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  • Theo Sakyi

Why pipelines matter

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

A group of friends and I were having a quick catch-up at a coffee shop, before the social distancing rules came into place. After chatting about what Netflix shows we were watching and why Liverpool were unlucky to get knocked out of the Champions League, the conversation shifted to career talk.

One of them had recently finished an internship at a creative agency and was giving us a quick debrief on how his experience went. He spoke about the obvious stuff - like the actual work, the culture, the perks, etc. He had loads of cool and insightful stuff to share. Then he told us about how he sat down with the “head of culture” at the company (a role we had never heard of) and we obviously asked him about how that went.

He went on to tell us about how nice and helpful the guy was but was irked about an answer to one of the questions he had. He asked him about the lack of diversity in the company - there were only three people of colour in a London office of 100+ people and so he thought to ask about this. Obviously an important question to ask, since 44% of Londoners identify as being part of an ethnic minority. The answer surprised him.

“The problem is that people just don’t seem to apply here”.

We all looked at him bewildered. We were mostly ethnic minorities on the table and plenty of us knew creative people who would’ve loved to be in a full-time role at an agency, many of whom were freelancers - so people simply not applying confused us. How is it possible that this company had managed to completely skip out on a huge chunk of London’s population?

When I arrived home, I started thinking about why people from certain backgrounds might not apply: Pipelines are important.

A year ago I was lucky enough to earn a place on Livity’s 2-week work experience programme. Livity are also a creative agency but operate as a social enterprise. They do great work but also reinvest in giving young, underrepresented people opportunities. It’s also one of the most diverse office spaces I’ve ever entered. Having a diverse workforce probably helps Livity with their awesome work, as they can bring loads of different perspectives into the strategic and creative process. So if it’s possible to have a diverse workforce and also produce great work, why isn’t everyone doing so?

Obviously Livity’s remit is different from most organisations, but there are lessons to learn about deliberately cultivating an inclusive culture and nurturing people at the start of the talent pipeline.

Whether it’s reconsidering how job ads are written or actively reaching out to different communities, companies should think of ways to make sure they reflect wider society.

We spend a lot of time working with our clients on broadening their talent pipelines. If you want a more diverse team to be your new normal, why not get in touch?


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