Workplace Leaders
Global Chief People, Culture & Inclusion Officer

Shipra Roy

In the fast-paced and dynamic landscape of advertising and media, navigating the intricate balance between fostering a thriving workplace culture and driving commercial success is no small feat. Shipra Roy, Chief People Officer at Wavemaker Global, brings a unique perspective to this challenge. In an exclusive interview with Max Webber, co-host of The Interview, Shipra shares insights from her 20-year career, offering a glimpse into the world of HR, diversity, and inclusion in one of the world's leading advertising agencies.

Shipra’s Journey

Max: Let's start with a brief introduction to yourself and your organisation, Wavemaker.

Wavemaker is a pivotal player in the advertising industry, nestled within WPP and Group M. While the holding company is WPP, Wavemaker operates in a distinct landscape, serving as a profitable agency with over 8,000 employees, focusing on media, technology, and innovative solutions. My role as the Chief People Officer revolves around ensuring diversity, inclusion, and fostering a positive culture within our organisation.

Max: How did you enter the world of HR? What has energised you throughout all those years?

My journey started in finance, but I quickly realised the people-related aspects of my work were what truly resonated with me. The move to international roles, starting in India and later transitioning to the UK, brought unique challenges. These moves broadened my horizons, and I discovered the importance of international perspectives in the HR field, especially at a time when globalisation was just taking root.

What has kept me energised is the ability of HR and people skills to transcend industries. I've worked across various sectors, from Reuters to PepsiCo, and across advertising with Publicis, WPP, and McCann. The constant change and the impact of COVID have added a new dimension to our discipline, making it even more crucial in shaping organisational success.

Max: What, in your mind, are the key things to get right when embedding belonging and inclusion across an organisation?

At Wavemaker, our approach revolves around keeping the client at the heart of our business, driving growth for both clients and our people through positive provocation. We've integrated diversity and inclusion into the fabric of our organisation, avoiding the common separation seen in many companies. Initiatives like Employee Resource Groups (ERG) focusing on disability, LGBTQ+, and family groups, coupled with over 100 D&I champions across 45 markets, underline our commitment.

Furthermore, we use tools like Culture AMP for appraisals and feedback to ensure a sense of belonging. Our goal is not just to promote inclusion but to provide opportunities for growth, leveraging our position within the larger Wavemaker, Group M, and WPP ecosystem.

Max: A common theme on The Interview is getting busy staff to engage in initiatives like EDI. How do you go about achieving this?

Engaging busy staff requires finding a personal hook; something they're passionate about. It's crucial to make these initiatives feel less like additional work and more like a shared commitment. Discovering what drives individuals, whether through town halls, focus groups, or casual conversations, helps tailor initiatives to resonate with their interests. We've had success in some markets, like Asia Pacific, where particular approaches, such as discussions around culture through food, have brought people together.

Having passionate leaders, including our CEO Toby Jenner, who actively supports ERG groups, sets a tone. When leaders demonstrate genuine interest and make time for these initiatives, it becomes easier for others to follow suit.

Max: What traits do you think the best leaders in organisations have that allow them to bring people together?

Authenticity is a key trait. Our leaders at Wavemaker are authentic, open, and human in their approach. They make time for their teams, whether talking about client work or addressing the challenges employees face. Being able to put your arm around someone and acknowledge stress and strain fosters a sense of connection. Authentic leaders show vulnerability, allowing them to connect with their teams on a personal level.

Max: How do you draw the link between work around culture and EDI and actual commercial success?

The link between culture, EDI, and commercial success is intrinsic for us. As an agency working in a consultative manner, our product is our people. By ensuring the wellbeing, diversity, and inclusion of our employees, we enhance our ability to drive value and growth for our clients. Our focus on employee well-being, exemplified by practical solutions and market-led initiatives, directly impacts productivity and, consequently, the bottom line. It's a symbiotic relationship where a healthy organisational culture contributes to our commercial success.

Max: What's the best piece of advice you received across the course of your career?

One piece of advice that has stuck with me is always to have a point of view, even if it's not the most popular one. Being bold and unafraid to express your thoughts is crucial. Another piece of advice I'd share is to always do something you enjoy in your career. Following your passion, even if it doesn't always lead to immediate financial gain, ensures a fulfilling and meaningful journey.

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Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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