Fast read

Our Goal

We aim to recruit and retain the most talented people in our sector and to provide the training and support they need to do great work for our clients. To help us do this we focus on:

  • The talent landscape
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Training and development
  • Internships, apprenticeships and support for education
  • Reward and remuneration
  • Health and well-being

Business value

Diversity, internships and support for education give us access to a wider pool of talented candidates and help us create work that is more effective in speaking to a diverse consumer base.

Our investment in training and development helps equip our people with the skills and knowledge they need to serve the changing needs of our clients, while inclusive workspaces, competitive reward, and our health and well-being programs support employee engagement and enable us to reduce costs associated with employee turnover and sickness.

Sustainability impact

Adopting leading employment practices protects the human rights of our employees and enables more people from all backgrounds to have successful careers in our industry.

Challenges and dilemmas

Workplace stress is a challenge in our fast-paced and client-focused industry. We need to give our human resources teams and managers the information and support they need to prevent and identify stress among their teams.

The most senior levels of our workforce do not yet reflect the full diversity of the markets in which we operate and women remain under-represented among our leadership. Achieving gender balance can be particularly challenging in the digital sector. This is important for WPP because we aim for 40 to 45% of revenue to be derived from new media in the next five years.

Management approach

Our Code of Conduct, Human Rights Policy Statement and Sustainability Policy set out our core principles for people management. Detailed policies and implementation are determined at operating company level, reflecting local circumstances.

Our central WPP Talent Team supports human resources professionals in our companies, providing guidance on current issues and facilitating best practice sharing.

Data in this section relates to our employees in our wholly-owned companies only, and does not include employees in our associate companies.

External frameworks

GRI indicators in this section: G4-10(M), G4-11, G4-16, G4-EC6, G4-LA1, G4-LA3, G4-LA5, G4-LA6, G4-LA9, G4-LA10, G4-LA11, G4-LA12, G4-LA16, G4-HR3

Global Compact Principles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Progress on our KPIs in 2015 Performance in 2015
47% women in senior management increase
54% women in our workforce stayed the same
20% ethnic minorities in senior management in the UK and US increase
26% ethnic minorities in our workforce in the UK and US stayed the same
£41.1 million training spend, £321 per employee increase
3 days lost to sickness per employee increase
61% satisfied with work-life balance decreased


increase   Improved

stayed the same   Stayed the same

decreased   Decreased 

Employee recruitment

We directly employ 128,000 people. When our associate companies are included (those in which we have a minority stake) the figure is almost 190,000 people in over 3,000 offices in 112 countries.

As a global and multi-disciplinary company we can offer employees exciting opportunities for development, and we aim to retain talented employees within the Group. Springboard, for example, is our online Job Board, that helps our people find new roles within our companies in the UK, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Human rights

We respect the human rights of all employees, whether permanent, temporary or contract workers. This includes encouraging diversity, preventing discrimination, providing safe workplaces, recognising the rights of our employees to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and not tolerating harassment or any form of forced, compulsory or child labour. We published our Human Rights Policy Statement in 2015 to confirm our commitment to human rights in our business, our supply chain and in our work for clients. More information can be found in Human rights.

Non-discrimination and anti-harassment

WPP does not tolerate harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination or offensive behavior of any kind. We select and promote our people on the basis of their qualifications and merit, without discrimination or concern for factors such as race, religion, national origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age or disability. These commitments are set out in our Code of Business Conduct which applies to all staff and is available on the WPP website, in our policy book and on our intranet. Staff are trained on our commitment through our online ethics training, How we behave.

We make sure that appropriate channels are available for staff to report concerns or grievances without fear of recrimination. Staff are encouraged, in the first instance, to discuss any concerns or suspected cases of harassment or discrimination with their line manager, local human resources representative or senior manager. To enable staff to report concerns anonymously we also have an independently operated ‘Right to Speak’ helpline available to all employees. Staff can access this via phone or email and report concerns in their local language. The helpline is publicised locally and via our Group intranet site. All reports to the helpline are investigated by an appropriate person independent of the parties involved, led by WPP Legal or the WPP director of internal audit.

Diversity and inclusion

We aim to create a workforce that reflects the diversity of consumers in our markets and an inclusive culture in which all our employees feel able to be themselves and to do great work. All aspects of diversity are potentially relevant to our companies, although our approach is more developed in some areas, for example representation of women.

