Indian PR firms are facing a new challenge currently, no it’s not downturn, it’s not about business growth or clients but it is about finding the right talent. Almost every PR agency bosses or HR managers are cribbing about the dearth of intelligent, sound talent, specifically at the entry or AE/SAE level. It is not about education, HR managers daily interview passouts from mass communications colleges, MBA graduates, engineering graduates and even English literature graduates. The problem according to them is the attitude of the new generation. They are smart but lack vision or zeal to grow. Their agenda is very temporary and are not clear about what they want to do in life. They don’t like reading what is relevant to their careers; forget reading PR related books, blogs or journals. In newspapers page 3 or sports is what they start with.
But that’s the new age reality, that’s how they are. Like you were when you landed in the world. Each generation had its own unique way of behaving and the world adjusted to it then why are we finding it so difficult to understand our new generation?
There must be some truth in their grouse, but I also feel there are flaws even in our style of recruiting and talent management, which is as old as the PR business itself. Atleast in this part of our business, we haven’t learnt anything from other service sectors. We give writing tests, but we don’t think what kind of attitude the person carries with him, is he/she a team player? Is the person too egoistic, tolerant, patient, can manage stress well? We don’t do any kind of psychometric tests or even bother to scientifically test these important behavioral traits. Only thing we focus on is filling positions, will they be able to manage the clients efficiently or not, is no one’s business.
It is only in our business that an executive can sit alongside MDs / CEOs and consultant them on how they should be managing their reputation. The likes of McKinsey, Boston, Delloite can never even dream that their entry level talent can achieve this feat ever. Yet I wonder how much, we as an industry spend our time, money and energy on grooming and training our talent.
We only make noise about high level of attrition, but simply by digging little deeper in our records, you will realize that 40-50% of the talent is lost in the first year itself and the rest 20-30% in the subsequent years. So what do we do about it? Do we have any counseling sessions with people who are approaching this mark; do we spend time with them to understand what motivates them and what not? Are our exit interviews well structured and data recorded for future analysis?
But is that an HR’s job in the first place? Isn’t it the leader’s job? And isn’t there enough on the plate of HR – they have to recruit, recruit and recruit. Then why not change the name of the function as Recruitment department and not HRD or Human Resource Development department. Are we sure our managers/VPs are trained well to manage their team or only getting new business is our primary concern? Most client loses are the result of bad servicing and bad attitude of the servicing people, either we can keep pouring more water in the bucket with a hole or plug the hole with some solution. PR business is all about people – and it is gross negligence on the part of the industry to pay lip service to maintain the talent pool.
What research we have as an industry on the reason behind such a high level of attrition? Before that have we ever even tried to come together as an industry to resolve common problems and the most important being this? If we see resumes of the new age professionals, it is not very uncommon to find resumes, which states 4 months X agency, 6 months Y agency and when you see 1 year, you may assume that the maturity is setting in.
With the changing business dynamics this looks very scary and specifically for the business that is totally depended on people as their assets. Agencies throughout the world have already moved beyond traditional PR. The ask is to know how online medium works, content creation, how to plug in SEO in your content, how to use all the available social platforms etc. But skills were never really a problem as those can be taught and learnt, the real problem is attitude. Is there any solution to that?
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln