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Talent Evening

Talent Evening
On Tuesday 8 September, senior management, L&D and HR Professionals gathered at an IPA drinks reception to hear from three speakers why and how we could protect and grow our biggest asset, our people.

Director of Professional Development Patrick Mills set the scene by noting that the CPD 25 Year Plan was right on track, with universal acceptance of the standard and increasing acceptance from recruiters and intermediaries of it to differentiate agencies and candidates.  There is also growing evidence of Gold standard CPD‘s direct link to higher retention of talent and clients, new business conversion and cost savings.  At the recent IPA Commercial Conference Andrew Pinkess, Director of Business Innovation of AMV BBDO presented research which proved the correlation between growth and talent investment.

But given our business absolutely depends on people there is still a very high turnover of staff (average 30%) in agencies, compared to 10% across all businesses.  At the Talent Adaptathon Sydney Hunsdale, former COO/CFO of international digital and media agencies, noted that losing people was the single biggest financial drain on an agency’s P&L.

Karen Blackett, CEO of MediaCom UK, immediately demonstrated her company’s commitment by noting that her senior management all have KPIs for talent management.  No wonder when her clients wanted ‘all you’ve got’ from their talent.  HR/L&D were literally at the centre of her agency and it was no surprise that her agency mantra is ‘People First, Better Results’.  (The Langland management and HR team were out in force, agreeing via tweets with HR being centre stage for business results.) Karen made us laugh by showing pictures of the largely male and pale industry leaders from when she joined the business and revealed stats to show how society has moved on in the meantime – 41% of women earn more than their other half, up from an estimated 26% two decades ago.

The agency’s vast, structured development programme had huge opportunities for all – from the most junior to senior, keeping everyone fresh.  (I liked the NVQ in shoe design that someone picked.) Everyone’s natural communication skills were analysed to make stronger teams.  But the clever family friendly L&D initiatives such as help with ‘pinch points’ were amazing and just one reason why they have appeared nine times in The Sunday Times Top 100 Employers list.

Karen believes that a more diverse base will allow the best talent to rise – their apprentice programme recognised that some of the most talented people can no longer afford to go to university, and it has paid off for them in business.  Most impressive and inspiring for me was the statistic that 57% of her senior board are women. 

Natalie Graeme, MD of Grey London, tweeted this truth during the session: ‘Talent is crucial to your agency but is your agency crucial to your talent?’

Bianca Best, Managing Partner at iProspect later described Karen as phenomenal and inspirational.

Oliver Morris from UK Music shared lessons from his industry.  As with ours times have changed – now professors of music at universities recognise that with students becoming paying clients they need CPD programmes of their own!

Similarly there was a huge need to widen a diverse group of young people’s horizons as to the roles available – not just being an X factor performer.  Degrees were more inaccessible to some and to this end they were also engaging with schools and targeting deprived areas with rehearsal space and encouragement from local performers. 

However, most impressive to me was the drive to get rid of unpaid internships, surely one of the best ways to diversify talent?

Finally Robin Longes from Daniel Marks Recruitment acknowledged that it was odd to have a head-hunter as a guest speaker at a protecting talent event!  He explained how their emphasis on CPD credentials of candidates helped the industry: - double checking skills and encouraging more learning, creating awareness of what is out there, and showing candidates the benefits of putting their learning and development credentials front and centre of their CVs, as other professional industries (including, importantly, our clients) would do automatically.  We don’t want other industries to poach our talent pool so we need to give them opportunities to grow in our business:-commitment to CPD means we can develop and protect our talent and prevent them from being snaffled by other sectors. More importantly our commitment to CPD will enable us to attract top talent from other sectors and professions.

He believed that this new way of working helped with the huge challenges facing his business – Linkedin and globalisation.  He echoed the other speakers by noting that there was a new mindset particularly among the young: they could want to go travelling in their mid 20s, they valued work/life balance (or’ life blend’ as Karen calls it, a much nicer term), they could start their own thing.

Robin ended speaking about Daniel Marks involvement with the IPA Women of Tomorrow award and (via the Princes Trust) the Big Bang intern programme, another way to get the most diverse talent into the business.

Natalie Graeme needed no convincing, tweeting ‘Banish the fear that if you train talent they'll just up and leave. Train talent to grow you & retain them’.

Karen Blackett

All photos from the event are available here

Last updated 22/09/2015

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