Talent/HR Track

May 31, 2017

Chelsea Spratling

Chelsea Spratling is a freelance Senior Copywriter and MAIP alum. She has worked alongside some pretty talented minds on campaigns for Degree, Spotify, Canary, and more. A native of the Georgia-Alabama border who refuses to pick a singular hobby, she can be found sewing stuffed animals, jewelry making, or building paper mâché figures in her free time. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her 100-pound dog, Mischief.

Talent and HR departments are the first to show people in the door. They are also starting to play a bigger role in keeping them from walking out.  So together they make up an important – and popular – addition to The 3% Conference. This track received so many registrants that it had to be moved to a bigger space next door at the Wyndam Hotel! In this recap, I'll break down the conversations that were powerful, promising, and improvable. Sponsored by Bank of America.

Session 1: Raising the Bar

Diversity Expert Julius Dunn, II moderated a panel that included Kerry Keenan, Co-Founder of Half Irish; Liz Giel, Group Planning Director of Carmichael Lynch; Sedef Onar, CTO of 72andSunny; and Patti Clarke, CTO of Havas Group.


Clarity is key. The panel jumped right into discussions of needing more clarity in hiring, yearly reviews, and policy. Panelist Sedef Onar of 72andSunny even mentioned that posting a company’s policy publically could make an agency more accountable. Everyone also recognized that there are stories not being told because of the limited diversity in our field.

Liz Giel mentioned that more transparency is needed in advertising. She brought up a story by the Harvard Business Review about how vague feedback is holding women back. She ended on the idea that creating cultures of growth will help women and people of color want to stick around and that we need to be generous with the gift of transparency. Patti Clarke added to that, saying it’s important to consider the whole life your employees have before making policies that affect them.

Moderator Julius Dunn asked the panel, “What would you say to your younger self about strategizing to work in this industry?” To which Kerry Keenan answered,

"Go out and fight for pay parity. And vote. Fight now."

Key Takeaways

  1. Vague feedback is holding women back. We owe women attainable evaluation.
  2. Advertising is losing talent at alarming rates – mostly women and people of color.
  3. Clients are now demanding diverse stories. How will we achieve this with their simultaneous desire for smarter/cheaper/faster work?

Session 2: The Moonshot Effect

Led by co-authors of The Moonshot Effect, Kate Purmal and Lisa Goldman.

What the heck is a moonshot? Kate Purmal and Lisa Goldman broke it down for the room. It’s a set of initiatives used to solve big problems that seem impossible. The most notable and eponymously named was after JFK’s call to action for the U.S. to send a man to the moon. But agencies can achieve their own versions of “the impossible” too. Here are a few other things you need to kick off a moonshot:

  • A compressed timeline
  • Breakthroughs – like new business models or new attitudes
  • A team of 5-7 high performers
  • A visionary leader
  • Dogged execution

They also explained that women have a harder time envisioning the future of company success, but that it’s possible to learn “vision.” They defined vision as the ability to sense opportunities and threats in an environment. Women tend to be more cautious with their ideas. But they assured the crowd that they should step into a future where the product or idea already exists. They gave the example of a friend of theirs, the man who created the Palm Pilot, who walked around with a balsa wood carving of the device for weeks before while prototyping it – even using a fake stylus to “take notes” during meetings!

One of the last bits of information they provided was a five-pillar guide to help women get into the C-suites of businesses and how they can be ready to lead at higher levels:

  1. Run a business unit
  2. Have corporate board service
  3. Work cross-functionally
  4. Lead industry and thought leadership
  5. Cultivate vision

Key Takeaways:

  1. “Live” in a future where your product or idea already exists.
  2. Visionaries are impatient.
  3. You get what you tolerate.

Session 3: The Frontlines of Family Friendliness

A Lunch + Learn fireside chat between The 3% Movement’s own Lisen Stromberg and All-In author Josh Levs

Here’s a shocking statistic: 72% of millennial fathers have changed jobs for better work/life balance. As women push toward equality in the workplace, men are seeking it at home. When men are seen as equal opportunity caregivers to children and given adequate paternity leave, women are allowed to return to work without the sexist scrutiny for “leaving a child” and with the security of a job that values not only their points of view, but also values their right to ambitions outside of motherhood.

Josh Levs made the point that,

"When women and their partners feel secure in their ability to take parental leave, businesses keep more employees."

He also mentioned that it would behoove the United States to have a national policy that allows people paid leave for parenting, caregiving to older family members, and more. He believes that the U.S. should join the rest of the developed world in at least guaranteeing women some amount of maternity leave.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Paid leave for both parents saves money in the long run. Fewer people quit.
  2. Fathers often change jobs due to work/life balance, but do not tell their employers “more time with family” is the reason they’re leaving.
  3. The advertising industry needs to stop painting images of inept fathers, so more men feel comfortable taking paternity leave to help women.

