Ya gotta have heart

I recently had lunch with a big wheel at an ad agency. She told me that she spends better than half her day recruiting staff. This could mean one of two things - her agency is growing at a colossal pace...

I recently had lunch with a big wheel at an ad agency. She told me that she spends better than half her day recruiting staff. This could mean one of two things – her agency is growing at a colossal pace or, more likely, her agency can’t keep its staff. Most of us have in our heads a list of shops in which we’d never want to work. Why? Because some places just have no heart.

You hear the perennial lament whenever more than three agency types are together in the same room. ‘I can’t find good people!’ Chances are those people are already right under their noses. Chances are just as likely that those good people are searching for new jobs.

Mentoring is a way to encourage your staff to stay with you. We invest so much money and time in training staff in hard skills – strategy, creative, and production. And then we virtually ignore those soft skills that can’t be taught using a power point presentation – problem solving, communication skills, and personal development. These are the areas in which junior staffers crave improvement. Give them support in these areas and they’ll repay you with loyalty.

Mentoring is the act of providing guidance, wisdom, knowledge and support in a personal one-on-one setting by a mentor to a protégé. The benefits of such a relationship are enormous to all involved. To the agency – discovery of talent, increased productivity, retention of talented and motivated staff and real learning. To the mentor – a revitalized interest in their work, increased self-esteem through professional recognition and enhanced skills in coaching, counseling and listening. To the protégé – opportunity for growth in a friendly and supportive relationship and greater satisfaction in their work and working environment. You’ll make leaders and improve the skills of those already doing the leading.

To reap the benefits of mentoring relationships among your staff, design a mentoring program for your agency. It can be as formal or informal as suits your culture. Start with defining the objectives of such a program. These can include the development of future managers, acclimating new employees to your corporate culture, facilitating better communication between management tiers and providing support in a rapidly changing environment.

No matter what your objectives, there are three pillars required to support your program: commitment, confidentiality and communication.

The role of the mentor is to assist in the development of those soft skills mentioned earlier – skills needed for promotion, identifying the protégé’s success and failure patterns, dealing with politics (if such a heinous thing exists in your agency) and the roadmap for advancement.

Not just anyone will make a good mentor. You need people committed to the concept. They have to be likable, with a wide range of skills to pass on. Technical competence is also required, along with some history with your organization. Honesty, trustworthiness and a sense of integrity are also required.

Not everyone makes for a good protégé either. A protégé must be willing to assume responsibility for his/her own growth and development. To get the most out of the mentoring relationship, a protégé will be self-aware and receptive to feedback and coaching.

Making the connection between the mentor and the protégé is at the heart of your mentoring program. This is where you determine the level of formality under which your program will operate. Start by informing staff of the program and its details. This should probably be accomplished with a staff meeting. Make sure that the roles of all participants are understood. You can either match mentors with protégés or let them team up on their own. Mentors can volunteer themselves or you can select them from your staff. Protégé participation can either be voluntary or mandatory. The more flexibility and choice you offer, the more successful your program will be.

Assuming you design your program with as little management intervention as necessary, make a call for volunteer mentors at your next staff meeting. Provide a list of mentors to your staff. Allow protégés to approach the person they feel most comfortable with. Don’t worry about having staff on your list of mentors who you feel are inappropriate for the role. Natural selection will weed them out.

Together, the mentor and protégé will establish the structure of their relationship and define its limitations. The issues they will decide will include objectives, expectations and frequency of meetings. Of special concern will be the involvement of the protégé’s supervisor, assuming the mentor is not part of the protégé’s working group. The mentoring relationship should not supplant the supervisor/staffer relationship.

Once your program is up and running, it must be evaluated. The benchmarks for evaluation include motivation levels, staff turnover, improvement in skill sets and promotions.

Providing a safe environment to foster personal growth for all staff members is an easy way to help entrench loyalty among your staff and give your place some heart. Remember, the competition feeds off your company’s weaknesses. If your agency has no heart, not only does your staff know it, most likely potential new employees know it as well – and they’ll stay away. Give your valuable people something to think twice about before they get lured away. At the same time you’ll give talented new staff reason to join you.

Pamela Davis is an account director at AMW Direct. She has had the benefit of several continuing mentoring relationships with which she credits a great deal of her personal and professional success.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group