Havas Culture


Communications Project Manager
Havas UK recently announced it would be utilising the UK government’s Kickstart scheme to triple the intake of its entry-level placement programme, HKX Platform, which specifically targets underrepresented talent.

Here, Sharon Annafi, Group DE&I Lead at Havas UK, tells Dare! about the platform and how the agency plans to develop 100 entry-level roles across its agencies in London, Manchester and Cirencester, and shares details of the progress made following the appointment of a DE&I executive committee and launch of an ambitious 10-point DE&I charter in 2019.

Firstly, tell us a little about your role at Havas UK. What does a typical day look like?

As DE&I Lead for the UK Village, there’s never a dull moment.  Part of the charm of the role is the variety of activities I can be involved in on any one day.  As a result, it’s difficult to say what a typical day looks like since every day is so different.

However, I can say that I’m responsible for shaping and delivering our Village wide DE&I approach, initiatives and policies, including our All In strategy and ambitious 10-point DE&I charter.

On many days I can be called to help with a DE&I challenge colleagues face with a client or with a piece of work being delivered.  This could be anything from ensuring the language used in a brief is appropriate to joining client meetings to respond to or advise on our DE&I approach.

Typically, I can be found managing partnerships with external stakeholders, working with our All In Ambassadors to deliver on a programme of activity against their individual agency DE&I plans and liaising with our DE&I committee on Village wide priorities and initiatives. 

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time planning for, designing and delivering on our Village wide education programme.  With continuous learning being a key component of our All In strategy, the provision of good quality training and upskilling opportunities for colleagues is paramount for its success.

What is the HKX Platform?

HKX Platform is our entry-level, placement programme, which specifically targets underrepresented talent who otherwise face higher barriers to entry into our industry than other communities.  The programme focuses on recruiting individuals with a keen interest in our industry, who would have traditionally struggled to gain employment due to their educational qualifications or their socio-economic backgrounds. 

“HKX Platform has always been about creating opportunities for new talent, therefore we were incredibly excited at the chance to be able to expand it and offer more young people the opportunity to participate.”

How did Havas UK get involved with the UK government’s Kickstart Scheme and what does it involve?

In any one year, HKX Platform offers around 30 young people the opportunity to take part in a three-month placement at Havas, where they undertake an internship with one of our participating agencies.  For the 2021/2022 HKX Platform programme, we evolved it to align with the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme, to provide an enhanced six-month job placement for young people (aged 16-24) on Universal Credit. 

Through participating in the Government’s Kickstart scheme, we have been able to turbo charge our efforts for 2021/2022 by creating 100 new entry-level roles across our agencies in London, Manchester and Cirencester.

We have chosen to significantly enhance our placement offer by making each role full-time (36 hours a week instead of the standard 25 hours) and paying the London Living Wage (instead of the reduced National Living wage).  Long term, the ambition is to absorb a proportion of the Kickstart interns into permanent entry level roles following their six-month placement at Havas and assist the others to gain employment with organisations of their choice.

HKX Platform has always been about creating opportunities for new talent, therefore we were incredibly excited at the chance to be able to expand it and offer more young people the opportunity to participate.  This is particularly true at such a tough time for so many young people as we bounce back from the recent pandemic.

How many new roles will be on offer and in which areas of the business?

Our commitment to the Kickstart scheme will see us create 100 new entry-level jobs across all our agencies in London, Manchester and Cirencester. 

“Our commitment to continuously pushing ourselves is clear, we won’t be happy until we have equity and fair representation for all our staff across the business.”

At the end of 2019, Havas UK appointed a new DE&I executive committee and launched an ambitious new 10-point charter, setting out the business’ commitments over the next five years.  Are those commitments on track and are any new programmes in the pipeline to help achieve your objectives?

By 2020, we had met our target of 50% female employees in senior management roles in Havas UK, so we pivoted and committed to 50% in C-suite and/or our most senior roles in our businesses by 2025.  We also recommitted ourselves to achieving 25% Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic employees by 2022. This commitment was extended to include at least 10% Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic employees in senior management by 2025. 

Our commitment to continuously pushing ourselves is clear, we won’t be happy until we have equity and fair representation for all our staff across the business.  For each of our 10-point Charter commitments, we are well on course to either achieving or surpassing our goals.

We have a number of new programmes being launched to help with the progression of our staff.  We recently launched the Level Up Management Training apprenticeship for junior staff to help achieve charter principal 4 – We will actively develop and support programmes (both informal and formal) designed to remove the advancement hurdles faced by women ad Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees. 

We will also be extending our Amplifying Diverse Voices Series.  These are a series of events held across our Havas Village to help amplify the voice of marginalised groups.  Each month, one of our agencies invites an external speaker who both educates and challenges our employees.

Recent sessions have included:

  • Suicide Prevention Day – Screening of the film ‘Why Wouldn’t I Be’.  The film was followed by a Mental Health Panel discussion on the impact of the media on mental health.  Colleagues were encouraged to think about how they can use their day to day work to improve the experience of audiences. 
  • Global Butterflies – Talk and advisory session given by the two founders of the organisation, to help bring awareness around the challenges faced by members of the trans and non-binary communities in the modern workplace.
  • Triathlete with Autism – ‘Super’ Sam Holness and his Dad (and coach, taxi driver, publicist etc etc) Tony spoke to a group of employees about Sam’s aim to become the first Triathlete with autism to qualify for the Ironman world championships. They shared Sam’s story as well and got employees thinking about how they can make their workplace more inclusive for (and benefit from) neuro-diverse people like Sam.

“From the way we recruit our staff to the way we work with clients to deliver products; my hope is for DE&I to be factored into and embedded in all our decision making processes.”

What are your personal goals for the remainder of 2021 and beyond?

With it being the busiest work period of the year for the UK Village, there is so much going on for everybody from now until the year end.  This is also reflected in the continued growth in appetite for all things DE&I across the Village. 

For me, this means ensuring I deliver on our 10-point charter commitments and steering the myriad of activities taking place across the Village.

More specifically, my goals for the remainder of 2021 are:  

  • To amplify the work of our recently launched Staff Networks (Disability, Gender, Race/Ethnicity and Pride).
  • Black History Month – Deliver a series of activities to mark this year’s celebrations themed on ‘Proud to be’.  Events include educational talks, amplifying diverse Black voices and creating safe spaces for Black talent to heal from recent global trauma.  
  • Men & Wellness – In November we’ll celebrate our male colleagues with a series of events to make International Men’s Day.  Activities around male health, leading equal lives and mental health support will be available. 
  • Training – Deliver the rollout of our leadership training and All In training programmes.

What are your hopes for the future of DE&I programming within Havas?

In the time I’ve been with Havas, I’ve been excited by the commitment to the DE&I agenda by everybody across the Village. 

It’s no secret that I believe businesses play a fundamental role in shaping society, and I see Havas as being uniquely positioned to lead the way in shaping that change.  From the way we recruit our staff to the way we work with clients to deliver products; my hope is for DE&I to be factored into and embedded in all our decision making processes. 

I don’t just want Havas to be the most inclusive organisation in the industry, I want us to drive the sector forward as a whole. Through the reach and agenda-shaping nature of the work do, my hope is for DE&I programming within Havas to lead to the type of culture change that influences far beyond the walls of HKX.

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