Session 4: Culture Carriers

A discussion on in-agency dynamics with Felicia Geiger, Talent Professional; Kate Jeffers, Partner, Owner & Managing Director, Venables Bell & Partners; Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer, VaynerMedia; Bonnie Wan, Partner, Director of Brand Strategy, Goodby Silverstein & Partners.


Agency culture is an investment. You get out what you put in. That’s why diverse experiences are important. But what was unexpected and very insightful about this panel was the idea that agency leadership should influence through empathy. Creativity flows more freely when companies create stable environments for employees. When a company respects that its workers have the stresses of things like rent or the joys of things like travel, a positive culture can help them feel safe and appreciated because of their circumstances – not in spite of them.

Felicia Geiger mentioned how being in talent has led her to see in people what they don’t see in themselves. It’s helped her connect people, forming lasting partnerships that expand and build on agency culture. Claude Silver shared her story of how she came to be a “people” person, too. It started for her by first working in strategy with Vayner, leaving to pursue fields where she could help others, and then returning to Vayner to build an environment that was strategically more open and ambitious.

Throughout this culture session, many of the panelists discussed how their employees presented interesting, nonconventional work ideas. Kate Jeffers said that her company has made these ideas possible in some cases, like realizing the dream of one employee to work remotely while traveling around the globe.

Bonnie Wan, who graciously stepped in as an impromptu moderator, rhetorically asked the room,

“Can we invest in our employees emotionally? Creatively? Spiritually?”

She went on to say that agencies should feel free to offer meditation and yoga classes, running clubs, and workshops. Two very interesting questions she presented were these: “How personal can you get as a leader?” and,  “Is it okay to talk about these [personal] things and to what extent?” She maintained that for Goodby, the most award-winning years were the ones in which employee surveys showed people felt most connected.

Key Takeaways:

  1. You can’t dictate the type of culture your agency has. That comes from the people.
  2. Tie your personal life to the quality of your product or company. You can’t be interesting if you’re not interested.
  3. Bring the idea of empathy into your leadership in a very conscious way.

Session 5: But That's Crazy

Moderator: Martha Hiefield, Global CTO, POSSIBLE. Panelists include Nancy Alley, EVP, Director of Human Resources, Deutsch LA; Barbie Graver, VP of Talent, Netflix; Sandi Hildreth, Global HR Director, Wieden+Kennedy.


How does “no more performance reviews” sound to you? That’s just one of the new HR practices breaking into the corporate world. It’s time employee evaluations, business travel, and diversity hiring matched the today’s standards. Barbie Graver of Netflix mentioned how her company got rid of scheduled reviews tied to bonuses and now give feedback in the moment while increasing salaries based on the market value of their employees.

Nancy Alley brought up the idea of starting at “yes” and working backwards as far as accommodating employee needs and wants. It’s easy to assume nontraditional working environments, hours clocked each week, and in-office availability are rigid. But talent and HR departments can surprise themselves by taking chances. And moderator Martha Hiefield described how she felt that,

"It is every single person’s job at a company to make sure you have the right diverse people on board."

Sandi Hildreth of W+K shared the story of how their Portland, Oregon HR department continued to hire only white candidates [because like hires like] even after deliberately diversifying its talent pool to include many people of color. So they implemented a two-day unconscious bias training seminar to discuss race in depth with its current employees. Although retention is still an issue they battle because of the city of Portland itself, the agency is hiring at the percentages they had hoped for.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Start at "yes" and work backwards when it comes to the needs and wants of your employees.
  2. Be responsible via practice, not just via policy.
  3. Determine employee compensation based on market value.

Wrapping Up the Track

Talent and HR initiatives have the potential to increase and advance the presence of diverse people in advertising – including women, people of color, those on the spectrum of LGBT, and persons of different abilities. These departments could eliminate the gender pay gap, could make offices more accessible, and could foster a culture of inclusivity and invention.

While this track was a great first start on a topic that hopefully strengthens its reach as The 3% Conference grows, it has a long road ahead. Making agencies healthier work environments for parents of all genders is paramount. But in the future, it will be necessary to discuss the intersectionality missing for all other cross-sections of women who may not make it far enough into advertising to face the motherhood dilemma.

As a millennial myself, I was particularly struck by a question an audience member asked during one of the sessions:

“What about women who are not mothers? How do we enjoy time off without feeling guilty?”

The answer, simply to not be afraid of guilt, but instead to “go to your manager and demand respect for your time to recharge” seems more idealistic than practical.

Over the next few years, The 3% Conference and its new Talent/HR track have not only the ability, but, considering the current state of our nation, the responsibility to share actionable practices that ensure women, mothers, AND other groups safely come in from the margins and get our due. Talent and HR open the door. Let’s make sure we have what it takes to keep it open wide enough for everyone.