September 25, 2020

How to be an ethnically diverse PR employer

Another agency that has won plaudits for its positive culture with regard to ethnic diversity is Ketchum. The Omnicom network shop won the inaugural Diversity & Inclusion category at this year’s PRWeek UK’s Best Places to Work Awards.

UK chief executive Jo-ann Robertson says 24 per cent of Ketchum’s UK workforce is non-white, and the consultancy recently hired its first BME professional on the leadership team. She stresses the importance of promoting non-white people to senior roles: “People of colour will often leave our industry around that mid-level because they look up and they can’t see anybody who’s like them.”

But despite the progress Ketchum has made, Robertson says it’s “still not enough”.

“The easier bit is to increase your stats, like we have done on BME [representation], because you can be intentional about the decisions you make – who you recruit, how you recruit.

“What’s even more difficult is inclusion. How do people feel within the workplace when they’re still a minority – when they might have different cultural backgrounds, different heritage, different ways of doing things?” She cites the culture within many agencies of celebrating with alcohol as a default that may alienate non-drinkers.

Robertson urges people in senior roles to avoid judging every employee by the same criteria.

“People can really struggle with that, because it doesn’t sound fair – like ‘everyone should be judged on these five procedures’, for example, or ‘these five skills that are expected’. That’s a very old-fashioned way of looking at your workforce.

“In the modern world, you have to look at what it is that someone brings to the table that’s different. Not everybody has to have all five skills; in fact, having people who think and act differently is really critical to the business,” she says.

Robertson cites a tradition in one particular culture of not challenging people in senior positions. “Unpicking how people’s upbringing and their cultural traditions impact how they act and think in the workplace can really help you to see [their] value… some groups of people [have] a completely different set of standards to others.

“As you can see, it gets really complicated – balancing the need for diversity within the business, the need for an inclusive culture where everyone can feel like they belong, and everyone can be who they really are in the workplace, because they absolutely get the best out of them; [and] at the same time, building a framework for things like promotions, like recruitment, that seem fair and equitable.

“There’s a constant juggling act between those things, and that’s why I say it’s really hard.”

Since we spoke in the summer, Ketchum London has achieved the highest score yet given to any organisation for its commitment to diversity and inclusion by the consultancy Creative Equals. That followed the implementation of changes including a new recruitment approach to advertise roles in multiple spaces, such as the Taylor Bennett Foundation. Ketchum formed an Inclusion Council in London and a tracking system to monitor diversity in new-business pitch teams and ensure different voices were heard in every company meeting.

Once more, it highlights the need for constant evaluation and action.

“The key word for all of this for me is ‘intentional’,” Robertson adds. “You can’t increase representation from certain minority groups in your business if you’re not intentional. You can’t create an inclusive culture if you’re not intentional.

“You also need to learn; you can try things – if they don’t work, stop doing them and try something different. It’s a constantly evolving piece of work, but it should be core to everything you do.”

Read full article by John Harrington here