Our companies implement a range of inclusive working practices depending on local circumstances. Examples include: appointing senior diversity champions or committees; employee networks and resource groups; training for leadership on unconscious bias; mentoring programs; recruitment processes incorporating diversity criteria and partnerships with specialist diverse recruitment firms; and internship and apprenticeship programs designed to reach diverse candidates. 15% of new appointments were made using recruitment processes incorporating diversity criteria in 2015 and we aim to increase this.

All employees undertake awareness training on diversity as part of our online ethics training ‘How we Behave’ and a further 36% of operating companies ran additional diversity training during 2015.

WPP, the parent company, creates opportunities for our companies to learn and share best practices, such as our UK WPP Stella Leadership group on gender diversity. Our external partners at Group level include the Business Disability Forum, Business in the Community, Women on Boards, Stonewall – the UK lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, and the US Center for Talent Innovation. We are also sponsoring the inaugural Women to Watch awards for the UK and Western Europe recognising women making an impact in marketing, advertising or media.

Gender balance

Women control or influence the majority of consumer purchase decisions and more than half of all graduates in our key markets are women. Achieving gender balance at all levels of our workforce is essential to enable us to attract the best talent and create work that connects with consumers.

We have achieved a good gender balance in our workforce overall, with women accounting for 54% of total employees and 47% of senior managers. However, women remain underrepresented at the very highest levels of the business. As at 31 December 2015, women comprised 29% of the WPP Board, 33% of non-executive directors and 33% of directors and executive leaders in our operating companies. As at the date of this report, women comprised 31% of the WPP Board and 36% of non-executive directors. 18 out of our 46 global client leaders are women (39%).

We are starting to track return rates for women after maternity leave, as this is a stage at which we risk losing female employees. We hope to be able to report data on this next year. 45% of our companies offer parental leave benefits that exceed local legal requirements and we aim to increase this.

We do not currently collect or report data on pay in relation to gender at a group level. However, our UK agencies are putting in place the systems to do so in relation to new disclosure requirements in the UK.

Gender diversity 2011-2015

Gender 2011-2015
% women 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
WPP Board 29% 24% 29% 19% 19%
Executive leaders 33% 31% 32% 32% 31%
Senior managers 47% 46% 47% 47% 47%
Total employees 54% 54% 54% 54% 54%

Female executive leaders in 2015 – by region

female executive leaders in 2015 by region bar chart

Note to chart: Executive leaders are the most senior employees in our operating companies.

We established the WPP Stella Leadership group to address barriers that could prevent women progressing their careers to senior levels and to facilitate sharing of good practices. The group was initially started in the UK and is now being extended to the US. It has identified a number of specific challenges affecting women, including time out of the workforce as carers, unconscious bias, less visibility of female leaders and lack of role models. Three work streams have been established focusing on:

  • Policy development in areas such as maternity and paternity leave, support for women returning to work after maternity leave and flexible working. The Group has benchmarked the policies of our agencies in the UK against technology companies, clients and consultancies and has recommended a set of best practices that will support retention and diversity in senior management. These have been communicated to our UK operating companies and we plan to roll out similar guidelines to other markets, starting with the US. We have also launched the Talking Talent coaching program and Parent Portal in the UK providing practical support and coaching for working parents at all levels.
  • Visibility and networking for senior women in our companies. We now have a speakers’ database to help us raise the profile of our senior women as conference speakers, panel judges and event organisers. This also helps to increase the number of visible female role models.
  • Progression training and coaching for senior women. A new Group training program has also been launched on unconscious bias for employees and leaders.

We run X Factor, a mentoring and development program for WPP’s senior women leaders. Led by Charlotte Beers, the former global CEO of Ogilvy & Mather and chairman of J. Walter Thompson, this program prepares participants for the next level of executive leadership. By the end of 2015, 107 women had completed X Factor. Charlotte Beers also helped to inspire ‘WILL: Women in Leadership Lessons’ – a growing collection of programs targeted at enhancing the professional development of the Group’s high potential women. WILL programs have run in the UK and US, with 140 women leaders from 50 WPP agencies attending to date.

Our agencies are also working with clients on gender diversity issues and developing insights on the benefits of female capital in marketing. J. Walter Thompson’s work in this area is profiled in The female delusion and Female Capital.

Annette King

Annette King
CEO, Ogilvy UK

Annette was recognised in the Financial Times’s Top 30 Straight Ally list for the LGBT community.

“To my mind, creating a supportive working culture of which a diverse workforce is one measure, is a no-brainer. The more diverse your workforce is, the better your business will be. Better in terms of output, results and staff well-being. Diversity, in all its various forms, is the foundation that holds us up as an agency. It makes our work more creative, the people more interesting and our results impactful.

