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The Elephant in the Room - Sudha Singh EPISODE 9, 14th January 2021
009 Challenging the status quo and making a difference with Amanda Fone F1 Recruitment
00:00:00 00:37:55

009 Challenging the status quo and making a difference with Amanda Fone F1 Recruitment

Show Notes

My Guest on todays show is Amanda Fone a marcomm and sports marketing recruitment veteran and the founder of F1 Recruitment. She has been championing inclusion, diversity and social mobility long before they became buzz words. I met Amanda a couple of years back and was struck by her empathy, her deep belief in supporting her candidates on their journey and her activism on inclusion. She is someone who believes in walking the talk and has actually committed a substantial percentage of F1 profit to delivering D&I programmes for the past 5 years. In this freewheeling conversation we talk about ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿพ

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ Setting up F1 Search & Recruitment, its diversity agenda and wanting to be a certified 

B Corporation

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ โ€˜Back To Business Shipโ€™ programme and its success

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ The evolution of BAME 2020 and launch of โ€˜No Turning Back 2020โ€™ 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ Dearth of women in leadership in the industry and The Elephant in the Room for women returners

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ The long term impact of COVID 19 on the recruitment business and industry

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ Moving the needle on inclusion

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ What organisations can do to win the โ€˜War for Talentโ€™ in the future

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Memorable passages from the interview

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ I really felt that being at the sharp end of the recruitment set, you could really make a difference and influence. So F1 was always going to be a vehicle to influence change. And we've always had a manifesto on the website, about seeing more marketing directors and comms directors on boards. And if they're not on boards, why aren't they on boards? So work out what the skills need to be, in order to get the best marketing comms directors on to the boards of companies. And then the other thing has been to create really insightful change campaigns that will affect the look and feel of the sector. And those have always been our objectives they have not changed since 2004.

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ Actually Liz Nottingham, she's been a client of mine from when she was at Weber Shandwick running the HR team there. And she's got a very unique perspective of the whole of the marketing concept because she's worked across advertising media and communications, PR. And she was at Starcom at the time and she rang me and said, โ€˜look, I'm getting really frustrated about the fact that we keep losing women, particularly women, at a certain age. Is this what you see, too?โ€™ And I said, well, absolutely. I've been talking about it for a long time. What can we do about getting organisations to realise they're losing a lot of talent, normally after the second child. And this was how actually the conversation started in 2013. So we thought, well, let's just get on with it and create a programme. We had to call it โ€˜Back to business shipโ€™ because returnships had already been taken. And we were not allowed to use that the word returnship. So we called it โ€˜Back to business shipโ€™.

