People Power
28 October 2019

Described by OMD EMEA Chief Executive, Guy Marks as ‘unflappable’, Guyana-born Gina Ramson-Williams entered the world of Human Resources back in 1998 with Clear Channel, before joining Mindshare as its first-ever HR Director in October 2000.

Six years later, the CEO of global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, part of Constituency Management Group, asked her to help drive the company’s people initiatives to support growth and evolution for the EMEA region.

“This was a more people-centric role, which would allow me to shift the narrative and change the business culture from within,” Gina recalls. “I felt, such a role was befitting a job title that could evolve beyond HR so I requested the title of Group Talent Director. It was something I stole from music A&R because I felt it mirrored how I’d been asked to represent our people and help them to flourish, just like A&R people do for artists and performers.

“Of course, everyone is called Talent Directors or People Officers these days but in 2006 it was practically unheard of. I pioneered it and I’m claiming it,” she says with a wry smile.

Gina met Guy Marks in March 2018, just a few months after he was appointed CEO EMEA.

He described to her his vision for a connected, collaborative business and Gina knew immediately that she could help him to develop a more inclusive agency culture.

She explains: “I’ve always preferred to focus on the inclusion aspect of D&I. Diversity is the celebration of variety, which often takes care of itself. But inclusion is about actively encouraging the authentic self. You can’t demand loyalty from agency staff. What you can do, however, is build an exciting company culture that makes people want to be part of a shared journey.”

Appointed OMD EMEA’s Chief People Officer, Gina set about forming an agency steering committee, entitled RED (Recruitment, Engagement & Development). It has since helped to implement a raft of inclusivity initiatives across the agency’s King’s Cross headquarters.

These range from leaders going into schools to actively encourage children from all backgrounds to consider advertising as a future career, through to hosting regular learning activities with the aim of tackling the unconscious bias we all possess in one form or another.

This year, OMD EMEA joined the government’s Disability Confident scheme, which supports people with disabilities to gain employment, while providing employers who don’t know where to start with valuable tools to carry out assessments, alongside solid guidance on what they can do to improve.

In July 2019, OMD EMEA gained the Disability Confident Committed level one badge, which signals a strong resolve to offering job interviews and work experience opportunities to people with disabilities.

“We felt this scheme was a great way to continue our journey as a flexible and inclusive employer. There is also the added benefit of proactively raising awareness around the challenges people with both visible and invisible disabilities face,” Gina says.

Other ways in which OMD EMEA seeks to celebrate diversity while nurturing a culture of inclusivity, is with regular social events, designed for everyone to engage with and better understand religious festivals such as Diwali and Yom Kippur.

Initiatives to join in the celebrations around the likes of London Pride, and Black History Month further help instil positivity, understanding and a greater sense of collaboration across the agency.

In the area of mental health wellbeing, OMD EMEA now offers lunch-time exercise classes, flexible working and onsite GP visits for time-poor agency employees. Gina has also spearheaded a Mental Health First Aider volunteer scheme, which sees a select number of staff members trained-up as first-line support for anyone concerned for a colleague or their own mental wellbeing.

“OMD EMEA is adopting the processes, building the technology and recruiting a much broader talent base to help everyone make better decisions faster, but greater strains and pressure are often associated with an accelerated working environment so we need to ensure that our people have the means to look after themselves in the process,” Gina concludes.

“We’re helping them to produce incredible work and strong performances by creating an environment and culture in which they can flourish and feel included. That’s the journey we’re on and it’s a journey that all 350 people who work here are excited to be a part of.”

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