Since the tragic killing of George Floyd and a renewed focus on the global Black Lives Matter movement, the corporate world has taken a greater interest in diversity and inclusion. It re-ignited a fight for equality in society and personally made me look at my own identity within the workplace, where a big part of ourselves is formed as we draw comparisons with others.

We spend approximately, one-third of our lives at work1  – which is typically 90,000 hours – so it’s fair to say that our job can have a big impact on who we are as individuals and our overall quality of life. Over the course of the last two years, our ‘typical’ working life suddenly looked very different and we learnt how to adapt to not working so closely with our colleagues every day and reflected on what we value from our jobs.

As Gen Z hit the workforce, employers ought to consider how they have greater demands on work/life balance, job satisfaction and company purpose. They’re also more likely to change jobs than previous generations2; alarm bells should ring for HR departments everywhere, as PWC’s report reveals that one-fifth of the existing workforce is already looking to leave.3 

Companies have been evolving their missions and values post covid-19, but how much is diversity a part of this and how likely are they to act on it? Unfortunately, diversity within the PR industry is low, where in the UK 91% are white and 89% British. 4  It’s hard to be authentic in communicating to a global audience without a representative workforce. We should take pride in our work, but I fear that we’re missing the key to success when every seat at the table looks the same.

So how can companies use the great resignation effect to ensure their employees, both at the entry level and senior level, represent the diverse society we live in today?

  • Reassess your definition of “diversity” in hiring practices. Many organisations still prioritise gender equality over everything else; however, even though this is important singling this as a focus won’t solve the problem of diversity. Leaders need to reflect on what ‘diversity’ means to them and how this translates through to hiring, promotion practices, and more.
  • Acknowledge and respond to people’s humanity at work. Part of reducing disparities and establishing equity is offering flexibility and benefits that accommodate the range of human experiences – not just the experiences that you’re familiar with. Managers and leaders should strive to empathise and understand people’s unique life circumstances, instead of assuming that generic well-being programs will benefit every employee equally.
  • Collect feedback from employees on their experience. We often overlook the opinions of those within the company before we start making changes. Businesses should ask their employees what they would like to see more of and then act on this feedback.
  • Prioritise career growth and development. Diversity in leadership matters, so create opportunities that set underrepresented groups up for success and advancement (i.e., training, mentor programs), then actually promote them.

Companies with greater diversity are 70% more likely to see market growth5, however, even though benefits such as this are known, 41% of managers admit to being “too busy” to implement diversity inclusion programs.6 At a time when uncertainty is high with Gen Z playing hot potato with jobs, it’s important to foster a culture where people feel noticed and are heard that will in return lead to higher retention rates. We all know the expression “two heads are better than one”, so think about what we could do for our clients if we added diversity into that mix.

H+K initiatives/programmes

H+K Sponsorship Programme:
H+K London runs a Sponsorship Programme to champion the career development & aspirations of Black, Asian, Mixed Race & Ethnic Minority talent (Intern – AM level) in the agency. This is a 12 month programme where Sponsees are paired up with senior Sponsors in the business who then meet monthly. We currently have 23 Sponsees on the programme.

Stepney All Saints Mentoring Programme:
For the past 2 years now, H+K London has partnered with a local East London secondary school, Stepney All Saints, to mentor students aged 16-17 who are currently undertaking a Media Studies A Level. 90% of the students in this class are Bengali Muslim and considering career and/or further education pathways into the Media industry.

H+K Work Experience Programme:
For the first time, we ran a summer work experience programme in partnership with Speakers for Schools. Speakers for Schools aims to level the playing field for state school students. We hosted 25 students in our offices who are interested in PR & Communications and ran various sessions to introduce them to H+K, the PR industry and skills workshops based around creativity and interviewing.

Future Frontiers Mentoring:
H+K London recently partnered with Future Frontiers, an Education Charity that supports disadvantaged young people with networking, learning and mentoring opportunities as they navigate school life. A number of our H+K employees volunteered as mentors to these young people, meeting with them weekly to discuss school and career aspirations.

Focus Groups:
In 2021, H+K London began running focus groups to better listen and understand the experiences of ethnically underrepresented staff in the agency. We will be continuing to run these twice a year with the aim of ensuring everyone feels they belong and can thrive at H+K.