Inclusion is something that we all need to work on, no matter what level we are at, whether we are a board member or an intern. Our role as leaders is to raise awareness of the issues that LGBT individuals face at work and help others understand the importance of equality, fairness and acceptance for all, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.”

We supported the Women in the Workplace 2015 benchmarking study by Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org and McKinsey that aims to encourage female leadership and gender equality in the workforce. WPP agency Landor was one of 118 companies to participate. The study found that women remain underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline, with the disparity greatest at senior levels of leadership.

Ethnic diversity

We measure ethnic diversity in our offices in the UK and the US using national definitions of ethnic/racial minorities, such as those determined by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK and the Equal Opportunity Commission in the US. In 2015, 26% of employees in these countries were from ethnic minorities (2014: 26%), 20% of senior managers and 13% of executive leaders.

Ethnic minorities (UK and US)

Ethnic diversity chart
  • Executive leaders
  • Senior managers
  • All employees

Our agencies work with recruiters and other partners to reach out to diverse candidates and increase the ethnic diversity of our workforce. Examples include:

  • Internships and apprenticeships: We run many internship and apprenticeship programs with a particular focus on diverse candidates such as MediaCom’s London Apprenticeship program and Cohn & Wolfe's and Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ PR Internships for All, see Internships and apprenticeships. Our companies also support external programs such as Ladders for Leaders, The Marcus Graham Project’s summer bootcamp and the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP). At a Group level we established the Micro Fellowship to enable more students from ethnic minority backgrounds to gain experience in our industry.
  • Recruitment partners: We partner with specialist recruiters, such as Rare Recruitment and organisations targeting diverse candidates. In the UK, for example, our companies work with organisations such as the job site Milkround, ACS in the City, a diversity recruitment program, City Gateway, Equality Britain, African Caribbean Diversity, Asians in the Media and the Diversity Group that provide access to a diverse pool of candidates. Partners in the US include the Emma Bowen and LAGRANT Foundations.
  • Careers events: our agencies attend events and career fairs targeting diverse candidates. Examples in the US include the ADCOLOR Conference; the Face of Talent, the careers fair for MAIP alumni; ANA multicultural conferences; ‘Here Are All the Black People’, a multicultural careers fair organised as part of Advertising Week during 2015; and careers events at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • Professional networks: employee networks and resource groups provide professional development opportunities and assist in attracting and retaining diverse talent. Ogilvy for example maintains 10 groups including the Black Diaspora, LatinRED, RedLotus (for employees of ‘Asian-Pacific’ descent) and Doonya (Muslim) networks. Each network is sponsored by an Ogilvy executive leader and Ogilvy’s North American CEO hosts quarterly meetings with network leads.

Nationalities and local recruitment

There are seven nationalities currently represented on the WPP Board. We estimate that 51% of senior managers were recruited from the local country or region in which they work.

LGBT diversity

We aim to create an inclusive environment that encourages the recruitment, retention and development of talented people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. A number of our agencies have launched LGBT networks including Ogilvy, Grey and J. Walter Thompson and work with external partners such as Stonewall and Reaching Out MBA, a US organisation for LGBT MBA students.

For example, Ogilvy Pride is Ogilvy & Mather UK’s LGBT and Straight Ally professional network. It runs events and training sessions to raise awareness of LGBT equality and helps the agency to develop its approach to LGBT diversity. During 2015, Ogilvy Pride organised ‘Why Coming Out is Good Business’, an event attended by over 150 external organisations and clients as well as Ogilvy employees. Attendees heard from Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP CEO on the importance of LGBT diversity, as well as from Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP and author of the book, The Glass Closet. O&M was recognised by the Human Rights Campaign Organisation, which awarded the agency a 100% score in its Corporate Equality Index 2015. Ogilvy is now extending its work in this area to other markets, with the Ogilvy Pride network launching in Hong Kong in early 2016. O&M sponsored The Economist’s Pride & Prejudice conference held in March 2016 in Hong Kong, London and New York at which Sir Martin Sorrell was a keynote speaker on the business and economic case for LGBT inclusion.

Other examples from our agencies include Wunderman’s sponsorship of the week-long LGBT festival ShanghaiPride, which aims to raise the profile of LGBT issues in China. Wunderman created a campaign for Pride, ‘Hold the hands of the one you love’, to increase awareness and encourage engagement among LGBT and heterosexual people.

