True Diversity feat. Working Knowledge

As part of the ‘True Diversity’ series we recently had a conversation with James Lott, founder and MD, Working Knowledge. Working Knowledge harness the energy and innovation of youth to help businesses thrive.

The purpose of our initiative and series “True Diversity” is to feature, collate and showcase the breadth of initiatives and views that are all on a mission to work towards True Diversity and Inclusion.

Tony @ ADLIB: Let’s start with the need for Diversity & Inclusion. What’s your take – why is it important?

Diversity of thought is how you truly bring about innovation. This comes from having variety in your team, whether neurodiverse thinking, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, gender, or disability. 

We know businesses with a diverse workforce perform better. Quite rightly there has been a focus on increasing diversity and inclusion in senior roles. But it’s important at the other end too. 

When hiring for entry-level roles, there often isn’t much work history to go by. This can make employers even more sensitive to perceived risk, and everyone ends up trying to attract candidates from the same narrow pool.

This results in far too much young talent being wasted in dead-end jobs and zero-hours contracts simply because of an accident of birth or something that did or didn’t happen during early life, like a missed dyslexia diagnosis. 

Underemployment often means that people then get stuck and never achieve their potential. And consequently, as employers we have huge skills gaps – especially around digital.

Inclusive hiring gives a broader range of people a chance to participate in the workforce in a more meaningful way, and we all benefit as a result.

Tony @ ADLIB: Can you share a little bit more about what you do – what’s the purpose and mission of Working Knowledge?

We started Working Knowledge almost 20 years ago to help bridge the gap between education and employment. 

Our aim is to better prepare young people for their early career, and better connect SMEs with exceptional untapped talent through initiatives like our Digital Marketing Academy. This is a 15-month training and coaching programme open to employees of all ages who are looking to launch their digital marketing career by upskilling or retraining.

We know businesses want to hire diverse entry-level talent, but often don’t feel they have the necessary resources or structures in place to make it a success. Similarly, young people are often caught in a cycle of needing experience to get a job, but needing a job to get experience.

This is where a good training partner can really help. An apprenticeship offers the safety net the business needs to achieve both their D&I goals and provide opportunity for entry-level talent. 

Many employers don’t know what such support would look like and how much of a comfort it can be. As a result employers either go for ‘experienced’ candidates where the perceived challenge of taking on a new person is less, or they recruit an entry-level person who is known to them (and therefore probably does not hit their D&I goals).

As a training partner the support we offer includes: 

  • 15 months training and coaching delivered by practising marketing consultants
  • A dedicated safeguarding lead to help with mental health and wellbeing
  • Coaches to help with ‘difficult’ conversations often related to unknown or unlearned cultural norms
  • Coaches to support inexperienced marketing managers manage for the first time
  • Bespoke training to solve relatively minor issues that can cause major problems! 
  • Nationally recognised qualifications that help ‘tie-in’ new employees for longer – even beyond the apprenticeship
  • Facilitated monthly appraisal process – often clients do not have effective appraisal processes  in place and so issues are not spotted fast enough and therefore resolved quickly enough.
  • Peer-to-peer community support so the employee is realistic about their expectations and therefore retention is better.

Not only does a good training programme help the business fill a skills gap, but it provides ongoing support for both the manager and the apprentice to help make it a success.

There are 650+ apprenticeship standards from business administration to cyber security – and they’re all 95% government funded. 

Tony @ ADLIB: What do you consider the potential consequences of a lack of Diversity and Inclusion, and what do you see as the main benefits of an inclusive workforce?

I think there are three main consequences. Firstly, a lack of diversity and inclusion means a business is less capable of responding to market needs. Additionally, a diverse team means you will reflect a more diverse customer base and therefore be able to serve your customers more effectively. 

Secondly, an inclusive workforce means a greater talent pool for employers to hire from. Hiring outside the box then supporting that person through an apprenticeship is a really cost-effective solution for business owners. You’ve still got to pay them what they’re worth, but it can be very effective. 

Lastly, bringing in fresh thinking energises existing teams. We see it all the time. Plus it’s more fun! It’s why we travel, it’s why we want to experience different cultures – why not bring it into work. 

Tony @ ADLIB: How can businesses and potential employers get involved?

The government’s Skills for Life site is a great place to start. It includes information for employers about a wide range of funded support from six-week traineeships and work placements to internships and apprenticeships. 

If you haven’t considered taking on an apprentice before, the National Apprenticeship Service has just released this excellent Step-by-step Guide for Employers

There are some fantastic regional services too. We’re near Bristol so our local resource is the West of England Apprenticeship Service, but these exist across the country from East Anglia to Greater Manchester. They can provide advice on local training providers and programmes, and connect you with other services. Ask your local chamber of commerce if you’re not sure where to find them.

It’s important to note that not all training providers offer the same quality of programme. Do your research and shop around until you find the right one for your business. Here are the 10 Questions to Ask a Training Provider

And if you’d like to find out more about our Digital Marketing Academy, you can visit us here. I’m always happy to chat about apprenticeships

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Head of Marketing, Digital & eCommerce

Agency & In-house Marketing

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Tony Allen