Creative Birmingham: Employees come first

Birmingham has a lot to celebrate.

The region’s creative and cultural economy is thriving and includes more than 6,000 organisations with 38,000 employees. The city is undergoing huge investment and regeneration, with the opening of Grand Central Station and many more stunning new developments underway.

It’s a city best known for its creativity, its vibrancy and of course its multicultural influences. Why wouldn’t it attract and retain the best talent?

As Company Director of Gough Bailey Wright, the oldest IPA member agency in the West Midlands, I was asked to organise and chair the recent Creative Birmingham Event held at BCU.

With a fantastic panel of industry professionals in place to discuss recruiting, nurturing and retaining the region’s talent I set the scene for the evening, referencing Richard Branson’s quote:

“Clients don’t come first, employees do. If you look after your employees, they will look after your clients”.

With this in mind, the panel of five speakers discussed recruitment and retention from a range of contextual viewpoints.

The diversity debate

Firstly, Kate Bruges, Talent Director of J. Walter Thomson, made the case for the commercial value of the over 40s to creative agencies.

Only 6% of IPA agency staff are over 50 years old, but there are 15m people in Britain today in their 50s and 60s who account for more than half of the nation’s consumer spending.

She asked: “So why do we populate the greater proportion of our workforces – people who are there to create the ideas that connect with these age groups – with staff that are young enough to be their kids?”

She talked about strategies that we can we employ to keep this valuable resource, the maturing creatives, in our businesses andleverage it to maximum effectiveness, including managing performance, training to keep skills up to date, teaming creative pairs and of course, flexible working.

Next up, Anjna Raheja of Media Moguls and pioneer of ‘the Brown Pound’ asked us to look inside our businesses and ask if our workforce truly reflects a multicultural society.

She said: “1 in 5 people in the UK are from ethnic minority backgrounds and the purchasing power of the UKs black and ethnic minority residents is £300bn.”

For Anjna, it makes commercial sense to employ people who understand the different cultures and can connect to these consumers. The talk focused on attracting multicultural talent into our businesses, with specific recruitment strategies aimed at Asian communities that raise the profile of the creative industry - getting under the skin of the cultural decision processes when it comes to career choices and employment.

On good retention practices, Joel Blake, FRSA, explained mentoring techniques and how encouraging entrepreneurship can feed into your own business objectives as well as the individuals’ career aspirations.

Ollie Purdom of Pitch Consultants gave insights into what employees are looking for from agencies. Employer Branding is a hot topic at the moment. “It’s not the money that’s the main motivation. It’s the training and development. Employees want a strong employer brand with a reputation – more than a flash office and nice logo – with cultural beliefs, with a vision and values. It’s got to be believable.”

Lastly, with the Creative Pioneers programme, Noel Dunne is responsible for providing us with a stream of young hopefuls seeking apprenticeships as a way to enter the creative industry.

He said: “As employers we have a responsibility to provide clarity of purpose and language in our job descriptions. We need to ensure that we give appropriate feedback. Precise, objective, non-judgmental.”

To summarise, it is vitally important to ensure our workforce reflects society: multicultural, with broad age ranges, and that we as employers keep our teams engaged, develop our staff with learning experiences and training, and live out our brand values.

Michelle Wright is company director at Gough Bailey Wright.

Twitter: @GoughBW

Justin Pearse

Managing Director of The Drum's content marketing agency The Drum Works and member of BIMA's executive committee. Former editor of New Media Age.

All by Justin