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ So โ€™Back to business shipโ€™ turned out to be a two week boot camp with about 30 different modules on how to get back to work. We've had over 200 people on the programme over the last six years. And over the years, the companies have been really, really impressed by people. So, we've had people taken on from that particular module. And then when we look at the success over five, six years, about 150 I think have managed to get back to work in part time or flexible working roles. Others decide to start their own businesses. I mean, this programme brings out stuff in people that they just didn't know was there or they did know was there but they didn't actually have the confidence to see it through. And you'll probably have seen that we run a we run a series called โ€˜Where are they nowโ€™ which is on the F1 website. And we really do shine a light on women that have been on the programme to set up their own businesses. 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ So we created BAME 2020. And we took the view we would ignore the criticism of using the acronym and this is who we focus on black asian minority ethnic representation in the marketing, communications and sports marketing sector. And 2020 is about 20% into the sector, in a sector that is probably less than 9% representation. And the other 20% was to keep that 20% into sector until they reach the very top job. So, we were very very clear about as everything we did, every campaign weโ€™ve run, every programme we've run has always been does this? Will it? Can it affect? And can we measure the outcome against those very simple things. And we decided to appoint about 20 young ambassadors at the time. And we got about the same amount of advisors to come in. And these were all people that were doing things inside the sector already, which felt like pushing, you know, mountains, frankly, to get change. So we just quite quietly launched at Google in July 2016. We were running an event just before lockdown called โ€œLet's be bold about the subject of raceโ€. And every time we ran a run an event, we had 100-120 people from all across the sector, client side, agency side. We had CEOs coming to really hear the voices of young people in the sector about what they were their lived experiences. And it was very apparent to us, that there was a lack of inclusivity and a lack of progression. 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ So when the Black Lives Matter hit last May, right at the time of peak of the COVID situation. And Adrian and I we took a very clear view on this and said, โ€˜How are we going to reactโ€™ and we just said, โ€˜we're not doing anything,โ€™ because we've been doing something for the last four and a half years. And actually, we haven't really had a lot of traction. This is the moment in time we took the phrase โ€˜No turning back 2020โ€™. And we agreed that 2020 would be the year for no turning back on diversity and inclusion in the marketing and communications and sports marketing sector. And the one piece of action we did was we've trademarked that phrase, โ€˜No turning back 2020.โ€™ And then we created the product โ€˜No turning back 2020โ€™. And actually, from January 4th we will be moving and migrating the whole of the campaign or the movement, as we call it to being known as โ€˜No turning back 2020โ€™. Weโ€™ll keep the BAME 2020 name there as well, because we now come up top of Google search. We won't let go of our history and our past, but we feel it's now time to let go and move on from the acronym BAME. So now our job is we have to keep the pressure up on change. But that was the history of why it came into being. And it's very much a partnership between Adrian and myself. It's a non-commercial, Adrian and I have put 40% of our company profits for the last five years into the into the delivery of the BAME 2020 programme and f1 has put it put the same out of out of that 40% we've also supported the โ€˜Back to business shipโ€™.

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ Now, to answer your question about the Business in the Community(BITC). I think it's really easy for people to sign up to things and do nothing. But I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of organisations that that have signed up and are really struggling with the what do we do and how do we do it. They know why they're doing it. Or they think they know why they're doing it, because it's the right thing to do. But the how and the what and the when is more difficult to achieve. There's no date by which anyone has to achieve anything. And it's very easy to put your signature to something. It's about action. So, ask me that question once the BITC asks people to measure what they're doing . 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ They had a two year celebration back in October during Black History Month. All of those speakers were from the sectors that have put money behind and real elbow grease behind trying to make change. So, there was the insurance industry, the accountancy sector, the banking sector and the legal sector. There were actually no big brands, no FMCG brands, no media brands. Professional services often lead in this area. And I think we need the rest to follow. But there's so much more that needs to be done. A lot of organisations really struggle to get their staff to even complete diversity and inclusion audits. Because people are very worried that if the information is going to be kept, however anonymous, it is against their name, but it's going to get in the way of their career progression. 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ And you know, the diversity inclusion forms that all of our candidates complete, we get a 95% success rate with people completing them, they're anonymous. We simply take the stats, not attached to anyone's name. And, that is how my recruitment business has built a portfolio of candidates, that is 20% non-white, in a sector that is probably only 9%, non-white. How have we done that? Now, you have to build trust, you have to you have to put time and effort and energy and one on one relationships and build one block on top of another. And it takes time, and I think people think they can make change happen so quickly. We get calls from organisations saying we need more diversity on our shortlist. We don't get anybody applying for our jobs. And like, yeah, but if you looked at your website? Have you spoken to the people that have left your organisation that that were from diverse backgrounds? Have you done exit interviews? Have you actually asked them what their lived experiences have been? Have you been taking feedback? Have they had, whatever your system is God parenting, mentors, reverse mentors? Have you actually listened and taken onboard the feedback? Because therein lies some of the some of the answers.

