27 Apr 2016

Where is the talent and how do I keep hold of it?

Robin Campbell-Burt – Director at Spreckley

Living in a city of 8.5 million people I am often struck by how hard it is to hire the people with the right skills, experience and attitude to work with us here at Spreckley. With so many people teeming around this great city, surely there are more than enough talented people to go round? The reality is that a career in public relations requires a particular set of skills in a person.

So with the ever-present struggle of recruitment in my mind I spent an informative morning at Hanson Search’s breakfast event on recruiting and retaining talent in the public relations industry. Full marks to the hosts – the coffee and quality of discussion were excellent (thank you Hanson). The big takeaway for me was that retention is always going to be an uphill struggle – especially in a city like London that has such a large PR industry with so many opportunities to turn people’s heads. My three main observations on talent are:

Talking about millennials is patronising. When asked to define a millennial, people responded that they wanted rapid progression, constant feedback from management, and to feel like they had an influence and purpose within their company. Sounds like just about everyone to me and I am less interested in people I interview that do not have these character traits. Sticking a label like this on the young just feeds a sense of entitlement that the reality of work needs to grind out of them. Self-importance is one the biggest barriers to success as it shuts down an openness to learn from others – if you think you are the centre of the world then how much genuine listening to others and learning do you do?

Don’t be afraid to let people go. The day that someone joins your company is the day that you start the clock on when they will leave. An employee has a natural life cycle in any organisation. They should be cherished and supported in their career but we should be fully aware that this is not a marriage to death and that one-day, they will decide that they are better off somewhere else. Plan financial investment in staff and their development accordingly – nurturing, friendly, but also grounded in reality.

What is fashionable does not automatically mean it is the right thing to do. I have been a big advocate for mobile working and have been discussing how to implement some level of flexibility in our own company. However, I was struck by a comment from one recruiter that a lack of access to directors is a growing reason sited by junior members of staff for wanting to leave. Availability of senior staff is so important for people starting out on their career, as this is one of the best ways to learn and grow. However, when people are working from home for a couple of days a week how does this change the osmotic sharing of wisdom that comes from being in the same location? I am not sure about the answer as I can see the value of more flexible approaches to work, however it is an important question to consider.

As well as a decent wage packet, I think that the best way to retain staff is to provide an environment that allows people to be inquisitive – to learn from peers, gain experience working with intellectually stimulating clients, and where individuals can be given autonomy to make their mark and carve out responsibility.