When people hear the word diversity they tend to automatically think of race, ethnicity and culture. While those are extremely important aspects, diversity is much broader and plays an integral part in team cohesion and effectiveness.
Building a team that offers a variety of perspectives, experiences and opinions encourages learning and personal development, both key attributes required to enhance creativity and problem solving. This is something that I personally have worked hard at developing at Wilderness since joining over two years ago.
When I first started, I was asked to give my topline feedback on the team we had at the time and what has always stuck with me is I felt we had a fruit bowl full of apples. Apples are great. But if you only have apples then you have a limited number of recipes to make.
We had insightful discussions about how numerous candidates can look great on paper, but when you get a feel for them in an interview it really comes down to what we call a ‘culture fit’. At that time the company was growing 100% YOY and the hiring process was essentially stick to what we know. The team it generated was supportive, fun and hard working. But it generated what we called ‘culture over excellence’. While we didn’t want to take away our core supportive, fun and hard-working values, we knew there was a lot missing from our team and that is why I believe the key to a culture of excellence is diversity.
By hiring outside of our normal talent pool we were able to strengthen our team’s knowledge and awareness, which has led to greater innovation and passion amongst each individual. In order to maintain this momentum, in September 2020 we conducted an agency-wide diversity and inclusion survey to evaluate our team, make comparisons to industry averages and set targets on improving representation in our team. From the responses collected we were able to make the following assessments about three key areas we want to focus on improving in 2021.
21% of our team are from BAME communities, which is higher than the national average of 13% as found by the BIMA State of the Industry study. While this on paper looks positive, we still have a predominantly white British team, which is not representative of the society we live in.
Likewise, no one in our team reported as having any form of disability, whether that be visible or non-visible, which is a stark comparison to the industry average of 8% visible and 21% non-visible. This was a wake-up call for us to gain a greater awareness and understanding of disability in the workplace. We asked ourselves the question, why haven’t we advertised that we’re an inclusive employer of those with a disability? That’s because we haven’t been able to live up to that statement to date.
We don’t have disabled access into our office. We don’t have any software to support those day-to-day with learning disabilities. We haven’t provided training for managers to have the toolkits to best support these members of the workforce.
Our wakeup call is that these are very basic requirements and challenges to solve which could then allow for an even greater talent pool to join our team and enhance the work we produce. We’re happy to have now started this journey of improving inclusivity.
Finally, the majority of our team identified as being heterosexual, with only 10% identifying as part of the LBGTQ+ community. Even though the industry average is between 2%-7%, we feel this is definitely an area in which we can encourage better representation and inclusivity both through recruitment and training.
From these findings we have set three goals to be achieved by the end of 2021:
- To have at least 30% of our workforce from BAME backgrounds
- To provide ongoing, comprehensive training to allow for better recognition and understanding of disabilities
- To educate our team on the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the creative industry and have better representation in our team
To support our ongoing commitment to improve greater access and inclusivity we have partnered with several industry experts who all share the same goal.
In 2020, we partnered with Brixton Finishing School (BFS) to support its 10-week programme, which aims to target underrepresented groups and provide them with a course of study and real-world experience in the creative industry. Jamie, our managing director, and Safiya, our head of business, worked closely with the cohort of students to present masterclasses, lead teams through assigned projects and participate in 1-2-1 mentorship.
In 2021, we want to not only continue this level of support for the programme but also provide masterclass sessions for the BFS team to help finesse their skillset, support their new Ad-Cademy initiative and hopefully hire one of their graduates. To date the program has secured 100 full-time positions for the graduates and training to over 600 people (with the ambition of 2500+ by the end of the year). We believe their mission and delivery will only grow and provide greater positive impact.
Our second partnership with the Industry School and the Opportunity Group helps support the government apprenticeship scheme. In January 2021 we hired our first apprentice, Ayesha, who is enrolled on the Marketing Debuts Digital Community Management Apprenticeship which we are also a training provider for, hosting monthly workshops and masterclasses with direct feedback. The scheme is a 13-month programme that will provide learners from underrepresented backgrounds with not only a Level 4 qualification but also real-world experience – an excellent opportunity for entry into the creative industry.
This recruitment method has proven to provide so much value to the team that we are exploring the option of sponsoring another learner from the summer cohort. Given my personal background and only having Level 3 education qualifications, it’s really important to me to be able to provide real work opportunities to young people.
Finally, our most recent partnership with Ravensbourne University is projected to take many forms across 2021, with masterclasses, brief collaboration and recruitment. Working closely with their course leader for Advertising and Brand Design, Derek Yates, we kicked off the year with an Introduction to Wilderness on our first day back. The students have been set an industry brief aimed at a youth audience, which is being led by Jamie alongside other members of our team. We hope to simultaneously support the students’ skills development through our expert advice while spotting future creative talent and developing a strong recruitment pipeline.
Ultimately when it comes to diversity and inclusion in our team, we know we need to do more and we are committed to being better. Just because some of our findings showed to be higher than the industry average doesn’t mean job done. This is not a tick-box exercise but a serious issue faced by very talented yet over-looked individuals and communities. It’s important we remain transparent, identify our flaws and build a comprehensive process to rectify these challenges.
My goal is to create an environment that is considered the best place to work – which can only be achieved by employing a diverse team and implementing processes to encourage inclusivity. To reach this, I want to help break down barriers to entry, providing opportunities to those with zero experience or zero qualifications, and I want to encourage greater diversity of candidates in senior positions. To be in my position with access to a platform, it is integral to speak up on these issues within our industry and to actively make a change. I encourage you to do the same.
Tilly Morgan is operations and people director at Wilderness.