"Communicate the rewards your employees can expect from you"
Top performers are clear on what they want from the organisation & it is best to clearly outline the deliverables & rewards for achieving those goals, says Gaurav Hirey, CTO - South Asia, GroupM
Gaurav Hirey, Chief Talent Officer (CTO), South Asia at GroupM, has been with the agency since 2008. He is responsible for driving the agenda on people, culture and values at GroupM, covering employee acquisition, training, development, retention and growth for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
In conversation with exchange4media, Hirey speaks at length about GroupM’s success in employee retention, challenges of talent in digital domain and more…
GroupM has seen a steady leadership at the top rung. How does an organisation of this size and scale retain, motivate and nurture talent at the middle and lower levels across agencies?
GroupM has been able to manage retention extremely well. Our retention rates are much better than the industry, in fact twice as much better. We have been able to engage our middle and junior level talent by providing them great learning and growth opportunities.
We proudly call ourselves “investors of people”. GroupM Aspire, which is a centre of excellence and an industry best practice, has dedicated in-house trainers who ensure delivery of programmes on an ongoing basis, thus providing an opportunity for everyone to learn and grow their skills. This, in turn, has improved the quality of our managers within the organization and has resulted in better retention.
We have successfully been able to leverage our network within the country and across the region and globe by providing growth opportunities to our employees. We today can proudly say that we are one of the biggest exporters of talent and our employees have been placed across the globe and are making a huge difference to our organisation through their contributions.
We also have an intensive feedback and communication mechanism, which allows our employees to speak to us. We value their feedback and make their opinions count. We do this through several methods; we have an annual employee satisfaction survey, based on which we set action plans that are the responsibility of office heads, who actively implement the same.
For new starters, we have a system of employee touch points, which helps us proactively identify issues and address them before they become reasons for employees to become dissatisfied.
We have regular town halls with senior leadership, where everyone is encouraged to ask questions, which are answered. Our people know that if they have something to say, they will be heard and that their feedback will be acted upon.
At GroupM, we have built our organisation by keeping our employees at the center of it. We are constantly looking to improve and enabling our employees so that we can make a difference not just to them, but also their near and dear ones.
Has the digital domain brought with it further challenges of talent? While multi-screens bring with them the opportunity of multi-touch point engagements with consumers, they also pose the challenge of finding the right talent to leverage this opportunity. How does GroupM cope with this?
At GroupM, we have embraced the digital medium completely. We have been able to re-energise the organisation under the new visionary leadership of CVL Srinivas our CEO. We implemented our “New Me” initiative last year and aggressively pursued a people transformation agenda. The fact that we successfully transitioned is evident from the domination of all digital and media awards, where our agencies have dominated the event. We have been able to remain ahead of the curve by building an ecosystem within GroupM that provides every employee an opportunity to learn and grow.
We have also pursued a talent diversification programme, where we have introduced leadership trainees from premier B-Schools, in addition to our management trainee programme. We believe in hiring people with the right attitude and providing them an experience that will engage and motivate them to do more for our clients. In the recent past we have been featured in the “Best Employer Brand” list for three consecutive years and this year, we have been awarded the “Dream Company to Work For” award in Media and Entertainment. We have a super-efficient talent acquisition team pan-India, which ensures that we have the best of best working with us at all times delivering client delight.
What are your top five tips for retaining top talent?
Actually there is only one – Communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate and communicate!
• Communicate the vision
• Communicate your expectations
• Communicate the actions needed from their end
• Communicate the rewards they can expect from you, and
• Communicate the recognition
Today, each and every one of our employees wants to make a difference and wants to feel a part of the bigger plan. Top performers particularly are clear on what they want from the organisation and the best thing we can do is ask them, and then have a mutual agreement on what can be done by clearly outlining the deliverables and the rewards for achieving those goals. They have to be treated differently and they need to experience that difference.
YCO is a unique initiative of GroupM. How is this initiative optimised in the talent space?
The YCO has been a very impactful initiative for GroupM. We have been able to get our young talent to actively participate in helping us address some very critical organisational issues. With the YCO, we have been able to clearly understand what support and actions our young employees need from the organisation. It has also helped the YCO members to understand the challenges of being part of a decision making team and appreciate it. The YCO have also been able to provide huge value by creating innovative solutions to issues that matter to the employees of our organisation and we are indebted to them.
From a talent agenda perspective, the fact that even as a young employee you can get an opportunity to work along with the best of the best people in the industry at GroupM provides an invaluable learning experience, which, I believe, is truly aspirational for all those joining our industry. We are looking to strengthening the initiative further and are excited at the impact that this has delivered to us as an organisation.
In your view, what are the key reasons for flight of talent?
We have the lowest attrition rates in our industry, in fact, half of that of the industry. In most cases, our employees seek a change in the industry or they have an offer they just can’t refuse. However, our boomerang ratio also tells us that we remain to be a preferred employer for many. Today, we are proud of the fact that many leaders within the media industry in India have at some point been associated with us, and we are delighted and honoured to have played a small role of being a part of their careers.
Do you agree that Indian leadership will be playing a pivotal role in a global scenario in the media industry in the next five years?
Absolutely, as Indians, we are naturally tuned to managing multiple challenges and large volumes. In recent times, we have seen how Indians have taken over the global stage and within media, too, we have many examples from GroupM who have grown into regional and global roles. We have Ashutosh Shrivastav, Gowthaman R, Ajit Varghese and Vikram Sakhuja, who are not just role models but are stellar examples of Indian leaders within media who are charting new paths for many to follow. These leaders and many others who have now become a part of the regional and global teams have done us proud and have become a critical part of defining what the future of our industry would be.
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