Poor people development in PR agencies is creating a shortage of talent
15th August 2013
PR agencies have their “head in the sand” about professional development of their staff, claims recent report; The Employees Speak Out written by Prospect, a PR and comms recruitment specialist. PROs say that they are not receiving the training they need and also feel undervalued.
Colette Brown, co-founder of Prospect, says: “The findings make for uncomfortable reading. Many of those working in agencies feel that little more than lip service is paid to their professional development. New responsibilities are handed down with no support given to help people rise to the challenge, the result of which is that many are leaving the industry disillusioned.”
- Candidates are leaving jobs due to the lack of training on offer.
- Over-promising for clients is putting pressure on staff members, making them look elsewhere
- Most rate their digital expertise as five to six out of ten.
- Flexi-time for returning mums is essential to keep good people, but is not being offered openly in many agencies.
- Interview training is not being given, meaning that untrained interviewers are carrying out the recruiting.
Particular areas where agencies fail are in offering training in financial and people management. Brown says: “It was suggested that people just worked it out on a gut feeling and learnt from mistakes.” Many senior PROs admit that they have never had any training in interview techniques and were unsure of what to look for in the next generation of recruits.
When it comes to their own personal development, many PROs claim to feel undervalued as well as underpaid and say that their line managers have no appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses. Although appraisal systems exist, too often they are not adhered to.
Digital is an area where agencies are failing to train staff, as many of the samples rated their digital expertise as just five out of ten. Brown is disappointed by this finding: “As we are increasingly asked for experience across all channels, this was one of the main areas where we were told training was lacking and most of it was self-taught. ‘Digital’ is still in its youth, but knowing it’s here to stay, we were surprised by how many agencies are not truly embracing it.”
Discussing how agencies need to improve, Brown offers this advice to agency heads: “It’s down to you, the employer, to ensure that good talent exists. You create it. Without your time and investment, the PR industry is yet again at risk of being the poor younger sister. It is your call to action. Without the training, without the digital education and without the equilibrium of work versus life being addressed, PROs will continue to flee to the greener grass of an in-house role. More worryingly than that, they may well leave the industry altogether.”
In-depth interviews were carried out with selected PR agency staff, from a range of levels and different size agencies. The interviews were conducted over the phone by an independent researcher over three months leading up to August 2013.