Creative industries toolkit

For employers

Creative industries


Support all staff to access opportunities to develop.

Social mobility is not just about who gets in, it’s also about who gets on. Have a defined list of skills required for each promotion – and build flexibility into job specifications. 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.

Collaborate with other organisations on initiatives to support the progression of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Analyse the following to understand how progression can be affected by socio-economic background:

  • who gets promoted?
  • who is in a role that has greater creative control and/or senior position, compared to those in lower level grade positions
  • who is getting paid the most and least using job titles as salary indicators
  • who is winning awards?
  • Who is being invited to key meetings?

As an employer or when commissioning work, create a clear definition of talent in each section of the organisation, and an explicit narrative about what experiences and behaviours should not contribute to progression (e.g. shared taste with senior managers or completion of international internships).

Create clear processes and policies for work allocation and performance management.

Ensure training opportunities are taken up equally by those from all backgrounds.

Provide regular feedback to staff members, freelancers and artists on their performance.

Actively nurture relationships with freelancers and artists, e.g. offer freelancers and artists a wider range of support than you would have done in the past. Identify what support they need in order to do their best work.

Think about what progression looks like for freelancers and artists, and factor this into performance reviews:
the clients they work with; and
gaps between jobs


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

As an employer or when commissioning work, connect with consortia of organisations to undertake more advanced analysis, to better understand staff, freelance and artist profiles and intersectionality, for example:

  • the correlation between different characteristics – e.g. socio-economic background, gender and ethnicity – and relative performance, pay or progression
  • relationship of different diversity characteristics – e.g. school attainment, university attended, gender and ethnicity – on progression rates throughout the organisation
  • qualitative research to understand issues in more detail

Have conversations about the importance of ‘cultural capital’ in progression decisions – e.g. familiarity with business etiquette, foreign travel, teamworking, cultural references, etc.

Re-think rigid technical and non-technical streams within your organisation, which can block people from pursuing specialist roles (e.g. how people can move beyond administrative grades).


Embed responsibility for progression across the whole organisation, not just HR or a specific senior colleague.

Create opportunities for employees to engage with the narrative on socio-economic diversity, for example:

  • internal events, webinars and podcasts
  • physical and online forums for employees to share views and experiences where appropriate
  • co-create learning initiatives

Share evidence and practice from across the sector, e.g. on bullying, harassment, discrimination and other forms of inappropriate behaviour.

Train everyone in the organisation on how to avoid exclusive and excluding language, to create an inclusive culture and mitigate against barriers to progress.

Take notice of who is getting invited to meetings and the opportunity to speak at events.


Incorporate procurement into EDI, ethics strategy and commitments.

Engage with those you work with in advancing socio-economic diversity, with contractual obligations where appropriate (e.g. unpaid internships or data collection).

Explore how, and in what ways, client and/or or audience perceptions and expectations affect who gets ahead.

Consider mentoring or ‘buddy schemes’ between colleagues from ‘non-professional’ or different social backgrounds.

Use soft skills training to boost confidence.


Ensure that those taking non-graduate routes receive comparable opportunities for progression.

Ensure managers visibly support the offer of training, development and progression for those with fewer qualifications.

Provide clear information about training and job opportunities and development activities and ensure employees know how to access this.


Implement rigorous processes for succession planning to:

  • avoid rushed hiring processes to replace leavers (which risks compromising diversity)
  • reduce the effectiveness of individuals threatening to leave to gain advantage (which is more common among dominant groups)

“This Toolkit offers a very clear challenge to all of us working in the arts and creative industries – we need to get ahead in attracting the best talent and ensuring they thrive – and to do this we need to change the way we recruit, the way we structure progression and our internal cultures. This resource guides you every step of the way – from baby to big steps and provides great examples of what has worked for others in our sector.”
Kate Danielson, Westwood Jerwood Creative Bursaries

“If creativity is to shape a better future for all, then it has to reflect the diversity and breadth of experience found across the country. Ensuring opportunities exist for creative individuals to thrive, no matter their background, is an important step towards achieving this. The Social Mobility Commission’s toolkit is a critical resource for addressing the unacceptable imbalance of socio-economic backgrounds found in the UK’s creative industries.”
Caroline Norbury, CEO, Creative Industries Federation, part of the Creative UK Group