Wednesday, February 14, 2007

HR Policies for PR Firms ... look outside the industry!

I was asked to speak at an upcoming conference for the Strategy Institute in March for their “Recruitment, Retention, & Industry Summit” about keeping employees happy and a bit about our HR practices, how to keep poachers away (we try!) and keeping good employees from jumping ship.

I have to admit, I’m hardly an expert in this field, but I have definite thoughts on the issue. I’ve been managing people for a long time, but implementing a robust HR program at our company was much more involved than I had originally thought. When we decided to write a formal HR policy manual, which we did after a couple of years of just “winging it,” we didn’t take cues from our own industry to write up these policies. Just the opposite. We looked at industries we admired and took a page out of their HR handbook to write our own. We also applied a new twist on compensation models that were foreign to our industry. I generally felt at the time that most traditional PR firms had antiquated policies that stemmed back from when the earth first cooled. I heard of these urban legends where PR firms wouldn’t even allow women to wear pants at the office. Try that on a day like today!

So when developing MAVERICK’s policies we wanted to create a unique environment that didn’t mirror our own PR ecosystem. We knew early on that talent would be the most precious thing we had going, so retaining and attracting great people was paramount to our success.

Since our agency was born out of the tech sector it was only natural that technology companies inspired our vision. A few examples are: our company retreat ideas come from Apple, our nap/relax room was created after our Intuit client, our aggressive bonus program is based on sales models from Cisco and PeopleSoft, our sabbatical idea came courtesy of Intel, our company wide annual review model comes from Lotus and our ping pong table and golf green came as a result of working with a bunch of tech upstarts we launched many years ago.

While it goes without saying, our HR model is scaled for our size and culture, the genesis of our policies bear little or no resemblance to the PR industry I grew up in. While I believe a lot of PR firms have currently adopted more contemporary and innovative HR guidelines to keep employees happy and retain great talent, I think it’s vital to look outside our industry more often for pioneering HR examples we can apply to our own organizations.

1 comment:

Zoe said...

You are right Julie; HR is no longer that scary department that no one sees unless they are getting hired or fired. HR needs to integrate its strategies with all other depts (marketing, PR, Operations) in order to be successful. After all, it manages the most important part of the company: its people.