Sir Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell

“There is a clear commercial rationale for brands to be supportive of and reflective of LGBT diversity – LGBT buying power is significant and growing. Leading brands are recognising this and LGBT diversity is increasingly reflected in our work with clients including high-profile campaigns, such as Tiffany’s first ad featuring a same-sex marriage and the Google+ Same-Sex campaign.

Within WPP we value diversity and we want our people to bring their true selves to work. We want to be a visible voice on LGBT issues in our industry and to work with our clients to help make LGBT diversity more visible in marketing.”

Gender transition

Our Code of Business Conduct commits us to non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. Gender transition, when a transgender person makes the decision to publicly change his or her gender, can be a challenging time for the individual. Our companies need to be able to provide the right support to employees undergoing gender transition and their colleagues.

We issued guidelines to our companies during 2015 on how to manage gender transition in the workplace. The guidelines provide information on how to support affected employees and their colleagues and address concerns and misconceptions as well as practical steps the company may need to take. The guidelines have been issued to our heads of human resources in all our companies globally.

Age diversity

Our industry has traditionally employed a young workforce, and 73% of our people are aged under 40. The levels are particularly high in faster-growing markets where our industry is more recently established. A workforce with a mix of generations can contribute to diversity of insight and creativity. As the global population ages, older generations account for an increasing proportion of consumer spending. Some of our companies have introduced measures to help retain older employees, such as phased retirement.

Age diversity in 2015 %

Age diversity 2014 (%) - 19 or under: <1%, 20-29: 36%, 30-39: 37%, 40-49: 18%, 50-59: 7%, 60 and over: 2%
  • 19 or under 0%
  • 20-29 36%
  • 30-39 37%
  • 40-49 18%
  • 50-59 7%
  • 60 and over 2%

Age diversity by region 2015 %

overAge diversity by region 2014 (%) - 19 or under: <1%, 20-29: 36%, 30-39: 37%, 40-49: 18%, 50-59: 7%, 60 and over: 2%
  • 19 or under 0%
  • 20-29 36%
  • 30-39 37%
  • 40-49 18%
  • 50-59 7%
  • 60 and over 2%


Disability and ill-health, whether physical or mental, can affect any employee during their working life. We aim to be a ‘disability smart’ employer, providing the right support and removing barriers so employees affected by disability can fully contribute to our business success. This improves employee retention, productivity and engagement.

We are members of the Business Disability Forum in the UK and ran a seminar with them for our UK agencies during 2015 exploring current best practices in this area.

In France, our companies are working with specialist recruiters and investing in support for disabled employees in line with French law which sets a target for employers to reach 6% representation of disabled people in the workplace. 

Flexible working

Flexible working practices help create an inclusive culture, particularly for working parents and employees with caring responsibilities. Flexible working arrangements are agreed by our operating companies and can include part-time arrangements, flexible start and finish times, home working arrangements as well as career breaks and sabbaticals. These measures support employees to successfully balance the demands of their home and professional lives and help us to retain valued employees. We estimate that around 31% of our employees have flexible working arrangements and that 74% of flexible working requests are approved by our companies. 43% of our companies offer career breaks and sabbaticals.

Internships and education

WPP supports education and skills through internships, apprenticeships and partnerships with schools and universities. We believe that business can play a positive role in education, helping build the skills our industry needs and supporting young people into employment.

It is important that educational initiatives are inclusive because lack of diversity exacerbates skills shortages. One of the important contributions that business can make is to provide opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to develop their skills.

Internships and apprenticeships

We offered 5,378 paid internships and apprenticeships at our companies during 2015 (4,613 internships and 765 apprenticeships). Currently our data covers 66% of our companies, so the actual number of paid internships and apprenticeships is likely to be higher.

Many of our companies run internship programs specifically targeting diverse candidates and it is our policy that all internships and apprenticeships should be paid positions. This ensures they are accessible to candidates from all socio-economic backgrounds. Paul Richardson, our Group finance director, communicated this policy to our companies during 2015.

Examples of internship and apprenticeships at our agencies in 2015 included:

