Over two-thirds of employers say they are experiencing difficulties in retaining staff and report that nearly one-fifth of new recruits quit within the first six months, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
To combat this damaging trend, employers are re-examining the ways they initiate new employees into the mores and modus operandi of their companies. At the same time, they are examining afresh the training they offer to new starters.
In the CIPD’s Recruitment, Retention and Turnover Survey 2006, employers’ most frequently cited action to increase retention is to improve the induction process (49% of respondents), followed by increasing learning and development opportunities (45%). To succeed, these elements must go hand in hand, with induction forming just part of an employee development programme.
Without an effective induction programme, says the CIPD, employees never really understand the organisation itself or their role in it. Morale, productivity and achievement will suffer.
All employees should receive an induction that reflects their specific needs, but they should not be bombarded with information on their first day since almost all of it will be instantly forgotten.
The point of the job
Induction programmes, by law, have to mention health and safety and should explain terms and conditions. But the most important elements are outlining clearly the requirements of the job and explaining the organisation’s culture and values.
With marketing staff, who are required to work with a number of outside agencies and suppliers, it is good to make the time early on to include introductions to all the people they will come across.
“It is vital for the stability of the brand that part of the induction should cover the agency relationships, ensuring that newcomers don’t feel that their first job should be to re-pitch everything,” says Scott Knox, managing director of the Marketing Communications Consultants’ Association. “Procurement procedures need to be covered to enhance the marketing team’s understanding of purchasing and relationship with the agencies.
“With current average tenures of client-side marketers as low as 14 months in many cases, the agency has a far greater understanding of the brand, its history and issues,” he adds. “It is therefore vital to get the agency on-side and partnered up as quickly as possible.
“The brand’s agencies should be invited to get involved with newcomer inductions.” This works the other way, too.
Newcomers to agencies should have the chance to meet clients as soon as possible. This is what happens at ad agency Nexus/h, whose clients include car-maker Suzuki. Client services director Cormach Moore says: “We encourage clients and suppliers to be part of the programme. Our new account executives often spend a day driving a client’s product at an off-road course for a day. Suzuki has a hot desk at its end so our staff can go and spend time there. Our people get to learn more about our clients’ business, it strengthens the relationship and hopefully the clients have a better understanding of how the agency works.”
Suzuki GB marketing manager Steve Redford explains: “At Suzuki, we have a small marketing team, yet we are expected to have a detailed knowledge and understanding of a number of marketing disciplines.
“We don’t pretend to have all the answers ourselves, so we often involve external parties, such as the advertising agency or our printers. It is important that we know and understand how they work and what issues they face.”
Recruits also need to understand the roles of the various company departments. Some organisations run formal induction programmes involving a group of people, one of the advantages being that new recruits can socialise and build cross-functional relationships.
“Everyone in the organisation does the same induction programme,” says Moore. “Just because you work in finance does not mean you shouldn’t know what goes on in the creative department – and vice versa.”
TV company Flextech runs a quarterly training day, known as “TV the Flextech Way”, which all starters are expected to attend.
“This gives everyone a chance to interact with different areas of the business, network with people and understand how they fit into the workings of a busy broadcaster,” says head of human resources Niamh O’Connor. “It’s very interactive and lively and ends with a Q&A session with a senior manager.”
The downside is that quarterly sessions are less personal and may not appeal to a mixed-ability group of new employees. Also, they may take place several weeks or months after the employee has started.
“It’s also important to get it right on day one,” agrees O’Connor. “We give them a tour and show them training films explaining what the company is like before passing them to their departmental managers to take them out to lunch.” •Procter & Gamble runs its induction programme, known as Inboarding College, a couple of times a year. Recruits are taken into the company in waves. “Most recruits come straight from university and start in October, when we send them on the course straight away,” says corporate marketing director Roisin Donnelly.
The week-long course covers aspects such as creative skills, strategy and project management. P&G makes an effort to include outside agencies in its induction.
“People visit media agency Starcom Motive to see how they work,” says Donnelly. “They have a day’s training, including presentations, and shadow people there.” Staff at P&G’s advertising agencies are also encouraged to go into P&G and shadow marketing staff there for a month.
Off to marketing University
Inboarding College is the first stage in P&G’s staff development process. Next is the Marketing University programme, which includes courses that take place across all P&G’s markets globally.
It also runs regular small courses knows as “vitamins”, which last a couple of hours and cover subjects such as new market research techniques, time management and effective print advertising. Attendance is voluntary.
P&G is also a great believer in buddying, where recruits are teamed up with someone who joined a year or two previously, who can show them the ropes. At BT, recruits have individual mentors and access to trained business coaches but they are also introduced to an army of potential buddies. BT has more than 1,000 marketing staff across the world and recruits are encouraged to join the “marketing community” – a group programme to improve professional marketing skills.
“It helps them to connect with people they wouldn’t usually come across,” explains BT marketing community manager Hannah Grant. “They can access a range of learning and development opportunities. We have best-practice events with speakers from other organisations and offer training on core marketing skills, such as customer insight and agency briefing.”
Recruits at all levels join the community, though high-level starters also have access to BT’s Senior Leaders’ Onboarding programme.
BT Retail director of communications Zoë Arden says: “Senior Leaders’ Onboarding is fantastic. You go to three sessions over a year to talk about the company’s values and best practice and meet all the senior movers and shakers, from the chief executive down.”
Many elements of an induction course can apply to recruits at any level, says Alain Thys, Management Centre Europe’s lead faculty for consumer markets: “Induction for marketing employees needs to focus on the emotional consumer insight the brand wishes to relate to. Everyone in the marketing team should understand it and articulate how their brand responds to it. This means the same induction programme can be used for the most senior VP as for the new administrative assistant.”
Room to innovate
But sessions should avoid focusing on “tradition and the way we do things”, adds Thys: “Marketing is changing fast and the less recruits have to unlearn, the better.”
It should be remembered that the job of a marketer is about creativity and strategic thinking. A company that forces recruits to work in a narrow way may deprive them of learning new methods of doing things and inhibit the imagination of new talent.
Thys believes too few companies engage in “continuing induction”.
“The best organisations envelop their people from the outset, providing development sessions on brand behaviour and keeping them up to date on developments,” he says.