Diversity and Inclusion in the Client Services Role

By Louise Finch
11 Mar 2020

Liverpool’s Client Services Community met to discuss this topic on Monday 24th February at Dept.  Led by Katy White, Client Director at Dept they were joined by a great group of people from across agencies and brands.

We know that the diversity inclusion stats for our industry make scary reading, there is a problem and without discussion we won’t find ways to address these issues.

We used the BIMA Diversity and Inclusion survey from 2019 to inform some issues and spark conversation.

Issue 1: How are we feeling?

66% of respondents to the BIMA survey are stressed by their work and 13% are constantly stressed.

The Industry is very stressed.

CS / PM people are putting pressure on themselves, agencies are trying to deliver to tight deadlines and very tight margins for clients, and will often take on the stress of the client as well.

Is it a cultural thing within agencies and the way they work and operate?

Are people in digital teams in brands less stressed than in agencies? Within the group those with experience in both said that agency life is generally more stressful than in brands.

In order to support their PM’s and Account Managers, does the project lead have the relationships and the appetite to push back to the client in the early days to scope the project in such a way as allows those working on it to feel they have time to complete the project in a reasonable time frame?

If people are stressed their performance drops and they will either need to work harder (more stress) or someone will have to pick it up (more stress on them).  It’s a vicious cycle!

Many companies are doing things to try and create a peaceful workforce, culture teams, yoga, mindfulness and employee surveys BUT actually for most, working in a team where the Client Manager / PM have their back and are always working to ensure they are ok, is more important.  The CS role here is key. The term Collective Individualism is key!

Stress can often come from the top down so we need to be mindful of our bosses and how they are doing.  Do we ever ask them if they are ok?

There is a ‘never’ ending workload and the backlog doesn’t end and as a CS professional you have to learn that it’s ok and learn not to take this on and allow it to stress you out.

Something that comes up time and time again is the lack of mentorship and training for junior CS/AM’s or people coming into the role from other industries / jobs.

There are a few companies taking drastic measures to stop employees working out of hours and making sure they don’t work in their personal time.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-36533743/how-dutch-designers-make-desks-disappear. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/17/one-companys-genius-way-to-free-employees-from-email-on-vacation.html

The first video is about a company in the Netherlands who close the office at 6pm, but to ensure no-ones stays late, the desks lift up and into the ceiling taking with them all computers, paperwork and anything else that is on the desk.

The second link is an article about Daimler who trialled a system which they later implemented where when someone was on holiday they would come back to an empty inbox.  If you email this person whilst they are on leave you will get a 3 strand response.

1. The email will be deleted

2. if you need to speak to someone urgently please contact a colleague or

3. if it can wait you can email again once they are back at work

One final thought on this was to write up a Mental Health Charter between you and your clients.  Presented at the beginning of every pitch / kick off meeting and signed by both the agency and the client.  Allowing rules of engagement for communication in a way that reduces stress for both parties.

Issue 2: Returners – We need you!

36% of parents did not return to their current company after taking parental leave.  Agencies are very vocal about the many ways they are promoting diversity and flexibility.  But do their policies back up their rhetoric?


The numbers of parent returners in particular are very low.  Why is this? Are we making it difficult for them to return to this role?

How many parents don’t see the CS role as a part time option because if a client couldn’t get access to you for 2 days per week for example would it have a detrimental effect on the project.

Many people coming back into the workplace after a break don’t feel able to ask about part time if the job is advertised as full time.

Are there any CS roles advertised as part time – probably not – this requires a major shift in thinking from senior leadership.  Could the role be done part time 9-2pm every day for example?

Maternity packages at companies are not at all promoted and someone applying for a job in a new company wouldn’t dream of asking about it at interview for fear of not being considered for the role.

In some circumstances there may be the ability to share crèche facilities on-site.  If this were an option would it encourage parents with young children back to work in a senior role?

One thing that comes up time and time again is the lack of mentorship in the role and we need more returners in these roles to support the next generation coming though.

Issue 3: Ageism

67% of respondents were between the ages of 25-44, only 22% were 45+.  54% of employees with more than 15 years of experience believe they have experienced ageism at agencies.

Within the digital Industry, the number of people aged over 44 is low.  This may be as a result of it being a relatively young and constantly changing industry which draws in young people.  Are people who are older, less willing / able to adapt to a flexible forever changing industry?

Are companies doing enough to support and entice older people.  Many of the ‘company extras’ that are offered are tailored towards young people and those that don’t necessarily have families.

Is it because younger staff are cheaper?  Is there a salary cap for a senior CS role and once someone has gained significant experience within the industry they take that and look towards different ways of earning more money.  Should there be a salary cap on a senior CS role? Or should one be removed if it’s already there?
We are missing out on the experience that older workers can bring.

We need to celebrate older people in the industry.  There are lots of events celebrating young people, 30 under 30 etc but not so much showcasing specifically people over 40.

Interested in joining the community? Email louisefinch@bima.co.uk

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