the agency. And secondly, while specific targets are important (and we still include these), so are broader cultural activities – inclusion should be woven into the fabric of the agency, not just given as a numerical target on a piece of paper.

You will need help

We tried at first to do too much on our own, but eventually realised we would benefit from some help in some areas. There are some great partners and organisations out there. For example, in year three of the Charter, we felt we needed to overhaul the way we recruited. We worked with the excellent Jennie Child at Balance who really unpicked our recruitment process from an objective position. We’ve also had some excellent external speakers who’ve come in to educate and inspire the agency, such as Lisa Power MBE, Marvin Sordell and Kim Erin Cowley. But it’s important to find the right people – there are lots of trainers and speakers who talk a good game but don’t deliver. Be thorough with your vetting process before bringing anyone in. As a starting point, the IPA holds excellent conferences and has good resources to lean into, including its annual agency census.

You’re never finished!

When we assess the Charter and our goals each year we do share both the achievements and where we have more work to do with the agency, but it’s not a case of ever feeling like we’ve ‘completed’ it. It’s about continuous evolution. There’s always more that can be done both internally and in the wider industry. For example, we re-launched our Upstarts programme last year to help bring people from broader socioeconomic backgrounds into advertising, and it’s still very much in the initial stages – when we reach the goals we’ve currently set, it’ll be time to set more ambitious ones.

We’re so proud that E,D&I now runs throughout the agency – perhaps not seamlessly at all times, but it’s certainly a part of our culture and drives our business performance too. At a time when clients are requesting evidence of D&I actions as part of RFIs, it’s good to be in a place where we can share initiatives and proof of progress. It’s taken a lot of effort to get here, and also a lot of honesty with ourselves and our colleagues. But we know that inclusion and representation at every level is key to building an agency where our people thrive, and our clients benefit from the best possible work.

This piece was originally published on Creative Brief here.