Guest Columns
4 mins read

How to support and retain diverse talent in the new world of work

The past two years have remodelled the working landscape; 85% of UK adults who are currently homeworking now want a “hybrid” approach going forwards. For publishers that haven’t done so already, it is an important time to adjust working models and harness the benefits of this change.

The ability to work from home means businesses can hire employees beyond the limits of daily commutes to the office, expanding the available talent pool. Hybrid approaches also have potential challenges, however, such as impacting inclusivity.

Nothing better represents today’s thin line between our professional and personal worlds than the from-home video call, giving leaders and workers a view into their colleagues’ lives. A study on Zoom revealed that call backgrounds affect staff opinions on colleagues’ professionalism, with a full bookshelf ranking as the ‘most professional’. This issue intersects with the existing movement to bring greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) to the digital advertising and publishing sectors.

In AOP’s final CRUNCH 4.6 event of 2021, thought leaders shared actionable insights on how the industry can refine recruitment and talent management strategies, as well as build more inclusive working environments. A video of the full event can be viewed here.

Attracting talent from every community

To appeal to talent from every background, starting at the initial stages of career development is essential. Many future candidates do not have access to the resources or opportunities to enter the digital sector, so the first step is to spread awareness early.

By conducting outreach into schools and communities that are under-represented in the industry, businesses can attract future generations of talent and show them a pathway into publishing and advertising careers. Brixton Finishing School, for example, offers students free courses where they acquire practical skills, exposure to industry professionals, and networking opportunities. It also invests in ad campaigns to, in essence, advertise the ad industry itself. Media owners can collaborate with these initiatives to generate further awareness.

Additionally, charities such as Digilearning are improving accessibility to educational resources for students and young talent across the globe. Through changing the ‘traditional’ route into the industry, which typically involves a university education, organisations can help upcoming talent recognise their abilities early and learn how to leverage them when launching their careers.

While engaging with these initiatives, publishers must recognise that everyone starts from a different place. The support and advice young talent needs to succeed will therefore be unique to their circumstances.

Mentoring is a key aspect of inclusive workplaces

In 2022 and beyond, businesses should prioritise their DE&I strategies to not only attract, but also keep and nurture talent from under-represented groups. DMCG Global released findings that showed 45% of creative and marketing professionals would not pursue a job opportunity if a potential employer hasn’t committed to DE&I.

Mentorship schemes are an impactful tool to empower employees on a personalised level. Building a connection with senior expertise, particularly if they share the same background or circumstances, enables staff to grow professionally and understand how to direct their career paths. Career development is a critical factor in talent management, as Personio research found that a lack of progression opportunities was the most influential reason for 29% of UK employees to look elsewhere for work.

Founder of lollipop mentoring, Maria McDowell observed that opening conversations around performance and promotion as an employee can be extremely difficult. Sometimes, superiors can be too afraid of saying the wrong thing and so withhold genuine feedback. One-to-one mentorships give professionals a voice so that any issues can be properly addressed, which is why lollipop mentoring connects black women with experienced mentors. Having a role model provides the necessary support for under-represented talent to achieve success within the ad industry. Publishers can engage with or set up their own mentorship programmes to help employees progress their careers.

What can publishers do to inspire greater change across the digital industry?

As Marcus Simmons, Sales Director at LDN Apprenticeships remarks, the reliance on unpaid internships to enter the industry presents a financial barrier to talent from lower-income backgrounds. Offering apprenticeships gives individuals paid opportunities to learn relevant skills and contribute to businesses, supporting fresh talent. For employers, they also help bridge the widening digital skills gap, which 76% of companies believe would impair their profitability.

Furthermore, apprenticeships are one way for talent from under-represented groups to access industry networks. Being supported by others with relatable circumstances will go a long way to ensuring that any barriers are acknowledged, understood, and overcome. These networks have the ability to legitimise the experiences of industry professionals and provide avenues to success. Publishers can shake up the status quo of the digital industry by supporting these initiatives, driving change, and building a more inclusive environment for talent from all backgrounds.

Studies from McKinsey & Company have suggested that more diverse companies perform better, meaning DE&I should be recognised as part of a successful strategy both from a business and an ethical standpoint. Proactively engaging with talent recruitment and management programmes will enable publishers to discover, support, and retain top talent.

Regardless of whether or not workers have a pristine bookshelf behind their desks, publishers must nurture workplace inclusivity and diversity so that employers and employees alike thrive in the new world of work.

Richard Reeves
Managing Director, AOP

The UK Association for Online Publishing (AOP) is an industry body representing digital publishing companies that create original, branded, quality content. AOP champions the interests of media owners from diverse backgrounds including newspaper and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting, and pure online media.