This week, Telum chats with PRecious Communications’ HR Director Sangeeta Sakhrani about recruiting for the communications industry and what it takes to impress her.
The public relations profession is largely driven by its people, of business results and value creation comes directly from the expertise, insights and ideas from employees. For an industry where its most precious asset is its employees, PR agencies often get a bad reputation for its anti-social working hours and high-stress work environment. That, coupled with the differing expectations of today’s young talent from previous generations, makes talent management a challenge. So what does it take for agencies to attract and retain these talents?
With more than 12 years’ experience managing HR across Asia, including seven for the communications industry, Sangeeta is a firm believer that being people-focused is crucial in attracting and retaining talent.
While brand or company size may seem important for attracting talent, it’s really not everything that matters, Sangeeta notes. “Being able to work for a global network agency may seem really attractive, but these days with more and more global brands and companies working with smaller independent agencies, these agencies are also becoming very attractive to potential candidates, especially as they can be faster and more flexible in implementing feedback from their staff.” That said, good company branding and reputation makes it easier for recruiters to “sell” the company and role to potential employees as well.
Having worked in both a network agency and now a mid-size boutique agency (she moved to PRecious Communications in 2018), she has seen the differing approaches to achieving various talent objectives. Compared to the formal documents and guidelines in place, she had to set that up and refined existing templates for the independent mid-sized agency – from the employee handbook to the training calendar. “Learning and skills development is crucial for career growth for any role and it’s crucial that companies realise that,” Sangeeta shared. “That is also a subtle but significant factor of an employee retention strategy.”
Traits for the trade
The PR industry is one that is ever-changing and to be able to handle constant change and keep up with the fast-paced world is important. However, Sangeeta tends to look beyond the relevant skillset and assesses the soft skills of the candidates as well. “Candidates who are honest, articulate and confident are more likely to impress me. They also have to be a team player, demonstrate a passion for the industry and be naturally curious to learn more.”
Needless to say, not only does Sangeeta have to be familiar with industry practices and benchmarks, but she’d also have to understand the stakeholders and needs of the business – from the utilisation of human resources, its clients, to the temperament and personalities of the senior teams. To Sangeeta, culture-fit is one of the most important factors to consider during recruitment. “PRecious prides itself for embracing diversity, where employees can be themselves. The team is expected to work hard and play hard in a supportive, warm environment and it’s important that the new joiners fit in well and work well within the larger team in Singapore and across overseas offices.” In a way, a healthy company culture sells itself and works as a strategy to retain employees.
“Of course, attractive employment packages do help with retaining employees but culture and personal growth is often even more important as it shapes the way they feel while they are at work, which in turn translates into business value too. It’s a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee.”
Differing expectations? Not so much
Lately, there have been a lot of grumbles about the new wave of the millennial workforce. The millennials are often labelled “lazy” and “entitled”, but Sangeeta feels that it couldn’t be further from the truth. “Their sense of entitlement actually doesn’t differ that much from other generations. The younger generation, however, tends to be bolder and more willing to speak up and express their opinions. For me, to have a civil conversation about expectations can actually help to understand and address their needs.
“It really does take two hands to clap. Employers have to listen to the needs of their people, build trust between the company and employees to foster a positive working environment that will, in turn, translate into long-term business results.”