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Stop talking about diversity

Stop talking about diversity
Nikki Saxby, Emerging Talent Manager at iris, explains why partnerships are often the key to recruiting 'diverse' talent.

I imagine there are very few agencies that don’t have ‘diversity’ as a major business focus for the year ahead. There will also be few trade publications that don’t reference the ongoing debate. 

And that’s all great – we should be talking about diversity more, but the thing that tends to hold most agencies back, is that they tend to focus too much on the ‘talking’ rather than the action.

In part, the IPA has dealt with this by setting some bold goals for the industry to meet by 2020, but in order for those to goals to be achieved we need to take action NOW – not talk about them in board meetings.

The benefits of making your agency more diverse, in terms of background, skill set and experience, gives you the potential to transform the business - commercially, creatively and culturally.

At iris we are a generational company.  We are only ever as good as the talent we bring in and nurture through the ranks.  Over the last 16 years, we’ve never had a ‘dominant discipline’ gene, which has meant that as our clients evolved so did our skillset. As we now venture into VR, AI, behaviour analysis, data insight and culture shaping, the talent pool we could potentially tap into is huge but also slightly daunting when recruiting!

With that in mind, it can be difficult to know where to start.  One word of advice is that it doesn’t need to be one big game-changing initiative.

In my role as Emerging Talent Manager at iris’ London HQ, I am responsible for bringing in talent and while it can come from anywhere, it can often be difficult to know where to start looking. We've found that running small initiatives, trying new approaches, tapping into government programmes, independent initiatives and working with new partners, are great opportunities to find out what what works most effectively.

By forming partnerships with the experts we get access to some of the brightest creative minds and they get work experience (and often placements) at an agency where they can form a successful and fulfilling career. For the past two years, we have been working with Creative Pioneers, an initiative by the IPA to find the next generation of adland talent, and have just started offering STEM student placements. This will uncover future social media analysts, web developers, user experience planners, and I’m sure a whole range of expertise for jobs that don’t even exist yet! 

In another partnership we are working with A New Direction, a London Charity focused on young people and their capacity to learn and be creative.  The charity works with schools to improve the quality of cultural and creative education on the curriculum, and gives young Londoners (regardless of background), opportunities to learn about and work in creative industries.

Thanks to the MAA , we currently have two brilliant young women, Nicole and Shanice, undertaking placements in our London HQ, as part of our first intake of Digify students. They are working in the creative and planning departments and already shaking up how we approach our digital and social campaigns for Millennials.  Which co-incidentally, is a term neither of them feel applies to them or defines them well as a customer.

These partnerships are not part of a special ‘diversity strategy’, they are part of our ongoing people strategy to find world class talent from any weird and wonderful place we can. 

The best advice I can give to any agency that has looked at the IPA’s figures and think they are a long way off the targets, is to stop talking about it and embrace the opportunity. The talent is there and so are the partners.    

For more information contact Julia Nightingale / 07785788594 / or Bree Throssell /



Last updated 06/04/2016

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