Havas Creative North America Hires First Chief People Officer

Claire Telling joins from search consultancy Grace Blue

Claire Telling
Claire Telling spent the past eight years as CEO of executive search firm Grace Blue. Havas Creative North America
Headshot of Erik Oster

Havas Creative North America has hired its first chief people officer as it looks to reimagine its recruiting process. It’s part of the agency’s seven step action plan to address systemic racism within the Havas organization.

Havas hired Claire Telling for the role. She will serve as strategic leader for recruitment, brand and culture across Havas Creative agencies in North America. Telling spent the past eight years as CEO of executive search firm Grace Blue and previously held account and brand director roles with agencies including 72andSunny, BBH New York and TBWA\Chiat\Day.

“Claire has the perfect lens of having sat in the shoes of agency folks but has the perspective of looking across the industry,” Havas North America executive managing partner Stephanie Nerlich, who took on the additional responsibility of overseeing Havas North America’s creative agencies with the departure of Havas Creative North America chairman and CEO Paul Marobella in July, told Adweek, adding, “It’s about finding ways for people to show up as their best selves within an organization.”

Telling said, “This isn’t about finding people that are ‘the Havas way;’ it’s about looking at the business and their ambitions and the gaps they need to fill to get in. Another part of the job is making sure talent is set up for success and they’re contributing to that culture.”

A key part of Telling’s role will be to reimagine Havas’ recruitment process to be more inclusive of nontraditional talent pipelines. Nerlich said building a more diverse and equitable workplace is critical to Havas. She added that recruitment was “a key pillar” of its seven-step plan to address diversity and inclusion and that Telling would work with Havas’ nine-member DEI committee to enact a recruitment plan that finds new ways to look for talent.

“It has to start by looking at the needs and the skill sets,” Telling told Adweek. “I believe people with the right onboarding can come from any industry and work in advertising … looking well beyond proxy industries to connect all people that have the right attitude, mindset and determination.”

Nerlich said the goal is to reimagine recruiting and onboarding.

“We’ve had a reactive approach,” she said. “Traditionally, there’s a hole in the organization and you have to quickly react to fill that rather than mapping out possibilities. Claire and her team can look at forwarding the role … and not just fill a gap.”

Telling’s responsibilities will go beyond recruiting and reinventing the onboarding process to ensuring that Havas employees are positioned for success throughout their career with the network.

“Change only happens in companies where you bring in people who are going to be additive to the company,” Telling said. “But you have to be prepared to set them up for success, moving out of a reactive recruiting process to proactive long-term talent attraction and engagement strategies.”

@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.