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How to build a more diverse workforce

Diversity has to be an innate part of the recruitment process, says McCann Worldgroup's head of talent, in this exclusive interview with The Great & The Good

Robert Stone, head of talent, McCann Worldgroup
Robert Stone, head of talent, McCann Worldgroup

Robert Stone is McCann Worldgroup’s head of talent. In an interview with Emma Love, founding partner of The Great & The Good, Robert shares his insight and advice on how to build a more diverse workforce.

Robert, what does a diverse workplace look like in your eyes?

To us, diversity isn’t a box-ticking and quota-checking exercise. It has to be an innate part of our recruitment process that aims to attract a broad representation of people, not just limited to gender, race and religion but also drawing from social, economic and geographically-varied backgrounds.

Diversity has been a hot topic for some time, when did you start thinking about it and why is it important?

Diversity in some guise or another has been part of our conversation for as long as we can remember – it’s been an evolving topic over the last few years and it’s encouraging to see that there are some powerful organisations within the industry that are now affecting positive change.

What is McCann London doing to embrace diversity?

We believe that building talent from the bottom up is the way to do this effectively, otherwise we are still recruiting from the same limited pool as all the other agencies. We participate in a number of internship schemes that help us to recruit from varied backgrounds: Miami Ad School, IPA’s STEM programme and the Art Against Knives charity.

We are also launching a few initiatives to attract a more diverse workforce, such as Open Hour, in which our senior management devote an hour a week to Skype with anyone interested in entering the industry. We’re not just targeting the usual university grad route through this initiative, but aiming to increase the pool of background and life experience by targeting schools for pupils who wouldn’t necessarily have considered a career in advertising, or job centres for those wanting a career change who have valuable experience gained in a different industry.

But we also believe that much of this is about creating an open culture based on honesty that allows our employees to achieve the best of their potential in a supportive environment. You can have all the initiatives in the world, but if the basic culture doesn’t support that then they won’t be successful.

McCann London's campaign for L'Oreal True Match Foundation

McCann London's latest campaign for L'Oréal True Match foundation

How does a diverse workforce benefit McCann London and your clients?

Immeasurably! If we can’t truly understand the client’s customer, then we give ourselves a far greater challenge in delivering truly effective work. Ultimately, a diverse workforce produces a stronger, more effective product.

What are the key challenges around diversity that agencies are facing?

The pace of change is always going to be a challenge that needs managing. Understandably, people want change yesterday. But in reality, building an effective solution that will work in the long-term takes time. Also, in recruiting a geographically diverse workforce, you can’t escape the fact that London is an expensive place to live! There has to be a strong incentive to attract potential talent who hadn’t previously considered living here.

How do you know if you have a diverse workforce?

We need to look at the metrics by which we measure diversity. This is something we are in constant discussion about and, in my view, will be an ongoing assessment of the background of our workforce versus the quality of the work we are delivering for our clients. I’m not sure we can ever reach the point at which we put our feet up and say ‘Job done’.

What practical advice can you give agencies about embracing diversity?

To regularly assess your workforce and, most importantly, your recruitment methods. There’s no point in casting your net in all the same places time and time again and then wondering why you can’t reach your diversity goals.


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