  • 4 A’s Multicultural Internship Program (MAIP) – our agencies in the US participate in the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ MAIP program which provides over 120 placements each year giving candidates real-world work experience, training and development, and networking opportunities. WPP agencies involved include GroupM, J. Walter Thompson, Maxus, Ogilvy, Team Detroit, VML, Wunderman and Y&R.
  • PR Internships for All: Cohn & Wolfe's and Hill+Knowlton Strategies participate in this initiative of the UK’s Public Relations Consultants Association’s offering placements to interns from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
  • WPP Micro-fellowship: this joint initiative between WPP and Rare Recruitment, encourages ethnic minority candidates to consider a career in marketing communications.
  • Evolution Apprenticeship MEC UK: this apprenticeship program, launching in 2016, will target candidates not currently in education, employment or training to gain experience in MEC’s communications planning, digital & display activation, audio visual, performance planning & activation and analytics & insights departments.
  • MediaCom London: year-long apprenticeships for 10 young people, who have not had the benefit of attending university. Participants also work towards a Level 3 NVQ qualification in Marketing and Communications. MediaCom works with a number of organisations, charitable trusts and social enterprises to ensure it attracts candidates from diverse backgrounds. Since launching in 2012, 90% of apprentices have been offered full-time positions at MediaCom on completing the program and the scheme has won a number of awards.
  • Starting Blocks: Burson-Marsteller South Africa’s internship program launched 21 years ago to give students practical experience in public relations and help them find full-time employment more quickly on graduation. To date, 56 interns have graduated and gone on to find permanent positions. 49 of these were empowerment candidates from previously disadvantaged groups.
  • Associate Learning Programme Genesis Burson-Marsteller India: this year-long paid internship program provides training in all facets of public relations within a working environment. 14 interns took part in 2015.
  • Y&R’s Z Academy: offers three-month apprenticeships to graduates from the best design and digital marketing schools, pairing apprentices with executives across Y&R’s global network.
  • Class of 75: Sudler & Hennessey’s new apprenticeship program in celebration of the agency’s 75th anniversary, will offer 75 college graduates a two-month apprenticeship working alongside experienced professionals and benefiting from at least eight hours training a week.

Paid internships and apprenticeships by region 2015

Paid internships and apprenticeships by region 2015

Education partnerships

We support marketing and communications education outside WPP, to help develop the skills our industry needs and support a future pipeline of talent for our businesses, particularly in newer markets for WPP.

At university level, key partnerships include our support for the WPP School of Communications and Marketing in Shanghai, our partnership with the Indian School of Design and Innovation in Mumbai to offer a three-year undergraduate course on marketing communications and our recently-launched Africa Academy.

Across our markets, many of our senior employees serve as visiting lecturers and teach courses relevant to marketing and communications at local universities and colleges.

Digital is a growth area for WPP (our target is 45% of revenues from digital activities) but women are underrepresented in this part of our industry. We need to address this in education to help prevent future skills shortages and enable a gender-balanced workforce. WPP companies are partnering with a number of universities to support their new data, science and technology courses. This will help us to attract entry-level applicants especially women into our analytics and technology operations. For example, Ogilvy & Mather Australia works with the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA).

For younger students, our companies work with local schools to help build skills and alert young people to career opportunities in our industry. In the UK, for example, JWTeach works with inner city secondary schools in the UK to provide a unique structured advertising and media course, which contributes towards student’s GCSE grades. The most passionate students are offered work experience placements. Maxus Calling, is a recently launched school liaison and apprenticeship initiative, that will give local school leavers access to career advice and enable them to take part in practice interviews, Q&A sessions with Maxus staff, and to attend talks by senior Maxus leaders. At least five school leavers will be offered apprenticeships at Maxus. Ogilvy’s School Partnership with the Bishop Challoner Federation of Schools in London’s Tower Hamlets borough includes mentoring and work experience placements.

We also support Inspiring the Future, an organisation working to improve career advice in the UK by giving all young people, whatever their background, real insights into careers, jobs and educational routes. WPP provided support to develop the program’s online service and over 200 of our people have spent time at local schools talking to children about careers, CVs and interview techniques.

Training and development

Training helps our people develop their skills, increases engagement and enables our teams to serve the needs of our clients in all disciplines and markets. Our Group training programs are designed to help us deliver on our four strategic priorities: horizontality; new markets; new media; and technology, data and content. They include:
  • Maestro: Orchestrating Client Value, our week-long program for senior client leaders held in 31 countries, designed to strengthen the effectiveness and confidence of senior client practitioners and help us to achieve horizontality in our ways of working. There have been 3,911 participants from 142 WPP companies since its inception in 2003.
  • The WPP ‘Mini MBA’: a series of workshops that help our rising talent broaden their understanding of business and marketing issues, develop leadership skills, and deliver client value. 2,422 participants worldwide have benefited to date.
  • WPP Fellowship program: a three-year global recruitment and training initiative for graduates providing experience across a range of marketing disciplines. 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Fellowship, and 181 Fellows have gone through or are participating to date.
  • WPP MBA Fellowship program: our global multidisciplinary program for MBA graduates, with 60 participants so far.
  • WPP Africa Academy: our training and talent development program in sub-Saharan Africa, see below. WPP Leadership Toolkit for Managers: an interactive resource and educational tool hosted on our Group intranet. The Toolkit helps managers explore what good leadership is all about and provides practical techniques, tips and tools managers can use.

