Creative industries toolkit

For employers

Creative industries

Culture and leadership

Ensure a compelling, shared vision across your organisation.

A diverse workforce is a more productive workforce, so embed this ambition into your culture – and ensure your employees’ voices are heard, by encouraging people to share their ideas and experiences. You can watch the video for more top tips or read our guidance below.


Recommendations for developing a socio-economic strategy. Activities at each level are related, but distinguished by scale, detail or commitment.

Have visible role models from low socio-economic backgrounds; share stories of experiences and challenges to ensure visibility, unity and understanding within the organisation.

Co-create and develop with your employees, freelancers and artists a staff-centric model for inclusion and diversity to build a truly diverse and inclusive culture (see ‘Narrative’ and ‘Inclusion’ sections below).

The leader, if artist-led, or someone senior, with a respected and credible voice, must be appointed to drive socio-economic diversity and inclusion internally.

Make sure the Senior Management Team (SMT) and trustees, if you have them, regularly discusses socio-economic diversity, and how it intersects with more established issues such as gender or ethnicity.

Ensure your anti-discrimination policies make it clear they cover socio-economic background, and that senior team members and trustees are mindful of this.


Recommendations for optimising your approach. Activities at each level are related, but distinguished by scale, detail or commitment.

Appoint someone senior, with a strong external profile, to advocate your agenda for socio-economic diversity and inclusion externally.

Make one or more senior colleagues accountable to leadership for this agenda and let the rest of the team know who they are.

Over time, build up an internal community of colleagues, acting as mentors and buddies, with individual accountability, to drive socio-economic diversity internally.

Ensure there is:

  • routine collaboration between staff members, freelancers and artists in delivering the strategy
  • significant cross-over with other diversity focus areas, such as gender and ethnicity
  • strong support for, and ownership of, the strategy throughout the organisation so that each team member understands their role
  • an archive of knowledge exchanged and best practice that can be applied in a scalable way.

Encourage leaders to seek opportunities to share knowledge and insights with their peers in the sector, on an on-going basis (e.g. at conferences, webinars and so forth).


Link narrative about socio-economic diversity to your organisation’s values to bring about impactful change.

Ask senior colleagues and any trustees to help craft a statement about socio-economic diversity that emphasises:

  • its importance and the reason for focusing on it
  • how it relates to other forms of diversity
  • the current situation in your organisation (giving evidence)
  • where you want to get to, and how you’ll get there

Include elements of your story in regular internal communications, alongside other diversity areas to highlight the importance of intersectionality.

Keep updating your narrative.


Make sure your senior leaders are public in their support for this story – make a public statement about that commitment and share progress in open forums.

Ensure internal and external messaging is aligned.

Feature the story prominently in key communications, including your website, recruitment ads, annual reports and procurement materials.

Share evidence of positive organisational change with all colleagues, and what is being done to ensure this continues in future.

Offer ‘reverse mentoring’ where senior managers and any trustees, hear directly from, , and listen to, the experiences of staff, freelancers and artists. It must be a shared experience. This direct and mutually beneficial engagement also provides junior staff gain leadership experience.


Let everyone know that the organisation is collecting and analysing data so you can understand the current ‘state of play’.

Set targets using internal and external data benchmarks and analysis.

Consider sharing data with industry consortia or sector bodies, using their results to gauge your own progress.


Ensure that senior leaders are accountable for targets and make progress a standing item on the Board and SMT agenda.

Publicly share your organisation’s performance against targets.

Provide a clear incentive. Link managers’ accountability for diversity and inclusion targets to their performance review and progression within the organisation.


Create chances for colleagues to engage with your socio-economic diversity story through:

  • internal events, webinars and podcasts
  • physical and online platforms for employees to share insights and knowledge
  • share evidence and practice with peers across your sector

Celebrate socio-economic diversity through staff representative groups and ‘ambassadors’.

Provide training to staff members, freelancers and artists on the type of behaviours or practices that can be exclusive or make people feel marginalised (e.g. jokes on accents or perceived levels of education or economic privilege).


Engage with those you work with to drive socio-economic diversity, building in contractual obligations where appropriate (e.g. concerning unpaid internships, becoming an accredited voluntary Living Wage employer and data collection).

“As we emerge from a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted the vulnerable, it is more urgent than ever to enhance social mobility into the creative economy. We need to ensure the Creative Industries’ contribution to rebuilding benefits more people and places across the UK. In its ten-point Social Mobility Plan, the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) is calling on industry – including businesses large and small – to adopt the SMC Employer Toolkit and to work collaboratively to improve job quality, drive better working practices, and foster an inclusive culture that enables diverse talent to thrive and progress.”
Heather Carey, Director, Work Advance. Policy and Evidence Centre for the Creative Industries