MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Training must be a priority if agencies want to keep staff

Last week I went down to Brighton for the Advertising Association's media business course - four days of talking media planning/buying/selling, learning how to pitch an idea, how to work all night, get pissed and still make a decent presentation. Vital ammunition for a life in the media whirl.

Last week I went down to Brighton for the Advertising Association's media business course - four days of talking media planning/buying/selling, learning how to pitch an idea, how to work all night, get pissed and still make a decent presentation. Vital ammunition for a life in the media whirl.

The course comprised a couple of hundred delegates, youngsters with a few years under their belts and ambition in their guts. And they were really up for it. I've spoken at a few conferences, attended many, but I've never seen an audience so attentive and enthusiastic.

Of course, the four days offered a fantastic opportunity for all the delegates to prop up the bar with Martin Bowley, Mandy Pooler, Nick Hurrell, make contacts as well as get some invaluable advice from the best in the business. It was also a chance to meet other young people in the industry, to generate a sense of community among the next generation of management.

From what I saw on the day I was there, it was a bloody inspiring and motivating event. There's never been a more exciting time to work in the business and I defy anyone to come away from that course without feeling privileged to have a job in the advertising industry and the media bit of it in particular.

There was just one problem. The audience was dominated by delegates from the media owner arena. In itself, that's no sweat. But what it says about media agencies' attitude to training is.

Sure agencies are busy, but not so busy that they haven't all spent a summer of corporate hospitality. Sure the course costs a quid or two, but call it an investment and the argument is surely more palatable.

And that's exactly what this sort of course is: an investment in the future of the media industry, in nurturing talent, inspiring staff, and teaching them about other aspects of the business, particularly creative. But those are things many media agencies don't seem very good at.

I can sort of see why significant investment in training might be anathema.

After all, the job market's boiling right now - you pay a few grand to train someone, then they get poached by another media agency with a hefty salary hike. And you're back to square one. Why nurture talent that tomorrow is going to work for your rival?

But what does the poaching agency get out of stealing your staff? A well-trained executive who's little more than a hired mercenary. Next time someone else waves a pay rise in front of them, they'll probably be off again.

Surely it all comes down to engendering staff loyalty, to making sure your people want to work for your agency not simply because of the money on the table. Because of the culture, the management style, the work ethic, the client list. And, yes, because of the training programme.

claire.beale@haynet.com.



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