Building skills in our faster-growing markets

The WPP Africa Academy, launched in February 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa, is a new initiative to provide high-quality training and talent development opportunities for our employees, suppliers, clients and potential recruits in sub-Saharan Africa. It will help address skills shortages for our industry in Africa and support economic development in the region.

The Academy will deliver a range of courses, many in partnership with the Red & Yellow School of Logic and Magic, a highly-respected marketing and advertising school. Its curriculum includes a range of accredited skills development programs, occupational courses and workshops. We expect nearly 600 people from our companies to take part in training during 2016.

Our companies have been working in Africa for over 80 years and we currently employ more than 30,000 people through our companies and associates in South Africa alone, with offices in a further 20 countries across the continent. Africa is a fast-growing market for our Group and the Academy will help support this growth.

The Africa Academy is part of a larger investment program in education and skills in fast-growing markets. In 2015, WPP in partnership with the Indian School of Design and Innovation (ISDI), launched the ISDI WPP School of Communication in Mumbai, creating India’s first professional three-year undergraduate diploma program in communication. 65 students have taken part to date. In 2011, WPP partnered with the Shanghai Arts and Design Academy (SADA) to establish the WPP School of Marketing and Communications in China, with 124 graduates to date.

“As in many other developing markets, African nations are facing a shortage of talent, particularly in the fields of marketing and communications. As the leading marketing services group in Africa and the world, WPP is committed to supporting the development of a professional and creatively-talented workforce in this sector. By fostering and developing the talent within our agencies, this initiative will provide our people, our businesses and ultimately our clients, with a competitive advantage.”

Sir Martin Sorrell

Performance in 2015

We invested £41.1 million on training in 2015 (2014: £38.2). This includes the cost of training courses, and travel and accommodation costs for employees attending training sessions. 65% of our employees took part in formal training programs.

In previous years we reported a combined figure for training and welfare spend. We have changed our approach this year and are now reporting training spend only. This will make it easier to monitor investment in training.

We have restated our data for previous years to reflect our new approach.

We spent, on average, £321 per employee on training, with the average spend for female employees being £326.

Staff training

Staff training and welfare (£m investment) - 2010: 48.9, 2011: 58.3, 2012: 57.8, 2013: 64.4, 2014: 73.9

Training facts and figures

Employees participating in formal training 65%
Spend on training per employee £321
Spend on training per employee (women) £326
Training delivered online 16%
Training delivered face-to-face 83%

Our operating companies have their own bespoke training programs to develop their people’s industry skills, business and leadership competencies and functional expertise, see chart below. For example, Grey New York’s Famously Effective Leadership program is a two-day off-site course which aims to improve employee retention through effective management and communication. The program focuses on how to manage, motivate and lead diverse teams, including working across generations and cultures, delivering difficult feedback and coaching. Other programs at the agency include: Grey University, monthly training sessions available to all employees; Grey Masters of Innovation, a course for mid-level employees; and Performance of a Lifetime, a presentation skills class for senior leaders.

Training by category

Training by category
  • Industry specific skills 38%
  • Business skills 22%
  • Function skills 6%
  • Privacy and data security 2%
  • Management skills 8%
  • Leadership, strategy and business development 11%
  • Other 13%

Appraisals and performance development

Regular appraisals are an important part of performance management in our companies. In 2015, 86% of employees participated in a formal appraisal process at least once a year. Our companies also use 360 degree appraisals for senior employees which combine feedback from colleagues, managers and others. 73% of our agencies used these appraisals during 2015. 68% of executive leaders have 360 degree appraisals, 64% of senior managers and 49% of other employees.

Reward and remuneration

We offer attractive compensation packages, which are benchmarked against other companies in our markets and sector. Employees have access to a range of benefits, including pensions and private health insurance, in accordance with local practice. Full and part-time employees have access to the same benefits.

Many of our people participate in performance-related incentive plans on top of base pay. These reward excellent performance and are assessed either through the employee’s operational business area or on the share price performance of the Company. Senior employees may participate in share-based compensation plans.

Our Worldwide Ownership Plan and WPP Share Option Plan 2015 have operated from 1997-2015 and granted share option awards to more than 147,000 of our people. In 2015, under the WPP Share Option Plan 2015, over 48,000 eligible employees received awards in 71 countries.