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ I think the fact that women can have a year's maternity leave now is brilliant. I'm very careful how I advise women. But I think two long outs if you've got a six year period where you're having a family as well. The fact is that when people have children, they are just coming into the peak, often of their performance career. If we liken it to an athlete or a sports person, they've normally been working since 23. And the average age, and I know this is different in different cultures for having, but if I just take the average across the UK at the moment. It is about 33 to have a first child, you've probably got 10 years work experience. Now, I can tell you in recruitment, that is the sweet spot, right? That is the sweet spot, it's associate director level in an agency, it is mid-level management in house, that is a sweet spot. You've had your training, you've had your first couple of jobs probably. And if you think about it from a male perspective, that is the time where they might be on 60,000. And the next job they'll suddenly take a jump up to 130-150. 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ And at the moment, most men in the UK do not, take the level of time out that mothers do. It's just not in our culture. Weโ€™re not Sweden. And so what you're doing is you're taking a finely tuned athlete out of the competition. Basically for a period of time, and this isn't just three months, this is a period of time. And my God, you've got to be determined, if you want your career to stay at the point where it was when you were winning competitions. I'd like to do some insight into women that do get to the top. How many kids they've got, how many parents they've still got a live, what the relationship is with their partner, how much domestic work the partner does, whether he or she works part time, full time, how they were brought up, what their attitude towards โ€ฆ.,. There's so much stuff that goes on, in order for a woman to still keep her career going, the support structure has got to be there. What you've got, is there's an inbuilt attrition rate where women are in the fast lane, and they decide to get into the middle lane and the slow lane, and some just don't come back at all. And at the same time you've got men that are you know, at the same stage, when women decide to have children 33, who will suddenly accelerate their career, right? So, there is a, there is a societal reason why there are not more women at the top which individually one can change. But when you meet a woman that has got to the top, it is not coincidence, it is not. It is not luck, it is choices that they made. I think there are plenty of women that think they want to run an advertising agency or a PR agency or they want to be the top comms director and they have kids and they change their mind. Itโ€™s just not the most important thing and their career was the most important thing and suddenly it's something in their life but it doesn't need to be the dominant thing in their life. 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ This is exactly what you said would happen. We need to make flexible and remote working mainstream. And if we could have waved a magic wand in 2013 and said, hey, let's create a situation where everybody has to work from home. So that men actually understand what happens when they go to work in the morning and the chaos of getting kids to school, and then home-schooling as well. The chaos of getting the meal ready. At least everyone's going to know what everyone's been doing all day. Working at home and have flexible working has become mainstream. Guess what? Productivity hasn't gone down! Mental health isn't great of course, because we're all feeling very claustrophobic at the moment. But where the pendulum swung right up one way and If you were asking me where I think it will come to rest, I think it'll come to rest on something like a 10-day office month. So, in a 20 day working month, I think that most people would choose to come in to their office to two days a week, to regroup with their teams. And I think the office will be used for doing very different things, but it will be used for brainstorming, creative thinking, hubbing, client meetings.

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ Youโ€™ve called your podcast, โ€˜The Elephant in the Roomโ€™. That was one of the modules on our program with our returners Because โ€˜The Elephant in The Roomโ€™ was not, can I do this job? Why do I want to do this job? What skills do I have to do for this job? โ€˜The Elephant in the Roomโ€™ was when do I tell them that I only want to come into the office for two days a week? And I want to do two days from home. It's a full-time job because all the part-time jobs are rubbish jobs that pay nothing. And I was on 70,000 when I left my great marketing role for X, Y, Z company or I was only even more than that. Now it doesn't matter. Because every job can be a flexible working job.

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ But, I think you need to be a successful marketer. You you've got to have the left brain and the right brain. It cannot just all be about creative thinking. It's got to be about measuring results. I know crisis comms has come into its own in the last year. And we had policy, shaping policy, I think that's going to be very important too. But in terms of working with the CEO and a board to really articulate accurately, engagingly to the stakeholders why an organization actually exists in the world beyond making money is going to be crucial to attracting staff. Absolutely crucial, because this next generation, they don't want to work for organizations that don't pay their tax. And I just would urge, that people that go into comms and marketing, they should all take basic financial management courses as well, to understand how to read a P&L. But I think that that all marketeers and comms people that have got a basic understanding of business finance and business management make much better professionals in their own expertise area.

