I wanted to hear about diversity and divergency from a creative business leader’s point of view. So I asked Paul Frampton, CEO of Havas Media Group, to tell us what he’s doing to manage difference in his own business. Like all industries, advertising has a lot of inequality to tackle. Fortunately, some people like Paul aren’t afraid to do something about it – DB


The creative industries have long celebrated the value that “difference” and a leftfield approach can bring to the quality of their output. Paradoxically however, whilst agency land can claim to contain talent rich in difference when it comes to style, fashion and culture, the make-up of the agency population (in particular leadership) is far from diverse when it comes to gender, race or sexual orientation.

The agency population (in particular leadership) is far from diverse

Perhaps the first step then in managing difference is simply accepting the realisation that ‘the norm’ no longer exists. The employee landscape is vastly different today than 10, 20, 30 years ago – even if the pace of change is not yet happening quickly enough. Diversity is the word on everyone’s lips and rightly so. For too long industries (and the creative industry is, by the way, better than most) have pursued and retained policies and strategies which actively prevent opportunities being given to those who do not conform to the clichéd characteristics of the perceived ‘norm’.

White, male and minimal household responsibilities outside the office is something we can all recognise, but another major barrier has been the obsession professional industries have with attracting graduates.

The first step then in managing difference is simply accepting that ‘the norm’ no longer existsClick To Tweet

Diversity does not sit in one demographic, it sits within all of them. The Havas approach to diversity is a fundamental pillar within our talent strategy to attract, retain and develop the best talent. Our 10-point Diversity and Inclusion charter sets out our short and long term goals for our current and future talent and, according to the IPA’s Agency Census that looks at the number of women in senior executive roles and ethnic diversity in agencies, we are ahead of the industry average. But we are the first to admit we have a lot of work still to do.

Diversity is not solved by quotas

Diversity is not solved by quotas. Quotas are a useful tool to keep us focused but for us it is as much about inclusion: how you make it happen in the business. It’s about creating an inclusive culture and employee experience. It’s about education, access and opportunity. An employee who is happy outside work will thrive at work, bringing a better offering to the table thanks to the richer, happier and more balanced life they are leading.

In 2016, Nabs (a charity for people working in the advertising industry) reported that calls for emotional support to their Advice Line were up 68% year on year, and by a further 37% in the first half of the year. This is bad news and the blame can, in part, lie at the feet of managers who are not providing enough support, understanding or acceptance for their employees. Every individual in every office, no matter their seniority, has all manner of things going on in their life – good and bad – that form the person they are. In the past, they have been expected to park that at the door and operate a full working day in the manner of an automaton, without acknowledging any aspect of their life outside the office.

An employee that feels they can bring their whole self to work will serve that company better. The creative industries live and die by their understanding of people and how to shift perceptions, but if we fail to encourage and celebrate difference, we fail to represent the wonderfully diverse fruit salad of cultures and backgrounds that populate the UK. Agency talent must be able to be who they really are at work and know they have equal opportunity, no matter their gender, race, background, education or mental or physical state. With the workforce everywhere increasingly dominated by millennials, purpose and making an impact in the workplace outweighs all else, so fail to get this right and you will lose your best talent.

Purpose and making an impact in the workplace outweighs all elseClick To Tweet

Working parents, people who are caring for elderly or sick relatives, those pursuing a passion outside of work such as training for a marathon, or renovating a house in the country… The list is endless, but the message is simple: If leaders can find a way to let their teams live rounded lives alongside their day to day work life, the benefits to both parties are boundless. In this age of fibre broadband, mobile phones and remote working, to operate a policy against flexible working is restrictive in the most fundamental way. Other countries and other industries achieve a much better balance than the UK; just because we are in the service industry does not mean that we need to operate the same policies as we did twenty years ago. Experimentation and the application of technology is key to ensure that teams are connected to the pulse of the business, but presentism is a virus that agencies need to tackle fast or face losing talent to other more flexible industries.

To operate a policy against flexible working is restrictive in the most fundamental way

The creative industries do not own production lines or create physical product, so their talent is their greatest asset, and it is in the best interests of every company and every leader to put as few barriers in their place as possible. Great thinking and inspired creativity doesn’t come in the form of a stereotypical white 20-something single man with no ties and a house share half an hour from the office.

