How to make sure your diversity efforts aren't just for show

We have set up an inter-agency internship scheme to drive real change when it comes to diversity.

You allocated a diversity and inclusion budget, completed your diversity audit, invested in unconscious-bias training for staff and have a fledgling programme to support new parents wanting to return to work. So, when you review your stats, how come your company is achieving nothing more than a slight gender rebalance in senior positions?

It’s because you’ve forgotten to hire the new talent our industry so desperately needs.

We don’t currently have a diverse workforce, so there aren’t enough people to promote internally. Logically, you need to bring in new faces from underrepresented backgrounds at the grassroots level. 

One option – you might suggest – is to invest in short-term competitions or one-off placements. That would have nice optics. Or you might be tempted to task your company’s HR department with seeking out more grads from, say, a black, Asian and minority-ethnic background.

But such flash-in-the-pan solutions will not change the fundamental make-up of advertising. 

There is a simple answer: bring diverse talent from all walks of life into your agency and then provide them the long-term support they need to grow. 

To help you do this, we have set up Jolt, the first inter-agency internship scheme, designed to shake up the creative industry for good.

So how does it work?

Jolt brings in entry-level talent from all backgrounds by partnering 17 (and counting) diversity organisations, such as the Prince’s Trust, Scope and Ambitious about Autism. After a rigorous application process, the candidates with the most hunger and potential are invited to an intensive bootcamp.

Every eight weeks, agencies will get a new intern team as part of a fully managed diversity scheme – all for less than the cost of hiring one midweight creative.

As with climate change, our industry struggles to properly invest. It’s easier to tinker around the edges: creative audits, unconscious bias training, mentor programmes etc. However, without diverse talent, this is just a feel-good way to waste money. 

The Jolt scheme is comprehensive, tailored to industry needs and actually works. Of the interns that our programme launched with in 2017, 75% are under offer or hired as creatives. Agencies already working with the scheme say it really delivers tangible change. 

John Treacy, executive creative director at Proximity London, which has partnered Jolt, says: "The fresh approach of the Jolt interns has been a shot in the arm both creatively and culturally to the agency. If we band together to support Jolt’s diverse talent, we can move beyond just pledging to do something about diversity to actually transforming the landscape of this industry."

In their own words: interns on the importance of Jolt

Gayatri Bhudia and Melody Adeniran 

For myself and my creative partner Gayatri, a creative career wasn’t an option growing up. Gayatri’s decision to pursue this was frowned upon by her Indian family, who were not pleased to hear she had deviated from the expected career in medicine. For myself, I had no visible examples of anyone who looked like me within the advertising sphere. Going around on internships, in all cases, I was the only black, female face within the creative departments.

However, after a year of internships, training and mentorship on the Jolt scheme, we have found a place to call home at MRM McCann. We continue to improve in our crafts and can’t wait to uncover the opportunities ahead.

Matthew Luke and Yama Noorzad

Yama and I didn’t even realise "advertising creative" was a role that existed – and therefore had no idea where to begin. This time last year, I was pulling pints in a pub, while looking all over for any kind of writing role with little success. Yama found it especially hard because he has cerebral palsy, as it was yet another barrier to overcome. He was unemployed for almost three years – and having no career path to pursue led to a period of depression for him. Then we came across Jolt. Thanks to the scheme, not only were we introduced to the industry and each other, we were also given guidance at every stage on how to thrive and progress. We can’t wait to see what lies ahead for us.

Andy Knell is co-founder of Jolt

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