Diversity and inclusion at The Octopus Group

Like many businesses, Octopus Group has spent a lot of time thinking recently about how we can nurture diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. It’s undeniably a serious problem: a recent census revealed that 89% of the industry comes from a white ethnic background, and PR professionals are also far more likely to be privately educated than the general population.

This has to change. At Octopus Group, D&I is all about creating an environment that accepts every individual’s differences, enabling all employees to achieve their full potential and allowing us to create an honest, positive and organic environment where every opinion, voice and bit of feedback matters. Here’s a run-down of what we’re doing to tackle this issue.

Our initiatives

A diverse workplace doesn’t happen by accident; it takes top-down and bottom-up commitment. Our staff are encouraged to educate and challenge themselves, their colleagues, and clients alike; after all, one of our core values is to ‘challenge the norm’.

Meanwhile, we’re always finding new ways to assess and evolve our own working practices and initiatives. We have a Diversity and Inclusion Action Committee made up of individuals around the business from different genders, ethnicities, and levels to tackle these issues and make sure we continue to be diverse, inclusive, and a great place to work.

We have diversity education and training in place with speakers as part of our Share the Knowledge programme. All managers strongly encourage their teams to join these sessions, as we believe a large part of equality, diversity and inclusivity in the business begins with a good understanding and education to drive best practices.

We have several short-term and long-term initiatives underway to support our goals. This year, we’re hoping to join The Blueprint Mark as a benchmark for BME professionals. We’re also planning to support Career Hack, aimed at 18-25-year olds from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds looking to join our industry.

Through our recruitment process, we’re proud to attract a diverse pool of applicants, and we believe our dynamic and inclusive culture encourages this. Historically, we’re pleased to say that our credentials in terms of BME applicants have historically been higher than the industry average. But we know there’s always more we can do, and we’re working hard to make this happen. That’s why we’re currently reviewing our recruitment best practices and have plans to amplify our Internship Scheme for 2021 to attract a large BME talent pool through local supporting colleges.

Work that works for everyone

Of course, D&I goes way beyond hiring. We strive to create an environment where people can work effectively, no matter their background or requirements. For example, our flexible working policies for parents have a positive impact on gender equality at Octopus Group. Currently, we have 30 female and 22 male employees. The number of women who have stayed with us – moving into and retaining senior roles – is testament to how successful our maternity, paternity, and parental leave, return, and support policies are. A fifth (19%) of our employees and 13% of the Senior Management Team are BAME, two of our employees have disabilities and three people describe themselves as LGBTQ+.

We genuinely reward employees for bringing their ideas forward and helping us develop them within the agency. Whether it’s new employee benefits, new socials, internal groups, or ways to enhance our Client First experience, over 50% of our new ideas and approaches come from staff across the agency.

Valuing every individual

We’re a genuine but proud bunch, so it means a lot when we get recognised as a Best Place to Work. But our real success comes from our own internal satisfaction survey; for the last two years, 97% of staff said they feel they belong at Octopus Group and are able to voice their ideas and opinions whenever they wish. And over 83% feel their perspectives are included in decision making. We believe that by valuing each person’s differences, we can allow each person to contribute their unique experiences, which can have an extremely positive impact on our work, colleagues, motivation, productivity, and our clients’ experience. 

We know there is much room for improvement and development in our D&I approach. But we’re working hard to ensure our agency continues to do all it can to maintain the fair, honest and inclusive environment we’re proud of.