Sean Hargrave
Jun 06, 2021

'Don't be obsessed with where people sit': Diageo's four tips for working with top talent

Diageo's Isabel Massey told Campaign Connect why the company is being more open-minded on hiring

Diageo: Massey spoke at Campaign Connect
Diageo: Massey spoke at Campaign Connect

As the end of lockdown looms the key to hiring the best digital talent is to be more open-minded. This goes beyond building diverse teams to being more flexible about where talent sits within an organisation and whether new hires are pre-qualified or eager to learn.

That was the message from Isabel Massey, head of media and futures at Diageo, during a session called “New Skills for a New World” at Campaign Connect.

Massey, who was part of Diageo team that ran the global media review for the drinks giant shortly before lockdown was called last year and won by PHD, said she believed close partnerships with agencies are one way of improving access to digital talent, underlining how important it is to not get to hooked up on internal team structures.

“Don't be obsessed with where people sit, be obsessed about bringing great talent in to work together on your brands,” she said.

“I want to attract the right people to work for Diageo, whether they sit in-house with us, in agency, or part of a radically different model.”

With this flexible attitude in mind, Massey outlined the four key points she believes will ensure a brand or agency can attract the right talent.

1. Your brand attracts the best talent

Massey described brand values as “absolutely key to attracting the right talent”. Beyond the company owning some very famous brand names, she believes it is the overall company’s values that matter most. 

This includes supporting people in the communities where it works but also having a CEO dedicated to inclusivity. This can be seen in Diageo’s vow that by 2030 its inclusivity drive will ensure 45% of its leaders will come from diverse backgrounds, while 50% of board members will be women.

“That is hugely inspiring as a place to work for me, and the people that work with me, and the future talent that’s going to join us as well,” Massey said.

Diversity is so important to Diageo that it was the sole criterion in the final round of the media pitch, she revealed.

2. Make work meaningful 

People with digital skills want to use them to make a difference and so companies should never underestimate how important meaningful work is to an individual. Massey sums it up as offering “impactful work” that both drives growth at the company and “change at large”.

Hence, Diageo has signed up to the Global Alliance for Responsible Media formed by publishers looking to make mainstream media more diverse and inclusive. The Alliance helps the company avoid monetising harmful content 

“Contributing to these types of bigger goals is meaningful work, that certainly gets me and many members of my team out of bed every morning,” she said.

3. Look for credentials and potential

Only hiring people with the best credentials leads to “a race to the bottom” in the battle to secure the best digital talent, Massey believes. Her top tip is to widen the pool of potential recruits by looking beyond qualifications and experience and seek out potential. 

“It's really important to balance credentials with potential, which means putting equal focus on their expertise, their leadership qualities, and desire to learn,” she said.

“I's important to find candidates that are curious, adaptable, and really quick to learn, and then nurture this talent by giving them rounded expertise and rounded experience and training.”

4. Stay open-minded

Massey's final tip is for brands and agencies to change mindsets so they can adopt new criteria for hiring talent as they embrace new structures for building teams.

“Stay open-minded to what your talent model looks like,” she said. “Focus on attracting the right talent to work for your business, no matter whether they sit in house in agency, or in a radically different model. And then nurture this talent with meaningful opportunities, stay open minded to where this talent will come from.”

(This article first appeared on

Campaign India

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