Guest post by Laurel Stark AkmanSo you say you want to #changetheratio? An agency’s do-better manual* to hiring diverse talent.
I know. You’re one of the “good agencies.” You sponsored ADCOLOR. Hired a Director of Diversity. Held mandatory subconscious bias training. And pledged to Free the Bid. I see all that. I may have even tweeted my appreciation. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing everything right.
So the next time you open a req feeling all pro-diversity and enlightened, pause to have some deep thoughts about what you could be doing better. Not surprisingly, I’ve got a few suggestions:
- Get over your shiny object syndrome. No one does self congratulatory hardware better than Adland. So when a candidate is sitting pretty on a pile o’ pencils, it’s no wonder we want to swipe right. But there’s a fine line between liking what you see and having a type. And when you place too much weight on a hopeful hire’s “pedigree”, you’re consciously filtering out the varied experiences and unique POVs you need to keep innovating…and keep those all-mighty awards rolling in.
- Look beyond the book. From Team Squarespace to Camp Cargo, we expect every creative mind to come with a dope dotcom. But while you were sifting through a sea of sites, @SuprDad broke the internet with his potty training PSA. And who needs a reel when you’re trending on Twitter? Be woke to real world talent at any level—and brave enough to make a case for it. Because brilliant creative really can come from anywhere. Even Snapchat (I think).
- Make your talent scout. Your non-white, non-straight, non-cis and non-male talent, that is. Request their opinions, their referrals, their participation in interviews. Even better? Promote them into hiring manager roles and let them build their own teams. Their feedback and POV is exactly what you’re saying you need more of. So if you’re not already tapping them, you should be seriously side-eyeing yourself.
- Always RE: No, your recruiters aren’t THAT BUSY. If you’re “prioritizing diversity,” there’s no excuse not to respond to applicants who could fit that bill. Even if it’s a “thanks but no thanks” situation, invest the ten extra minutes it takes to give actionable feedback—and ask those candidates to stay in touch. Because while white guys don’t have a monopoly on creative talent, they’re hands down better at unsolicited self-promotion. Do your part to encourage and support the talent you say you want. Even if you can’t hire them right now.
- Pay it forward. Margins are tight. Clients are cheap. But we all know the (bald, white) head of your holding company isn’t hurting, so…BE FISCALLY HONORABLE to the people you’re recruiting. Tell women and minorities when they’re overqualified for a job—or should be requesting a higher salary. You’ll make up for those “lost” dollars by keeping your properly-paid talent and your well-serviced clients, longer. You’ll also bank some good karma for doing your part to boost wage parity. Ka-ching!
- Don’t fuel the Cindy Gallop fiyah. For the love of whatever you’re into. Stop giddily sharing your all-white, all-dudebro leadership pics (minus 10 points if they’re all wearing checkered shirts. Minus another 25 if they’ve got matching man buns). Nothing signals how much you DON’T care about diversity like splashing your incredibly un-diverse upper echelon across industry publications. Just don’t do it. Because optics matter. And your potential hires are 100% following Cindy on Twitter, 55.3K deep.
- Admit the WIP. You’re stoked about the MAIP interns you’re hosting this summer and pumped that your Latina ACD was named a Next Creative Leader. By all means, share those diversity success stories with pleasure…but be honest with potential recruits about where you’ve still got room to improve (because you do). And actively solicit feedback on the recruitment experience, whether a diverse potential hire comes on board or not. Their honesty is key to correcting where you missed the mark—or keeping you on the path to an even playing field.
- Ask for help. Raise your damn hand. No one is expecting you to have this whole thing figured out. But we do expect you to be making moves in the right direction. Don’t know where to start? Stumped on an issue? Worried about wording? Reach out to your target audience for a gut check, or if you’re gun shy, reach out to someone who works for a diversity organization (LinkedIn makes that part stupid easy). I never turn down a well-intentioned reach out from any person/agency/award show that wants to do the right thing.
- Keep on keeping on. If you’ve made it this far, your heart is likely in the right place. Keep having the hard conversations, challenging the status quo, and working to do better on the diversity front. Because that diverse talent pool you’re salivating over? We‘re watching. And while we may be holding out hope, we’re certainly not reserving our judgment.
*Shout out/Inspiration credit to the brilliant Luvvie Ajayi, who inspired me to judgment (and tears!) with her hilarious best seller, I’m Judging You. She’s also doing her part to #changetheratio and achieve pay parity in public speaking. Check it.
Tweet This —> Hey, Adland. Trying to #ChangeTheRatio by hiring diverse talent? You can do better. @LaurelLu via @3percentconf blog http://bit.ly/2oZH7hf
Laurel Stark Akman is an award-winning freelance creative and passionate advocate for diversity in the creative and tech industries. She’s worked with DesignKitchen/Blast Radius, Gensler, Fantasy Interactive, Razorfish, SapientNitro, Rosetta, Organic, Riney, the Google Brand Studio and Project Aura, Google’s new wearables team. Her creative work has been honored by the Clios, The One Show, Creativity International, AdAge, The Appys and The ADDYs. And she’s proud to be part of the leadership team that runs The 3% Conference. Connect with Laurel on Twitter and LinkedIn.