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How to tackle DE&I when your organization doesn’t fit the ‘norm’

By Nicola Hammond, Group People Director

Kairos Group


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June 20, 2023 | 8 min read

The HR discipline can look a little different in the creative industries compared with others. Here, Nicola Hammond of Kairos Group shares how she reskilled for this unique business.

An assortment of colorful glass bottles

How can diversity leaders make their practices fit for any organization, whatever the people who make it up? / Alexander Grey via Unsplash

The creative industry attracts a diverse array of people whose demographics fall far from wider national averages. At Kairos Group in the UK, 8% of our employees identify as a different gender compared to birth (vs. 0.5% of the general population), 9% identify as homosexual or bisexual (vs. 2.8%), and 24% identify as neurodivergent (vs. ~15%).

In my role as group people director, this means I have to think differently about championing mental health compared to other companies I’ve worked for. Here, I outline my experiences, hoping to provide other HR professionals in the creative industry some inspiration to lean into embracing diversity and driving positive change.

Everyone’s voice in the room

I learned early in my career that data is your starting point toward success. Whether you’re seeking to reduce wastage on a production line or provide world-class mental health support, if you don’t know where you are today, you can’t make progress. This is why we run employee engagement surveys twice a year and complete a pulse check every two months.

Running employee engagement surveys means preparing yourself to see data points that you don’t want to see. No one wants to learn that one-third of their employees don’t feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work, or that 20% feel extremely stressed. But stats like these enable you to implement the right processes and initiatives to drive positive change. When faced with negative employee engagement scores, I tell myself “Let’s not use this as a measure of who we are, but a reflection of who we were.”

How can you reset when things aren’t working

When I joined Kairos Group in June 2022 it was obvious that there was room for improvement. The company had grown rapidly, attracting an extremely diverse workforce; engagement was not what it should have been. My mission was to create a ‘People & Culture Strategy House’: a conceptual framework that people could easily understand, to give a foundation to build positive change.

Getting on the right train(ing course)

We invested in bespoke training for all members of our leadership and management teams to enable them to have a better understanding of mental health well-being, and how to listen attentively, and effectively. We also trained every member of staff on mental health, from understanding what mental health is to spotting the signs of poor mental health and how to be an effective communicator.

We have more male employees than female, which creates challenges. Rather than only looking to address the balance going forward by hiring more female employees, we invested in leadership training for our female employees to ensure we could offer them the best career path.

Female leaders have very different experiences and face challenges that most men would be oblivious to. This is something that our leadership team admitted they were not fully conscious of until hearing the feedback and stories from women in leadership roles via our engagement work.

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Be authentic and true to yourself (and your company)

In December 2022, we launched Kairos XP: a tailor-made program for our female leadership team, to support and empower them. Through peer-to-peer support exercises and learning modules, the course empowers and gives women the skills to overcome common challenges that many women face in leadership roles.

Our roots are in gaming, so XP felt fitting: experience points (XP) measure how well the player has mastered the virtual environment. In under nine months, we’ve gone from concept, ideation, sign-off, design and through to delivery and execution of a seven-month cohort of eight female leaders in our business. We’re planning to rollout the second cohort soon.

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate

We’re gaming specialists, not diversity specialists. Therefore, it was critical to our mission to bring onboard partners who could help us create training programs that would be meaningful to all employees, from the most creative to the most technical and everybody in between.

Partner like Innerfit, MDM Talent Management and The Ability People understood our mission from day one, tailoring courses and speakers, and collaborating with our employees to bring topics including race and neurodiversity to life.

By collaborating with trained professionals and getting our own staff involved, we can ensure that we provide employees with practical tools to succeed; de-bunk myths and misconceptions; and have open, moderated Q&A sessions where everyone from chief executive to the latest recruits can share their experiences.

The road to where we are now at Kairos hasn’t always been smooth, but by living by the mantra that ratios and targets mean nothing but how individuals are supported and uplifted means absolutely everything, we have reached a point where I’m immensely proud to say that 100% of Kairos employees report that they have the practical skills to help build trust with teammates, they feel confident talking about mental health with a teammate and feel confident spotting the signs of stress and burnout.

Human Resources Agencies Agency Culture

Content by The Drum Network member:

Kairos Group

Led by experts with more than 100+ years of gaming and media industry knowledge, Kairos Group comprises multiple entities including Kairos Media, Kyma Media and...

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