Unconscious bias often closes the mind of leaders and managers to “difference” and in doing so huge swathes of talented, passionate individuals that, for one reason or another, do not fit neatly into whatever pre-determined box are shut out. One of our ten commitments at Havas is for all of the leadership team to have unconscious bias training. This is critical for me as unless you understand your prejudices when it comes to “difference”, how can you be expected to overcome them? Much like 360 feedback, it needs to become acceptable for employees to be free to embrace the results of an unconscious bias test as insight into how to change in-built behaviours developed from birth, not see it as a failure on their behalf. Today, too many cringe at the mention of unconscious bias training; it needs a makeover – or even an ad campaign of its own.

Too many cringe at the mention of unconscious bias training

I am ever mindful of our people defining who we are. Back in January Havas moved all its 1700 staff from across London into a new custom-built environment in Kings Cross that we have purposefully chosen to call our Havas “Village”. This term represents that HKX (Havas Kings Cross) is our community and like any good community it is a home to hugely talented people from all walks of life and with a range of life and work experiences that together make a bigger difference.

Coming together like this has prompted us to re-appraise whether we are doing everything we can to nurture the growth and development of the people that call Havas their work home. This has resulted in a series of initiatives designed to assist our people in becoming the best people they can be, whatever their circumstance.

Havas Fusion is our diversity and inclusion program that bangs the drum for change, celebrating a whole host of diversity, be it gender, LGBT, race and ethnicity, age, disability or mental health. Havas Equalise is a pro-active program designed to make physical and mental wellbeing a priority. The program is designed to help people attain balance in their work and personal life across mind and body. This includes career and confidence coaching workshops, mindfulness, nutrition coaching and group exercise, all offered for free during working hours.

Happier staff means better work which equals delighted clientsClick To Tweet

All this ensures we operate an environment in which our people can thrive. The way I see it, happier staff means better work which equals delighted clients leading to an irresistible draw for new talent. A people first, rather than client first, strategy ensures that we satisfy both of our most important stakeholders.

We must do more to open our doors to under-privileged, non-graduates

The truth is it is not hard to manage difference if you have an open mind to ways of working and a culture where there is freedom of expression around the topics shared above. We operate in a world where change is the new normal and bravery is winning over caution. We are at a tipping point where reimagining the background and profile of talent joining any business is essential. Established corporates are crying out for more experience in digital and a better understanding of younger, mobile first audiences. This talent is unlikely to come from within. In contrast, startups have that in spades but lack wisdom and business acumen. Is it too radical to consider that perhaps some of those who fall out of favour in the corporate world could find new roles as advisors in the emerging digital economy? We often forget that true inclusion means representation from all walks of lives – adland is renowned for being a place where the 50+ demographic is a rare breed unless at the C level. We must do more to open our doors to under-privileged, non-graduates and clearly to ensure gender-balanced candidate shortlists, but there’s also a responsibility to ensure we find ways to retain older members of the business.

The only way to change attitudes is to change the norm. If as leaders we can filter down a new way of thinking to those who follow, that attitude will, in turn, infiltrate their approach to management. Over time, we will unconsciously shift talent strategy to a point where conversations about hiring non-graduates, the need for flexible working, more women in C-suite roles, or greater opportunities for people from different ethnic backgrounds, are natural and not forced. As more businesses become enlightened, more HR Directors think of themselves of shepherds of talent, and more leaders lean-in, the nascent green shoots will become a movement and the sands will shift faster towards a time when agencies are led and populated by people from an equal mix of gender, race and sexual orientation.

Presentism is a virus that agencies need to tackle fast or face losing talentClick To Tweet

https://i0.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/paulframpton.jpg?fit=1024%2C576https://i0.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/paulframpton.jpg?resize=150%2C150Paul FramptonDiversity & Divergency
I wanted to hear about diversity and divergency from a creative business leader's point of view. So I asked Paul Frampton, CEO of Havas Media Group, to tell us what he's doing to manage difference in his own business. Like all industries, advertising has a lot of inequality to...
Paul Frampton
As CEO of Havas Media Group UK & Ireland, Paul Frampton is a true social leader. He oversees the three media agencies within Havas Media Group: Havas Media, Arena Media and Full Six Media, alongside entertainment specialists, Havas Sports & Entertainment Cake and Target MCG, and luxury offering Luxhub.