#BigQEmployers: When it comes to young talent, adland needs to be agile
by MarkLives (@marklives) How successful have local ad agencies been in creating positive employer reputations? What do they consider best practice, how do they measure their reputations among employees and what impact has positive employer reputation had on their ability to attract star talent? Next in our panel to tackle this Big Q is Unati Moalusi at Wunderman Thompson South Africa.
Unati Moalusi is chief people officer at Wunderman Thompson South Africa (WPP merged Wunderman with J. Walter Thompson internationally a year ago). She has a master’s degree in psychology, years of experience in HR management and a recently acquired, internationally recognised qualification in consciousness coaching, focusing on self-awareness and awareness of other.
Where we are
With the official launch of Wunderman Thompson South Africa, formerly known as Wunderman SA, on 6 September 2019, our employer brand has been uppermost on our minds. Throughout the agency’s evolution, it has always managed to maintain a cohesive and winning culture.
I joined the agency as chief people officer in October 2018. I hail from insurance, which is a completely different background, and so I love being part of a milieu which nurtures and encourages me to express my creativity. I love the vibrancy of this environment, and the life that people in the creative industries bring to the workplace. I’m passionate about people and passionate about organisational brands. I believe that the two work hand in hand: if you don’t have a focus on people, your brand will suffer.
This focus on culture is something that we consciously continue to cultivate. We understand that the mere fact of working in an advertising agency means that you are creatively inclined, even if you’re not a copywriter. The Creative Leadership Council has been introduced to give a more-focused approach to our creative teams. This forum is somewhat of an ideas incubator, drawing on and encouraging people to share their creativity and hone in on award-winning material, as well as foster more proactive work.
Other changes we’re introducing include personal development plans linking individuals to where the business is going. We’ve also implemented a reward-and-recognition programme because everyone wants to be acknowledged for the work they’ve done. Our appreciation programme gives kudos to people on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, taking note of their contribution in terms of teamwork, leadership or service excellence.
When there are problems at the leadership level, these inevitably manifest at the lower levels of the agency. Happily, our team has great flow, and our people consequently feel a sense of belonging and direction. We’re also linked by global behaviours, which ensure that you’ll experience the same culture in any one of our network’s offices.
That said, as a South African entity, we’ve obviously taken heed of locally relevant issues. We’ve been able to look at different policies and ways of working and select those that we believe will work best. The result is a place where we’re confident we’re doing the best for our people.
Why it’s important
Obviously, this is a highly competitive industry; every agency is on the hunt for the very best talent. The employer brand clearly plays a critical role here.
The conversations I’ve had with creatives have revealed that people move around according to the kind of work that’s on offer — everyone wants to do work that’s challenging and exciting. This means that we have to work hard to both attract and retain great clients; we have to be able to offer the kind of work that makes potential talent say, “I really want to work there.”
People also move because of leadership. South Africa’s ad industry is such that people remember everyone they’ve had a good experience working with — and, again, everyone wants to work with the best. That’s why we place great emphasis on having the right leadership in the team.
Industry has to be agile
What’s relevant, for me, is that the industry has to be agile, especially when it comes to young talent. This group is notorious for their tendency to move around: they usually have a lifespan at your agency for just 2–5 years. The minute you start thinking about how to keep them longer, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, your focus needs to be on how you can add value to them, and help them give of their best, in the time that they’re with you.
I believe that regular check-ins are key in this regard. These allow you to remain intuitive and alert so that you’re able to identify patterns. If you’re engaged in this manner, there should be no such thing as a ‘surprise’ resignation.
How the industry is faring
I think the industry players have done a great deal of work when it comes to building employer brands. We’ve achieved a significant amount of transformation in an industry that was previously heavily white-dominated, and that’s exciting because it means that we’re better-placed to talk to our markets, which have also become more diverse. My view is that transformation isn’t just about diversity, though; it also impacts on the richness of the ideas and thinking that the agency generates. Different world views make for a powerful cocktail, and this shows in the quality of the work the industry is producing. Returning from the recent Loeries Awards, I was struck by the calibre of the work — some truly world-class ideas.
I believe that globalisation has played a massive role in this. Technology gives us instant access to international work and thinking, and this has helped to shape best practice. It also helps that many local agencies work with the South African arms of international clients, giving us greater exposure. Of course, the downside to this is that the staff that’s seconded to international clients are often headhunted by those very companies — but that’s just proof that we’re doing a great job.
- #BigQEmployers: Save the talent — save adland — Karabo Songo
- #BigQEmployers: No bigger subject than issues of reputation — Alistair King
- #BigQEmployers: Employer brands in adland — Tammy Lehnberg
Launched in 2016, “The Big Q” is a regular column on MarkLives in which we ask key advertising and marketing industry execs for their thoughts on relevant issues facing the industry. If you’d like to be part of our pool of panellists, please contact editor Herman Manson via email (2mark at marklives dot com) or Twitter (@marklives). Suggestions for questions are also welcomed.