Meet the brands investing in talent retention to create a pipeline of future leaders

From setting up dedicated graduate schemes to nurture early talent to creating bespoke cross-functional brand academies, companies are waking up to the importance of investing in their employees’ long-term careers.


Recruiting diverse talent is a challenge brands are facing on a daily basis, as they attempt to find people who not only fit their values and culture, but also have the skills to propel the business forward.

Once they find these people the trick for any business is to retain them. However, job mobility is famously high within marketing. Data from Marketing Week’s career and salary survey over the past 20 years has consistently shown around 80% of marketers plan to leave their job within three years.

This year, 81% of respondents suggest they are likely change jobs within three years and 38% will do so by the end of 2018.

But savvy businesses are realising the best way to get long-term commitment from employees is to show a clear commitment to their future. Investing in professional development, whether it be early on in people’s careers through graduate schemes or via bespoke brand academies that take a cross-functional approach to development, is helping brands position themselves as long-term career destinations.

Broadcaster UKTV has developed its brand academy programme to educate, inspire and empower its employees, arming them with in-depth knowledge on how the marketing industry works.

Officially launched in April, the programme includes sessions specifically aimed at supporting the marketing, media, communications, social and creative teams who collaborate on a daily basis, though the entire company is encouraged to get involved.

Fifty sessions are planned so far this year, ranging from ‘MindWok’ lunchtime talks with inspiring speakers from the likes of Spotify and YouGov, to half-day workshops.

Training and development don’t only help people to deliver excellent campaigns, they also make sure they’re feeling inspired and motivated.

Zoe Clapp, UKTV

Content will cover technical skills such as marketing strategy, brand equity, writing briefs, creative feedback, market orientation and publicity. There will be insight on the latest innovations in the media landscape, as well as events focused on creativity in advertising. The brand academy will also focus on helping people “do their best work” with sessions on presentation skills, stress management and how to prioritise.

Head of marketing operations Kaisa Kantalainen explains UKTV’s values around creativity, collaboration and challenging the norm all inform the brand academy programme, which is also tied into each employee’s individual goals and objectives.

From an employer branding perspective, the brand academy taps into UKTV’s culture of learning, explains CMO Zoe Clapp. She believes that after engaging in a comprehensive recruitment process to find “brilliant people” who share the company spirit, it is only right that the business invests in them so they feel fulfilled and able to produce great work.

“The pace of change in the current climate is incredible and we want to make sure people are constantly on top of trends and best practice, as well as being classically trained in the core marketing skills that underpin great work,” explains Clapp.

“Training and development don’t only help people to deliver excellent campaigns, they also make sure they’re feeling inspired and motivated, helping us to retain great talent. It’s what makes UKTV such a good place for marketing people to develop their careers.”

UKTV brand academy
UKTV’s brand academy shows the company’s consistent commitment to employee development.

Unleashing creativity

After a major recruitment drive to hire 60 marketers for a variety of positions from brand management and digital to user experience and creative, sports fashion business Pentland Brands unveiled its first in-house brand-building academy in May.

The academy – known as ‘Brand Building the Pentland Way’ – will be rolled out across the entire portfolio, spanning brands such as Speedo, Mitre, Ellesse and Berghaus.

READ MORE: Inside the sports fashion group launching a brand building academy to unleash cross-functional creativity 

Pentland made a conscious decision not to call the initiative a ‘marketing academy’ in order to involve everyone in its brand building mission, explains brand development director Simon Grove.

“Brand building can often be seen as the domain of marketing teams, but actually what we believe here is that it’s that collective brainpower, the creativity, those cross-functional teams coming together that gives us the edge and that’s where we get the true value,” he explains.

“The core principle we’re putting into place is that the accountability for brand building is for all of us and what that does is join people up, so everyone has a really good understanding and a consistent way of working that enables those people to flex and move across to different roles, different brands, different functions.”

Pentland’s 1,700-strong global workforce will be given access to development workshops, toolkits and events, with the cross-functional teams moving rapidly from the theory to work on real brand challenges.

Pentland Brands Sunderland
Pentland hopes its brand building academy will grow the profile of the business as an employer brand.