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ This is interesting because ever since I started work, which was a very long time ago, now we've talked about the war for talent. It will never ever go away because everybody wants the best talent. I think there's always been this challenge of the relationship between the education system and work. And that will never go away because the two things are trying to achieve slightly different things. The education system is not there to get people jobs. It's there to educate our young, to make sure that they have a broad education and are fit to go into whatever line of profession they want to go to. We need to carry on building those relationship with the education sector. There needs to be more bridging, apprenticeship schemes that actually work

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ For example in January, we're launching an outreach program through BAME 2020. So, our young ambassadors that came into state schools where there's a high percentage of free school meals and high percentage of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and from a black, Asian minority ethnic background. To talk about their lived experiences in the marketing and comms career, to really galvanise those youngsters to say, yes, you could look at law, yes you can look at accountancy. Yes, you can go into robotics. Yes, you can go into pharma, but have you thought about marketing and coms? We're not very good as a sector at uniting and going out, joined up. 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ What we need as a marketing comms and media profession is to work together to collaborate, to get the best talent in to the sector. So I think that's the first thing, The second thing is really showcase talent that's doing well in your organization. It's the first thing we ask. When I go into an organization, I say, can you get me four examples of people that started in your company as school leavers and where they are now? And very rarely do I get a CEO that goes, yes, I can bring them in and introduce them to you. I know exactly who they are. It's like, hmm, yes hmm. So there's a piece of work I think in highlighting the success stories you've got in your own organization, 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ People don't come into marketing and comms to necessarily get rich. They come in because it's a creative industry and they think they're going to love their work. What they want to hear about is other people talking about why they got into the sector and why they love what they're doing. And yes, of course, they're going to ask questions about rewards and basic salaries and. 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ But, you know, the war for talent starts at entry level, but then it continues right the way through your alumni. And this is the other thing that professional services are very, very good. They have alumni networks, they have people in their organizations that manage the alumni network. Why do accountancy firms take on so many graduates. They know there's 10% will make partners. The rest will go off into industry and they will use that organization to do their accounts, the audits and tax and management consultancy. It's been thought through it's logical and they follow it through and they follow the data. Then the final bit, which is really important is organizations need to be much braver about taking people from other sectors into their organizations. So, if you're a professional services firm, why would you only look at marketers who have worked in professional services? Why is it so important they worked for partnership before? Are partners that much different to work in to a normal footsie PLC? But why? If you'll come into comms or you don't need to be an expert, you might need to know some of the journalists and some of the media and some of the influences and, and some of the trade publications, but you don't need to be an expert. The organization is crammed full of experts. So why don't you have someone from another sector that can bring a different perspective? Diversity of thinking in and I think that's on the war on talent.

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿพ The first thing is leadership needs to get engaged. It is not good enough to appoint a black or asian or ethnic minority diversity and inclusion officer. That is a cop-out because all you will be doing is saying, it's your problem. So, I would say the board. First of all the board, depending on its makeup, and if it is an all-white male board or all white male and female board, first thing it needs to do is understand white privilege. And they need to read around the subject and there is loads out there at the moment. But it isn't, it is simply not good enough to say, I'm not sure whether my company has a problem or not. We've always had a diversity policy, we've always been an equal opportunity employer. What does that mean? Then why is your board so un diverse? If you've always had a diversity and inclusion policy, it doesn't work does it? You start to unravel, why things are as they are? I think that boards should be reverse mentored by young ethnic minorities, kids from underprivileged backgrounds that have lived on housing estates, that had had free school meals, that have had both parents doing three jobs, not one job, that I've had, not the best private education or any of the, you know, the white middle class privilege. And they should be reverse mentored because they will learn so much. We run these through BAME 2020 and we call them mutually influential mentorships so that both parties gain.

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