Why agencies should invest today for essential long-term gains

Cecilia Nwamaraihe

Despite the much-discussed question of how to attract and retain talent, the answer of how to successfully do it seems to remain unanswered. With so many opinions, guides and even academic literature it is hard to find a definitive formula for success. For me, it boils down to making sure everyone has a good understanding of what the media industry entails, clearly displaying the ways in and once in, making sure staff are nurtured.

Make what we do known

When I say I work in advertising, people immediately have visions of Mad Men and ask me if “it’s really like that”. When I explain that I don’t actually conceptualise the ads I am met with silence and slightly bemused faces. I can’t blame them, though, as it was only a few years ago that I realised advertising and media were any different from one another. With the pace of change forever quickening, to the outsider it may feel like a confusing world of twists, turns and no straight answers, making the challenge of recruitment even more complex.

Earlier this year McDonald’s in the US and Australia turned to Snapchat, Spotify and Hulu to reach millennial job seekers where they naturally spend time, enticing them with existing employee’s positive testimonials. The milkround days should be behind us and career fairs are dated in this digital age. As we are constantly pushing our clients to, we need to embrace innovation as a way to educate and pull in prospective talent that are looking for an open door.

Our goal should be to find innovative ways to reach them with the right information at the right time. If we’re not taking our story to the places and channels that are native to the next generation, we risk not being seen or even understood.

Create accessible opportunities

Chris Pearce, chief executive at TMW Unlimited, wrote about how good work experience can count for more – it’s true, but the reality is that good work experience is hard to come by.

Over the last academic year, there were only 14,000 paid work experience places available (High Fliers Research Limited), with over 758,000 graduates entering the job market (HESA) not to mention the school leavers. With this influx of people, expectations are higher than ever and some inevitably get caught in a catch-22 situation, where they attempt to gain experience, but can’t seem to get that first break because they have no experience.

Quite simply, we have to provide more opportunities for positive and relevant work experience, internships and apprenticeships. It may seem like a big ask when the market is already so competitive and budgets are forever being stretched, but in doing so we create a pool of open, enthusiastic and perhaps most importantly, skilled people who will carry the industry to new heights. It’s a short-term investment for an essential long-term gain.

Train, care and enable because people talk

Internal training is a great way to look after an employee’s professional health. Having an ongoing training program that allows staff to gain further skills within their specific roles as well as cross-training opportunities, will help nurture great internal talent and promote loyalty. If they feel supported, when the time comes for a change, they are more likely to look internally rather than seek work elsewhere.

We work in an exciting and relentlessly energetic industry, but at times it can be demanding. There are ways to counter this though, by ensuring a company-wide focus on health and well-being. Introducing a range of benefits can do wonders, from HR initiatives such as flexible lunches/working hours and well-being classes, to the everyday perks to alleviate stress like ad-hoc social events or even simply enabling employees to make time for their passions. When these opportunities exist in a company, it has a proven effect of boosting morale and resilience, aiding employee retention whilst enticing new talent.

We have to make first contact with all types of new talent, aspiring or otherwise, evangelising the industry and the varied opportunities and career paths it offers. Once they are in, we have to equip them with the right tools so that they feel empowered and inspired to progress, not just in a day job, but in a lifelong passion and career. The necessity of knowledge and experience cannot be overstated, it is the new minds that start at the bottom that bring in fresh perspectives and ideas that will ultimately drive our industry forward.

There are still no hard and fast routes to success, every company has different ways of attracting, engaging and retaining their staff. Only time will tell if we’re getting it right.

This article was originally published in Campaign.