Our industry talks constantly about the need to attract better and more diverse talent, yet the lack of action, or maybe its lack of courage, to do something different is palpable. It’s time to be more disruptive in our approach if we’re to hire and develop the next generation of brilliant people.
Agency and talent leaders must take their share of the responsibility, and support each other to challenge the norms. Admitting to ourselves that we all too often hide behind policy and process when the right thing to do is to step out of our comfort zone and push the boundaries.
Make no mistake, we’re involved in a talent battle that could determine the future of our industry. Right now we’re fighting for the same talent, the best people, against rivals who have a more differentiated offer than us. Clear lines that previously existed between industries, have been removed and people feel free to move between occupations for a more fulfilling career experience. In this context, we all need to hire and develop a group of experts from different backgrounds – data scientists, digital specialists, strategists, content makers, client leaders – and to achieve this we have to stand out in our approach to recruitment, people development, and the benefits we offer.
The requirement to differentiate has never been more important, and innovation should lie at the heart of opening our businesses to a truly diverse set of people. For instance, the #MECLiveHire initiative at the recent Advertising Week Europe was part of our ambition to change the face of talent management. It resulted in the selection of 12 young people to join the MEC Evolution Apprentice Programme. This real-time interview programme was devised to open the doors of our industry to people who wouldn’t necessarily be attracted by a traditional application and interview recruitment process, or potentially not even be on our radar.
We also need to make greater use of technology in bringing our business and culture to life. It’s true that our industry has progressed in terms of digital and tech but too many times we fail to recognize that this has impacted on the way we work, the people we employ and how we inspire them and encourage them to thrive. We want to drive change on this issue so at the SXSW Job Market recruitment fair this year, MEC created #MECin360 and used 3D virtual reality goggles to take people from the booth in Texas to experience life in our offices in New York. The aim was to behave differently, offer people an immersive experience that disrupted the recruitment norms and that would, in turn, appeal to candidates who want to work in a place that encourages creativity and invites them to push boundaries of industry standards.
Beyond this focus on innovation, to truly succeed in talent development we need to dare to step outside our immediate industry and invite people in. We should be inspired by other organisations that are disrupting traditional talent initiatives.
At Advertising Week Europe, for instance, Populist, the not for profit organisation, spoke about its work supporting individuals’ creative development by putting them in a life- changing social project. And the former hostage negotiator Richard Mullender’s lesson for the audience, on the importance of “life and death listening”, was one of the most insightful sessions on talent development I’ve seen in a long time, because it used highly critical situations to emphasize the importance of persuasion and good listening in motivating people. These approaches challenge traditional methods of talent training and development. They take training out of the classroom and into the real world to allow people to grow both personally and professionally.
This ties nicely to Jim Lusty, partner at creative leadership consultancy Upping Your Elvis, who spoke about the “power of making things real”, also at Advertising Week Europe. He emphasised the importance of creative leaders building memorable experiences for their teams: “We can’t just send emails and do conference calls, we need to use realness and experimentation to make things visceral and part of people’s DNA.”
The media industry can learn from these approaches, not only in motivating our creative leaders, but also by making a paradigm shift in the way we develop our people towards more exciting, interactive, experiences. This move is not optional, it’s a necessity if media is to have a future as a dynamic, creative industry.