Media: Double standards - Helping preserve the future of the media industry

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 25 September 2009 12:00AM

Liz Nottingham and Helen Brown on the challenges of discovering and nurturing talent in the downturn, and why the media business remains a great place for graduates to be.

LIZ NOTTINGHAM, HR DIRECTOR, STARCOM MEDIAVEST GROUP; CHAIRMAN, IPA PEOPLE MANAGEMENT GROUP

- What are the most significant HR/talent issues facing media agencies at the moment?

Inspirational leadership qualities are critical. Our leaders need to become sailors; chart a steady course in choppy waters and steer towards the break in the waves. Focus on what is important and stick with what will bring greatest value to the business. The leadership team is there to provide confidence to the people when times are tough and uncertain. Leadership skills are fully tested during such times as it easier to lead during the good times. And keep talking. Keep people up to date and help them feel engaged with the business and optimistic about the future.

- What impact has the recession had on your graduate recruitment programme?

We are taking the longer view and have recruited two intakes of graduates this year. The second group started this month.

- How much training do you have in place for developing new recruits?

We take a 360-degree approach to our training by tackling the nuts and bolts of working in the different media departments through to careers guidance sessions. The graduates are also equipped for their future in the industry with a strong and pragmatic grounding in digital.

- What are the specific challenges of managing people in a media environment?

What makes our industry special is that we are all in a business that by definition requires us to be cutting-edge. Our people drive these agendas and they expect the company they work for to deliver with creativity, intelligence and speed. As an example, green issues and corporate social responsibility are important to our people. We have some brilliant initiatives that make our people feel confident and proud to work here.

- How different and challenging is your role during a downturn?

The current situation has given us the scope to see that every problem is an opportunity in disguise. It has enabled us to push some bold agendas in the way that we manage our teams and make opportunities for people a reality. Tighter budgets require more creative thinking and this has often resulted in a better product.

- How well have advertising and media businesses responded in moving people issues higher up their agenda?

The retention and development of talent is always on our agenda. At the IPA People Management Group, we see that these important issues are taken seriously. To help member agencies, the group has produced a guide, Top Tips, on retaining talent in tough times, which provides advice on how to retain staff, reduce redundancies and boost staff morale.

- Why should graduates consider a career in media when there are so many other routes open to them?

For those graduates who have a fascination with people and what makes them tick, this industry is a great place to be. Add to this a combined creative and analytical bent and you will have a highly rewarding and fun time. It is a great time to join as media is progressing at a rapid rate in more interesting and rapidly changing territories than ever before. If graduates want to find out more about what a career in the industry involves, I highly recommend they look at the new careers section of the IPA website. They can also check out their creative and analytical skills by taking the free online Diagonal Thinking self-assessment at http://www.diagonalthinking.co.uk.

HELEN BROWN, GROUP CHIEF TALENT DIRECTOR, MEDIACOM

- What are the most significant HR/talent issues facing media agencies at the moment?

Maintaining motivation levels. Managing expectation for pitch passion (and therefore corresponding growth of the business) in teams that have been reduced by natural churn that is not replaced in a hire freeze.

- What impact has the recession had on your graduate recruitment programme?

The impact has meant that, in the UK, the intake of graduates has been reduced. There are known long-term knock-on effects of this for the business and the industry, but as the productivity of graduates is understandably low for the first six to 12 months, in the short term this investment may be reinvested in existing key talent.

- How much training do you have in place for developing new recruits?

A full 12-month induction programme covering all aspects of the business; the basics of media planning and buying, comms planning, tools, introductions to insight and business science, plus presentation and basic client handling skills.

- What are the specific challenges of managing people in a media environment?

Our challenges are the same as advertising agencies; as margins reduce, we are having to find new ways to sustain and grow our business while continuing to engage and remunerate our people. We have a development challenge - the media landscape and associated media businesses are subject to radical change over the next few years; up-skilling our talent to stay ahead of and even inform that change is imperative.

- How different and challenging is your role during a downturn?

Managing talent in a downturn requires more creative and strategic thought, determined action and being prepared to try the new and different. In other words, while it has its share of really tough decisions, I see this time as an opportunity to move the business ten leaps forward.

- How well have advertising and media businesses responded in moving people issues higher up their agenda?

In the past five years, there has been an evolution in this area. Agencies are beginning to experience the benefits of having someone in their leadership team whose sole focus is attracting the best talent and releasing its potential into the business. However, I am sure that, in many cases, discussions around the people still tend to drop to the bottom of the agenda - which, considering we are all in the professional service industry, is quite shocking.

- Why should graduates consider a career in media when there are so many other routes open to them?

What other industry offers an opportunity to have a life-long career that will span subjects as wide-ranging as creative, analytics, trading, thought leadership, finance, research, commercials, marketing, human capital development, data, strategy and PR? To work with many of the world's best-known brands in a plethora of countries with many of the brightest, fun and down-to-earth people in business? It's why I'm here.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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