Remuneration for our most senior leaders is set in accordance with our Executive Remuneration Policy that is designed to attract and retain the best-in-class talent. The policy looks to incentivise directors to develop the skills of the Group’s employees in order to consistently exceed our clients’ expectations. The policy’s objective is to drive and reward sustainable and exceptional performance, thereby producing long-term value for share owners. See our Annual Report for more information.

We support employees to make financial provisions for the future. The benefits offered vary by company but can include competitive packages in the areas of retirement and savings, as well as life and accident insurance. 48% of employees were covered by pension benefit plans.

Living wage

We support the principle that full-time workers should be paid enough to provide a decent standard of living. This principle is known as the ‘living wage’. In the UK, the Living Wage Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, has calculated a voluntary living wage rate which exceeds the UK’s current statutory national minimum wage.

As a professional services firm, the vast majority of our employees already earn significantly above the living wage rate. However, wage rates in our supply chain may be lower. We clarified our position on this issue in the UK during 2015. It is now our policy for WPP, the parent company, to pay the living wage for all parent company employees and all on-site contractors such as cleaning, security and catering staff in the UK. Our UK companies are also working towards paying the living wage for all employees and on-site contractors within three years, and a number of UK companies have already achieved this including Added Value, Addison Group, Brand Union, Burson-Marsteller, Clarion, Cohn & Wolfe, GroupM head office, Kantar Health, Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, Mindshare, Sudler & Hennessey, VML, WTMS Ltd, Wunderman and Young & Rubicam. We have issued guidance to our agencies on the Responsible Procurement of Cleaning Services.

Health, safety and wellbeing

We provide safe workplaces and aim to support our employees to stay fit and healthy and to manage work-related stress. Sickness absence is a cost to the business and to employees personally, and can affect our ability to deliver work to clients.

The main health and safety risks within our workplaces are stress and ergonomic injuries. Work-related stress is a particular challenge in our fast-paced and client-focused industry and in some markets due to cultural and other factors.

We assess the potential for work-related stress through interactions with employees, our regular staff surveys, monitoring timesheets and staff absences and by reviewing issues raised via our employee assistance programs and exit interviews. Some of our companies provide training to line managers to help them identify the early signs of stress. Flexible working arrangements can help staff to manage home and work-life commitments and to reduce stress.

Our companies operate their own health and safety management systems, which can include employee training, audits and risk assessments. 72% of our companies have appointed someone with responsibility for health and safety management and 35% have a formal management-worker H&S committee to monitor and advice on occupational health and safety programs. Our companies implement a range of initiatives to promote health and well-being including: fitness facilities (68% of our companies), including on-site facilities and subsidised gym memberships; health and nutrition services (61%), including health insurance and medical assessments; counselling services (54%), including employee assistance programs; ergonomic risk assessments and specialist equipment (67%); and subsidised childcare.

Anna Hickey
Managing director, Maxus UK

Never Stand Still at Maxus UK

“Maxus UK wants to be the best agency for people to work at – for work, for life, and for growth. The agency launched, ‘Never Stand Still’, a holistic program for employee engagement and well-being, designed to develop and retain the agency’s people by helping them achieve the life they want.

Key aspects of the project include career coaching, available to all Maxus staffers (regardless of level or department), the ability to take two working hours a week for exercise (either via an in-house class or through a subsidised gym membership), an exchange program with other Maxus offices and a local school liaison project.

The components of Never Stand Still are aligned with the project’s three pillars:

  • For Work enables staff to actively shape and grow their careers through training, coaching, mentorship and championing of best practice.
  • For Life initiatives are designed to ensure staff can balance work with their life outside – empowering them to exercise, learn about well-being, celebrating agile working and increasing the time that teams spend socialising and bonding together.
  • For Growth is the Maxus way of recognising that if staff grow as individuals, they’ll be more motivated and inspired at work. Staff are invited to participate in anything from free language courses to learning to code, or perhaps getting involved with local charity and community initiatives, or working in other Maxus offices overseas.

Performance in 2015

The overall sickness rate was 3 days per employee in 2015, a decrease from 3.2 days per employee in 2014. This includes both non-work related illness or injuries, work-related injuries and any occupational diseases related to an employee’s work (such as work-related stress or repetitive strain injuries). As a comparison, the UK’s Office for National Statistics reports that in the UK the average worker took 4.4 days off work due to sickness absence in 2013, the last year for which data is available. There were no work-related fatalities in 2015.

