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A note from our CEO, Sam Knights, on DE&I at SMG

I wanted to update you on the journey we’ve been on regarding Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at SMG, and the actions we’re taking.

A year ago we took the decision that before we came out with any big claims or policies we first wanted to understand the issue at hand in more depth. We set clear objectives over the course of 2020 to learn and understand more about DE&I both as a topic and through the collation of data about our business. We wanted to build a strategy and a project plan that would enable us to deliver meaningful and sustained change.

Now, thanks to an internal working group made up of colleagues from across the business, we have made real progress. In the last 12 months, we have reviewed our data vs both our industry peers and national benchmarks, collating best practices and, as a result, we are much clearer on the areas of focus and are starting to make meaningful change.

Let me give you just two examples.

In the very early days of the company, we decided that we only wanted to hire the “best” people to join us. As a result of this, we set a rule that we would only review CVs of candidates that were university educated to a standard of 2:1. However, the unintended consequence of this decision was that we have been excluding a very high number of candidates from varied socioeconomic backgrounds who would add huge value to our business. Females also outperform males at university and so we were also impacting our gender mix with this decision.

Our ambition to have the best people to work here hasn’t changed but we’re now going about it in a different way. This year we’re opening up an apprenticeship scheme which allows school leavers from all socioeconomic backgrounds to learn on the job. We’re also dropping the 2:1 ‘law’ from our CV screening to allow for a more diverse entry of candidates. We hope that this small change will result in a much higher diversity of candidates in gender, ethnicity and cultural background, and make us better as a business as a result.

Another example is in disability. At SMG, we do not have a single person working for us who identifies as having a disability. We know that despite our best intentions, this is because we do not ‘appear’ as a business to be one that is accessible. The team has therefore got involved in the government’s ‘Disability Confidence’ scheme and I’m proud to say that we’ve already achieved level 1 and are working towards level 2. We hope that this will give more confidence to our candidates.

There’s lots more going on too. From appointing an external consultant who will conduct a cultural review and provide unconscious bias training, to reviewing our recruitment practices. However, we know we’re not perfect and we’ve got more work to do.

But let me say this. It is my belief that the most creative and high performing teams are those that have diversity at their core. As Matthew Syed puts it in his book Rebel Ideas ‘When people from a singular background are placed in a decision-making group, they are liable to become collectively blind”. In other words, having diversity is not only morally the right thing to do, it is critical to our business success.

As a business we want to remain brave and honest as we continue on this journey, we know we’re not perfect, but we’re committed to making progress.

So here are the commitments we are making:

● To recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce, where every individual has equal access to opportunities.

● To create a working environment that is free from discrimination and harassment in any form, in which all employees, clients, and suppliers are treated with dignity and respect.

● To implement practices that celebrate everything that makes us different. We aim to ensure the rich dimensions of diversity are always seen, heard, and listened to, this includes demographic diversity as well as cognitive diversity through understanding different perspectives, thinking styles, and experiences.

● To build a culture that supports our employees, partners, and our clients through open, honest discussions and creating a real sense of belonging to ensure inclusivity for everyone.

● To create an environment where employees can balance a successful career with commitments and interests outside of work.

Our approach will be to understand the changes that we can all make to ensure meaningful and lasting change. We will be using our voice through our internal and external channels to have a positive impact on issues, and we will continue quietly doing the hard work in the background to make progress to ensure all feel welcome, supported and included at SMG regardless of who you are or where you come from.


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