There’s a cartoon circulating around training departments and HR teams, an exchange between two executives.
First boss: What if we train them, and they leave?
Second (wiser) boss: What if we don’t, and they stay? Many agency bosses I know face the same dilemma: How do we balance the need to keep our people on top of a never-settled world while finding time to do work for clients? And aren’t we just investing in the competition’s future?
For us, it’s simple. Find the time, and don’t worry about training tomorrow’s competitors today. If you don’t invest in training today, you won’t be in business tomorrow (click to tweet). Learn or die.
So I’m always a little giddy when our annual Ketchum University curriculum comes out. Our 2016 course guide offers our people dozens of courses across four broad streams of skills and concepts: technical, management, service and leadership. These are offered online, in classrooms or off-site, and they’re a commitment to our people, our clients and, yes, possibly to the PR world of tomorrow.
This year’s catalog runs the gamut of contemporary communications – from ‘The Language of Visual Storytelling’ to ‘Cool Hunting – Spotting New Trends For Clients,’ or ‘Mapping Influence’ to ‘Understanding Motivation,’ our courses are taught by senior leaders or external experts to give our people a continuing education that rivals any university.
But it’s more than a source of pride. It’s a way to differentiate in a very crowded and often fuzzy market.
And here’s where I would encourage all agencies to take their training and learning programs seriously.
For your talent and those you’d like to entice: it’s a standing commitment to their success with your agency and well beyond in their careers. Nobody arrives to the job knowing everything they need to do their jobs, trial-by-fire is an expensive and risky way to operate, and nothing in this business stays the same for long; today’s experts are yesterday’s has-beens. Only solution: keep learning.
For clients and prospects: it’s a sign that the agency understands the dynamism of the market and is willing to invest in its offer to you by keeping its only real asset – its people – on the cutting edge. Some clients see an agency’s learning program as a better indicator of its quality than case studies, and a few even pay to bring the training courses inside – a form of true collaboration with their agency partners. But only the savviest make it a key factor in deciding who they appoint.
And for owners and investors, there should be no greater statement of confidence in an agency’s proposition than its commitment to continuous learning. We are in the ‘knowledge economy’ after all, and the losers will be those who paper over weaknesses, while the winners embrace the need for constant upgrades.
So the next time you’re looking at an agency – to hire or join – ask about its training program. It will tell you just about everything you need to know about the company.