Days lost due to sickness

Staff training and welfare (£m investment)
  • Days lost to sickness (including injuries and stress)
  • Days lost per employee

Monitoring progress

We monitor the impact of our policies and practices and we share what we learn between our companies across the Group. Our approach includes employee surveys and structured engagement with employee representatives as well as informal dialogue with our people day-to-day.

Exit interviews with employees who are leaving the business can provide valuable feedback. In 2015, 80% of leavers had exit interviews (2014: 78%).

Employee surveys

Regular employee surveys provide useful insight into the views of our people, enable us to compare performance between our companies and help us to identify areas for improvement. Results are shared with company leaders and communicated to employees, with action plans developed to address lower scoring areas. 76% of our companies conducted a staff satisfaction survey in the last two years.

We include a set of standard WPP questions in our company surveys where possible to enable us to compare results from different parts of the business. In 2015, these were included in surveys covering 70% of Group employees.

Question % positive
Attracting, developing and retaining people with a diverse
background is encouraged at my location
My performance in my job is evaluated fairly and regularly 60%
I have the opportunity for personal development and growth
at this company
My company takes an interest in my well-being 64%
My work schedule allows me sufficient flexibility to meet my
personal/family needs
I could discuss ethical concerns with my managers without
worrying that my job would be affected
My company is trying to cut its carbon footprint 47%
Generally we are encouraged to be ‘green’ in our office 54%
The support my company gives to charities and good causes
is appropriate

Employment infringements

In 2015, 200 cases were reported, compared to 484 cases in 2014. During the year, 248 cases were finalised (including cases reported from prior years). Of these, 79 were withdrawn, 108 agreed between parties, 55 judged against Group companies and 6 judged in favour.

The investigations surrounding the recent events at J. Walter Thompson Company are being finalised. Immediate action has been taken. The former CEO, Gustavo Martinez, stepped down by mutual consent. Tamara Ingram was appointed as the new CEO.

Labour relations

We support the right of employees to join trade unions and to bargain collectively. We aim to have positive relations with unions and employee works councils.

In our industry, trade union membership is relatively low. In 2015, around 5% of employees were members of trade unions across 31 countries. There were 1,273 consultations with works councils, of which the majority were in Europe.

We aim to avoid compulsory redundancies, where possible, and in cases where redundancies are necessary, we ensure our HR teams and Employee Assistance Programs provide support to affected employees.


WPP companies received numerous awards and accreditations in the area of human resources management during 2015. Examples include:

  • Cohn & Wolfe, New York, PR Week, Best Large Agency to Work
  • Group M, India, World HRD Congress, Dream Employer Award – Media 2015
  • GroupM, Spain, Top Employer Institutes, Top Employer
  • GroupM, Singapore, HR Asia Recruitment Awards 2015
  • GroupM, Uruguay, Great Place to Work, Great Place to Work – Uruguay, Ranked 6th
  • J. Walter Thompson, Hong Kong, Asia Recruitment Awards 2015, Best Candidate Experience and Best On-boarding Experience
  • J. Walter Thompson, UK, IPA, CPD Gold and Platinum accreditations for sustained training excellence
  • Kantar Health, UK, Sunday Times, 100 Best Small Companies to Work For 2015 and 2016
  • Kantar, London, Sunday Times, 100 Best Companies to Work For 2015
  • Maxus, UK, Sunday Times, 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016
  • MEC, UK, Best Companies, Two Star Accreditation
  • MEC, UK, Sunday Times, 100 Best Companies to Work For 2015 and 2016
  • MEC, Spain, Top Employer, Top Employer Certification
  • MediaCom, Düsseldorf, karriere.de, Fair Company Award
  • Millward Brown, Australia, Aon Hewitt Best Employers 2015, Best Employer
  • Mindshare, UK, IIP, Investors in People
  • Mirum Agency, Brazil, Great Place to Work, Ranked 15th
  • Ogilvy, Mexico, Best Place to Work, First place
  • Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore, GTI Media Awards 2015, The most popular graduate employer in Media & Advertising
  • Ogilvy & Mather, US, Working Mother Media, 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers
  • Scholz & Friends, Hamburg, Faktenkontor, Hamburg’s Best Employers
  • TNS, Latvia, Ministry of Welfare of Republic of Latvia, Family Friendly Enterprise Award
  • VML, US, Cradle Foundation, Silver Cradle Foundation Award
  • VML, US, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 100 Best Adoption Friendly Workplaces
  • WPP, US, Forbes magazine, America’s Best Employers
  • Wunderman, Madrid, Great Places to Work list, Ranked 8th.