Those of us who were in this business during the recession of the early '90s have seen unimaginable changes in the dynamics of the job market and the conventional wisdom about corporate protocols and career advancement, especially in the last few years.
Given the breakneck speed at which new business was coming in and existing accounts were growing, until 2000, every human resources officer worked hard to keep up with the demand, recruiting to accommodate this growth and retention for continuity of client service.
The downturn in the economy is giving us the opportunity to focus on improving the skills and performance of employees, and preparing for a new way of doing business.
The Council's HR Roundtable is a vehicle for member firms to ask questions, share experience, and find solutions to today's PR firms' talent needs.
Here are some of the activities and resources of the Council's HR Roundtable:
- QUARTERLY MEETINGS
These meetings provide the opportunity to interact with human resources colleagues, as well as invited guest speakers. The most recent meeting was dedicated to presenting and examining the results of the 2002 employee compensation and benefits study. (If your firm did not participate in the study, the report may be purchased by contacting the Council.) Dimensions of and issues touched upon in this comprehensive study are the subjects of ongoing discussion. Previous meetings have focused on topics including diversity outreach, career pathing, increasing the PR-agency talent pool, coaching, managing in the wake of terrorism, disaster planning, training, and staff retention.
We have an active and effective online-communications tool. The listserv helps human resource directors poll colleagues online for quick responses to time-sensitive issues.
- PR QUICKSTART
The Council of Public Relations Firms collaborated with the PRSA Counselors Academy to create a web-based orientation and training program called PR QuickStart, designed to help junior staff and nontraditional hires better understand the workings of a public relations firm. Users are guided through discussions of the public relations process, from research and planning to media relations and program execution. It also presents a picture of the unique challenges of agency life. This five-hour program is free, and can be taken at the user's convenience. Member firms can access it at www.prquickstart.com.
Here are some suggestions for the HR Roundtable to address today's staff needs:
- CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS
Make sure employees and their managers have job descriptions that clearly articulate what skills and responsibilities are required, and that they understand the criteria for promotion.
- MONITOR AND ASSESS PERFORMANCE
"How are you doing?" Ask the question often, and really listen to the answer. See how things are going with employees. Encourage them to discuss issues openly with their managers.
Stay in touch with their managers to see how they are progressing. Find out about their skills relative to the specific requirements of their jobs.
- FOCUS ON TRAINING
Work with managers to make sure employees are developing the skills they need for the positions they are in, as well as for where they want to be; capitalize on their strengths. Seek affordable outside programs if they are not available internally. Work with their managers to have training presented in the context of a plan to help staff reach their goals.
- IDENTIFY NEW SKILLS TO BUILD ON FIRM'S BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PLAN[QQ]Counseling and selling skills are more important than ever to firms. Find specialists to help key employees hone these skills.
In the coming year, the HR Roundtable will work closely with the Council's Talent Committee to tackle the industry's need for a more diversified workforce.
Judith Harrison is the chair of the Council's HR Roundtable. She is the SVP of Human Resources for Ruder Finn, and a member of the Society for Human Resources Management and Women in Communications. The Council of Public Relations Firms is the trade association representing America's leading PR firms. Membership information can be found on the Council's website at www.prfirms.org. For more information on the Council and the resources it offers members and non-members, visit www.prfirms.org or call 877-PRFIRMS (877-773-4767).
- This column is contributed and paid for by The Council of PR Firms.