From an employer branding perspective, a big objective of the programme is to position Pentland as a place where people want to build their long-term careers. A key area of focus for global marketing director Sean Hastings over the past three years has been using the scale of the Pentland portfolio to raise the profile of the parent brand.

“Pentland is not a consumer-facing organisation, but it has a massive amount to offer people coming to work here. The brand of Pentland is really important and the options it opens up to come somewhere like this, versus a single brand, are huge,” says Hastings.

“The idea that, whether you’re in marketing or any of the other functions, you can join an organisation and move around is huge to people. Also these brands are in categories that really matter to people and if you’re in marketing that’s interesting to you because you want to make brands matter, because that’s how brands grow.”

Celebrating longevity

For food group Kerry Foods, building the foundations for a long-term career begins as soon as people enter the business. It takes on 25 graduates a year across Ireland and the UK for its two-year graduate scheme. The CEO Duncan Everett started out on the graduate scheme, a sign of a wider belief within the organisation that the right graduates can go all the way to the top, says CMO Nick Robinson.

“When the Kerry graduates see Duncan and other senior people who have come in as graduates, build their careers in functions and then move cross-functionally they see the value in it,” he explains.

“They also see that the organisation genuinely believes in the development of its own people and there is a route to the very top for people who are homegrown. I think it builds confidence that we’re serious about their personal development – not only for the first couple of years, but through subsequent years in the business.”

We take a personal approach with each of our graduates, aiming to provide each of them with the right balance of business, personal and technical skills.

Sarah Jane Henly, BT

The graduates are put through various leadership modules and placement rotations across the specific functions they apply to join, with marketing sitting alongside sales in the commercial function.

READ MORE: Brands are ditching CVs to find new ways of discovering diverse talent

Kerry Foods employs a 70/20/10 training model: while 70% of the graduate scheme is about learning on-the-job skills such as leadership, brand planning and how to manage agencies, 20% is driven by learning from others, with each new starter being allocated a senior mentor. The final 10% is made up of formal, training on topics such as commercial negotiation, operations and problem solving.

The joint heads of trade marketing at Kerry Foods, Helen Foster and Natasha Mosscrop, graduated from the scheme over a decade ago. Both Foster and Mosscrop valued the fact they were treated as equals from the first day of their graduate scheme and given roles they could grow into across different functions.

Kerry Foods
Helen Foster (left) and Natasha Mosscrop (right), joint heads of trade marketing.

Their experience convinces Robinson that the graduate programme provides a great pipeline of talented young people who will become future leaders of the business.

“I think the graduate scheme is a powerful way of building our overall brand as an organisation. It allows us to recruit the next generation of advocates who will hopefully stay with us for a long time before they move on to another organisation and spread the word about our organisation, brand and products in a positive way,” he adds.

The full spectrum

In recognition of the importance placed on marketing within the organisation, EE runs a dedicated marketing graduate scheme. Students are put on rotation every six months during the two-year programme to ensure they attain a rounded experience of the business. From September 2018, graduates will also be able to join the consumer graduate scheme, which has rotations across BT, EE and Plusnet.

Before the scheme begins the young marketers spend time in the three front-line areas of the business: the contact centre, retail store and with the digital team, before completing four rotations.

One of those is in mobile, where graduates develop a detailed understanding of EE’s pay monthly and pay-as-you-go plans. The graduate intake are also given the chance to work on the home, TV and mobile broadband businesses, which involves the marketing of superfast fibre home broadband, superfast 4G Wi-Fi devices and EE TV.

During the brand and marketing communications rotation graduates work on above-the-line campaigns, social media, advertising and demand generation, whereas on the go-to-market and planning rotation they learn how to plan a communications strategy and deliver projects.

Lastly, graduates taking part in the devices, products and partnerships rotation get to grips with how the company launches its major devices from brands such as Apple and Samsung.

Sarah Jane Henly, HR director of BT’s consumer brands EE, BT and Plusnet, says the training is designed to allow marketing graduates to walk straight into an entry-level role and hit the ground running.

“We take a personal approach with each of our graduates, aiming to provide each of them with the right balance of business, personal and technical skills. They are then supported to build their careers within the business and many have progressed to manager and senior manager roles,” says Henly.

“Our graduate schemes are extremely important to us, to invest in diverse new talent that can bring fresh thinking and ideas to the business, and who we can develop to become future leaders.”