Cracking the diversity code

iList judge and UK Country Manager and VP, EMEA & LATAM at LinkedIn, Josh Graff looks at three key priorities to help create a more inclusive workforce.

Some of the brightest and most creative minds in the UK work in advertising. It’s a sector with an enviable track record of shaping and responding to the consumer tastes which underpin the modern economy. But like many of our industries, advertising is still grappling with how to ensure that it is as diverse and varied as the customers it serves.

The correlation between increased profitability and a diverse workforce are widely accepted but less widely acted-upon. It’s telling that 90% of respondents to a recent study by the Advertising Diversity Taskforce said a diverse environment led to the best creative culture, but only 47% think their companies go out of their way to hire diverse talent.

Meanwhile, just 8% of senior leaders in adland are from BAME backgrounds and only 1% of agency employees are registered as disabled (compared to 7% of the working population). It’s great that the advertising industry recognises the problem but there’s still much more we all need to do if we want to make meaningful change.

Attracting, and then retaining, people from diverse backgrounds is something I am passionate about. In my job, I lead LinkedIn in the UK, where we are lucky enough to have a helicopter view of the country’s jobs market, as well as a company culture which is committed to building a diverse, inclusive and happy workplace.

We have lots more work to do, but I wanted to share some of the lessons we have learned about reaching diverse talent, creating a sense of belonging at work and embedding diversity and inclusion in our long-term business strategy.

1. Technology is key to reaching diverse talent

When it comes to fostering diversity, very few organisations have cracked the code. We regularly hear from recruitment professionals that they simply can’t find and reach enough diverse candidates. Technology is crucial to overcoming this hurdle. As the world’s largest professional network, with over 27 million members in the UK, I appreciate we have an important role to play in eliminating bias and connecting businesses with diverse talent.

Our guiding product philosophy is “diversity by design”, which means that we embed diversity at every stage of the hiring process in our tools and platform, whether you are planning and setting recruiting goals, crafting your sourcing strategy, or investing in your teams.

For example, our recruiter tool now ensures that the top results in a candidate search will always reflect the gender balance in the candidate population we look at. So if the population in a certain occupation is 50% female, 50% of the suggested top candidates will also be female. Given that different genders use the platform in different ways, this is really important for us.

We’ve closely tracked gender diversity across LinkedIn’s business and have used this to set goals and develop programs to address imbalances. In 2014, we introduced WiN, a managed training programme for our high performing, high potential female talent.

This course addressed some of the issues that prevent women securing more senior roles. And while there’s always more to be done, we can see that it’s working – women now represent nearly 40% of our company’s leadership, an increase of 49% over the last four years.

2. Belonging makes the workplace work

While recruitment is crucial to building a more diverse business, it’s equally important to create a culture in which everyone feels they belong. That’s what will truly attract and retain the best people and deliver the best results.

Mentors and sponsors are a great way of fostering a sense of belonging, as well as being a big component of developing and sustaining a satisfying career. However, more and more businesses are waking up to the fact that mentorships will only take people so far - and that sponsors have a big role to play in creating an inclusive workplace.

If you’re wondering what the difference is, simply put - mentors talk with you, and sponsors talk about you. This nuance matters: an underlying challenge is that men promote themselves and their capabilities more frequently than their female counterparts. A study of 140 million profiles from LinkedIn found that women list 11% fewer skills on their LinkedIn profiles than men.

This is where sponsors can really make an impact – it’s their responsibility to increase an employee’s visibility both internally and externally, and to advocate for their strengths and capabilities.

3. It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Finally, it’s important to remember that creating, and maintaining, a diverse workplace is a continuous process. It’s not a task you can simply tick off in isolation and then forget about it.

There’s a huge difference between a workplace with different types of people in it, and a working culture that actively champions diversity - which is why it’s so important to continually embed these attitudes throughout the organisation. Ensuring that every employee feels like they are respected, listened to, and most importantly belong in the organisation, is an ongoing job.

Developing a workforce that allows everyone to feel like their authentic selves, that they have a right to be there and that their work is valued is the foundation to building a diverse culture. Belonging is the magical combination of security, significance, impact and fun, and if we can remember that, we can continue building diverse workplaces for good.

Josh Graff is UK Country Manager and VP, EMEA & LATAM at LinkedIn and one of the judges for the iList - a free initiative to showcase and celebrate role models who are driving inclusivity in adland.

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Last updated 01 May 2024