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Talent Management Team of the Year 2020: Kelly Knight and Sarah Bauer

The pair truly believe in their ethos of 'happy people make great work'.

Talent Management Team of the Year 2020: Kelly Knight and Sarah Bauer

HR director and learning and development director, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

It was not so much the breadth of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s talent management that so impressed the judges, but rather that each of the areas that falls under the remit of the agency’s two HR leaders was so "impressive in its own right".

"Happy people make great work" is the ethos underpinning the team, under HR director Knight and learning and development director Bauer, one that’s realised through "striving to embrace diversity in all its forms". Aptly then, Knight’s own team spans three generations, is 50% BAME and comprises people from a range of socio-economic backgrounds.

Agency-wide, a partnership with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity London, which nurtures talent among students from ethnic minorities and those from low socio-economic backgrounds, is in its sixth year. And, as Stonewall Diversity Champions, in 2019 AMV ensured all its policies were gender-neutral, it recognises the modern-day family in all its incarnations and is developing a transitioning-at-work policy that managers can follow. It also partnered Gay Star News to help it better represent LGBT+ individuals in the workplace.

Knight’s colleague, Bauer, is no less energetic, having devised "AMV balance", a programme that promotes mental wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance. Under this,"Wellness week" was launched in 2019, with free weekly fitness classes, self-care events, one-to-one therapy sessions and the creation of a meditation app. She also launched "Ditch the desk" sessions to encourage people to take time out and explore their creative impulses by undertaking activities such as life drawing, while 60 managers and "buddies" were trained in mental-health awareness.

Bauer has helped the agency gain the IPA’s annual CPD Platinum accreditation in each year she has worked for the business. It recognises a superlative approach to continuous professional development.

Any nuanced, reactive HR team must properly listen to and recognise staff, and AMV’s does so through initiatives such as the introduction of a suggestion box, a "red envelopes" cash-reward scheme, a Buddies "onboarding" scheme and idea-sharing through AMV Spark.

On the gender-equality front, AMV’s credentials were invigorated through accreditation by Creative Equals; the agency supports the organisation’s "Creative comeback" programme, which helps women creatives who have been absent from the industry for 12 months or more to return to work. Meanwhile, AMV’s gender pay gap has narrowed, by 5% in 2019.

Of course, diversity also covers disadvantaged sections of society. Knight, who became the first HR professional to be made a Fellow of the IPA, set up a work experience programme with Whiz Kids and worked with Remploy, the UK’s leading disability specialist, to support people with mental-health conditions. Neurodiversity is also high up the agenda at AMV, which invited diversity activist Agony Autie to share her views on subjects such as autism in the workplace. Working closely with Ambitious about Autism, the agency is running a three-month work-experience scheme to help young people achieve full-time employment. 

One judge was "impressed by the holistic nature" of AMV’s achievements: its culture of "personal development, wellness, talent management, diversity and inclusion and overall kindness and openness, which is often lacking from many HR departments in my experience".

That’s a view clearly shared by staff, the vast majority (86%) of whom agreed "my employer enables a culture of diversity’’ and 92% of whom were proud to work for the agency. AMV’s annual voluntary employee turnover dropped from 21.3% in 2018 to 12.8% in 2019.