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How to hold on to talent in PR

There is an acute talent shortage in the PR sector. There are a few reasons for this. On the positive side probably the most important being that PR is on the up – most medium-to-large PR firms have grown at between 10 and 15% per annum for the last couple of years and some a good deal faster. As the remit and revenue of PR agencies and in house teams is increasing so they need more people. Related to this is the need for PR teams to include more, differently skilled people and very quickly you have a people problem.

If your firm is growing at 15%, even if no one leaves your PR firm, you will require 15% more staff than this year just to service your growth. As most PR firms have a staff churn rate of 15%-20%, a typical 100-person agency, will need to find between 30 to 40 new people. And that’s hard – especially when there are 100 different agencies all recruiting as well.

There are no accurate industry stats (that I can find) on how many parents PR loses because they don’t return to the sector after having children. As a popular career choice for women (and it is usually mothers who choose to take the brunt of the childcare) it’s critical that PR firms make returning to work as easy as possible for parents. To be fair to the sector, after a slow start, I do think PR firms are n ow catching on to the business benefits (not to mention moral obligation) of making themselves attractive to parents returning to work.

Case study:

I recently caught up with Golin’s Jane Fordham and suggested to her that steps like a “duvet day on your birthday” had become a hygiene factor that all PR agencies offered and few employees valued. Needless to say Jane disagreed and gave me both barrels on the type benefits that have worked for Golin and its employees:

“After listening to extensive feedback from our team, in April we launched a progressive new benefits programme called Life Time. The idea is to enable our people to build a personalised benefits package, tailored to suit their personal choices and lifestyle – whether they are a parent or just starting their career. In today’s world of the agile and flexible workplace, a one-size-fits all benefits programme felt old fashioned.  

"For example:

  • Unlimited annual leave – yes subject to line-manager approval this means exactly what it says! So far what we’re noticing is not a huge uplift in the volume of days taken, rather than people now have the flexibility to book days in at short notice as suits their lifestyle.
  • Work from anywhere flexibility – allowing employees to work in the best way that suits them – including a day a week at home for all employees.
  • Our recruitment process now includes an openness to discussing part-time or flexible hours in relation to all of our open roles.
  • Expectant Mums the opportunity to ‘ease-in, ease-out’ as they go on and then return from maternity leave – this includes working reduced days, compressed hours or from home to make medical appointments and commuting easier and then gradually building up from two days per week to their chosen working hours as they return. But again we tailor this to specifically suit the person’s circumstances and needs. The key here is clear communication about the expectant or returning Mum’s new working patterns and the leadership team providing full support.
  • We are also pleased to offer maternity, adoption and shared parental leave well in excess of the statutory requirement. For example, shared parental leave is offered up to 18 weeks and paternity leave is fully paid for six weeks.
  • Finally, one of the most popular new additions was our £50 wellbeing allowance, to spend each month on activities that benefit team wellbeing from gym membership through massage to riding lessons.

"So does any of this actually matter from a business perspective? Is it working for us and for individuals? Absolutely yes.

"It’s increasingly expected today that employers are flexible, family-friendly and supportive. As a people-centric services business, Golin’s success is based on being able to attract and retain the best talent in our industry. Internal research shows that while only 18% of Golin’s 150-strong team are currently parents, 98% would take advantage of shared parental leave in the future. Last year 100% of our mums returned from maternity leave and our overall retention rates also rose 5% in the same period. So yes indeed our progressive, flexible approach is helping us to attract and retain the brightest talent.”


 Written by Ben Smith, founder PRmoment

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