Industry Events

DEI in a Hybrid World: How Agencies and Brands can Continue to Embrace DEI During the Great Reprioritization

April 20, 2022

Top Takeaways From Advertising for Change’s Virtual Event

In the advertising and marketing industries, we have embraced the realization that a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential to business success – but how do we now ensure that we continue to focus on diversifying our workforces and making our organizations workplaces of choice for underrepresented talent, even in this highly competitive and disrupted talent market?  

That was the topic at a recent Advertising for Change virtual event, featuring a panel of HR and culture leaders curated by Hothouse’s Charae Warner. The spirited discussion, moderated by Janis Middleton of 22 Squared and Trade School, featured panelists: 

  • Andrew McCaskill, LinkedIn Career Expert 
  • Wemi Opakunle, Inclusion Diversity & Recruiting Strategy Consultant 
  • Jessica Watson, Director of Talent Engagement, Publicis 

Here are our key takeaways that advertising and marketing organizations should keep top of mind: 

To connect with diverse talent pools, networking is key 

Creating opportunities for networking and connection with underrepresented candidate groups is essential if agencies want to develop a pipeline of diverse talent. This responsibility falls not only with agency recruiting teams, but with the hiring managers as well. In addition, it’s important for agency principals to invest in diverse communities, not only by meeting senior candidates in this space, but by making their networks available to diverse talent. How do you create opportunities for networking? “You need to take your agency and your brand to places where diverse talent gathers,” says panelist Drew McCaskill of LinkedIn. He also suggests that your office can be a place of gathering by hosting events and competitions that allow you to meet a wide spectrum of people who participate. 

It is important to have authentic conversations about your culture and where you are on your diversity and inclusion journey in the interview process 

Candidates are not shy about asking tough questions about your company culture and your commitment to diversity and inclusion. And while your diverse employees can speak to their experience, it is everybody’s job within your organization to know what your inclusion story is, and to be able to communicate that story to candidates. For remote employees, it becomes even more important to be very clear about what their experience will be. Employees want to feel respected, valued, and engaged – if what they expect is different from their reality, they will not hesitate to leave.  

More work needs to be done to innovate job descriptions  

When it comes to composing job descriptions, we tend to stick to what we know. But there are many ways to tell the story of a role. First, ensure that all language in your job description focuses on the actual skills required to do the job. “Skills-based hiring will unlock economic opportunities for large swaths of people in this country, particularly for people of color” says McCaskill. Next, make sure your job description uses inclusive language. Moderator Janis Middleton suggests using a simple online tool such as this Gender Decoder to identify subtle bias in job ads.  

Look beyond your job description as well. “I am a huge advocate of hiring for potential,” says Inclusion, Diversity & Recruiting Strategy Consultant, Wemi Opakunle. Very few candidates check all the boxes and meet 100% of the job requirements. Take the extra step to make what may not seem like obvious parallels between someone’s experience and the job opening. You could be missing out on great talent by only looking at the skills they have acquired. 

Have a strategy to recruit for a hybrid and remote environment 

“Hybrid and remote are here to stay” says McCaskill. “You have to have a specific strategy to recruit in this environment.” Onboarding in a remote world is especially challenging, particularly for recent graduates who have never worked in an office environment.  Jessica Watson, Director of Talent Engagement & Inclusion for Publicis, agrees, saying, “we need to completely rethink onboarding.” Re-onboard the entire agency post-Covid. That includes employees at all levels, no matter how long they have been there.  

To ensure employees remain engaged and to retain talent, consider: 

  • Establishing internal guidelines on how you will treat hybrid employees 
  • Have senior leadership remove the stigma of being hybrid or remote 
  • Provide leadership training on how to show up as an inclusive leader 
  • Ask employees for feedback on what you are doing well and where there is room for improvement, especially around inclusion efforts.  
  • Check in with employees often to ask how they are doing 
  • Assign “buddies” to incoming employees to ease their transition and help decode your culture 
  • Create events for employees to get to know one another 

Employees have more voice and more choice than ever before. Make sure you are open, honest, and authentic in your conversations with candidates about your culture. If you are unable to bridge the candidate experience to the employee experience, you will be unable to make your workplace a choice for underrepresented talent. 

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