Voices

TimeTo make change to end sexual harassment

Dan Clays, Chief Executive of Omnicom Media Group UK speaks to BITE about his experiences of timeTo training

Georgie Moreton

Assistant Editor, BITE

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With Christmas party season well under way it's important to remember that not everyone feels joy at the thought of a festive party with free-flowing drinks and the subsequent unacceptable behaviour that often follows. timeTo’s Christmas advert acts a poignant reminder that the industry still has ways to go before sexual abuse has been stamped out. 

Post-pandemic, as we aim to reshape the workplace for the better, it feels as though there has never been a better time to take up timeTo training to make significant headways toward a better, inclusive space for all. Since being established by NABS, The Advertising Association and WACL just four years ago, timeTo, the industry campaigning group tackling sexual harassment in the advertising industry has hit the milestone of 300 endorser sign-ups.

One such endorser is Dan Clays, Chief Executive of Omnicom Media Group UK, who oversaw OMG take up timeTo training on a large scale signing up the entire staff. 

In a large scale version of the usual timeTo training, the organisation helped to break down taboos and open up a discourse creating a non-judgemental safe space for colleagues to work toward creating a better workplace for all. 

In a Q&A with BITE Dan shares OMG’s experience of the large scale timeTo training that took place last year, outlining some of the benefits and the positive impact it has had on employees. 

 

Q: What are the benefits of doing a large scale training workshop? Why did you feel it was important that as many people as possible took part in the training? 

A: All of our agencies have signed up to the timeTo Code of Conduct, including leadership and so we wanted to back this up with greater awareness and more education through the training. Our ambition was that every person within the company should complete it.  The scale of OMG in the UK meant it made sense to do larger training sessions than lots of small ones. It was more efficient and encouraged more conversation, making the sessions even more impactful.  We also wanted to ensure that all genders took part to surface more perspectives.  The approach meant that every person in the company would better understand and appreciate what constitutes harassment in any form and also underlined the respectful culture we want to uphold across the business.  And as any new people come into the company we want to ensure the training is part of their onboarding process. 

 

Q: What were the types of responses/feedback from your staff after taking the timeTo training?

A: Everyone who has taken part in the training is extremely positive about it. Across genders, so many people commented on how eye opening, amazing and enlightening their experience was. Some people were understandably apprehensive at the start, because it can be such a sensitive subject to discuss in front of people. But as the session went on you could see people gaining confidence to speak out. It was also fascinating to see the differing opinions being voiced and becoming more aligned during those resulting conversations. People have positive intent, but the training allows everyone to develop a greater understanding of what is and is not acceptable in the workplace.

 

Q: Since the training - has OMG made any changes/steps to create a more open environment to discuss sexual harassment?

A: Off the back of the training we have created OMG Safe Space, an online forum where people can share their experiences anonymously. Everyone in the company has access and it has helped us become much more open with our conversations. 

The knowledge from completing the training enables people to reference their awareness of sexual harassment and avoid anything that may be inappropriate. It is also helping break down the stigma of talking about sexual harassment, whilst allowing people to sense check their words and actions.

We are working hard to create an open and inclusive culture that doesn't just end once the training session does. Encouraging our employees to keep conversations going within their own teams and ensuring any newcomers can sign up to the training. As leaders it's our duty to identify if things are not right and with positive intent make the necessary changes.

 

Q: Why would you recommend other agencies take part in the training?

A: One, because it challenges everyone to really think and consider their own actions and others. Two, because the sessions discuss all areas of harassment.

Three, the conversational nature of the sessions encourages people to talk, and helps keep the conversation going after the training.

Four, the structure of the training allows you to split into groups with people you know and it's good to be able to talk about different scenarios openly in a non-critical fashion.

Five, it's enlightening and offers a fresh perspective without being judgmental.

Six, different people have different boundaries and it reveals different peoples interpretations of what sexual harassment is, allowing everyone to be more aware. Even subtle things such as commenting on what people are wearing and how you compliment is taken into consideration.

 

Q: Has there been any long term agency culture changes since the training took place? 

A: The openness of the company means we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to this area. And we have a sense of responsibility to educate ourselves. We are holding the training on a quarterly basis, for any new starters or anyone who missed it. It's about building on the culture we have established and reinforcing what we are trying to create an open culture - where feedback is welcomed.

 

QWhat was the most surprising thing about the training?

A: I was genuinely surprised with how engaged everyone was. People became more and more comfortable, and as a result became more and more vocal, contributing opinions throughout the session. You could see people came out of the session just feeling lighter.

It created a conversation and informed people that harassment can come in microforms, which I think surprised a lot of people, but there has been a lot of positive talk around what we have all learnt.

The trainers delivering the session were great, they had real expertise and helped everyone through it. I would encourage everyone across any industry - not just advertising - to take the training and apply it to work.

But by far the best thing since has been overhearing people in the office talking about it, day to day. It's great that it has raised awareness as it’s putting the spotlight on the conversations, helping us to eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace.

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