The need of employee diversity has emerged most strongly in industries that have dramatically evolved over the past twenty-five years, the Public Relations industry being a front-runner amongst them. Hence, in order to delve deep into this trend, two MBA students of Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC-PG), Pune, Rupali Pant and Spurti Devadhar had an insightful conversation with Nitin Mantri the CEO of Avian Media and also the President of PRCAI (Public Relations Consultants Association of India).
Nitin was one of the panelists at the 2nd Annual Public Relations Conclave, 2015 held at SIMC and was part of the panel on ‘Talent Acquisition- Industry Expectation versus Trained and Untrained Talent’ along with Paresh Chaudhry, CEO, Madison PR, and Chetan Mahajan, Managing Director, MSL GROUP.
Malcolm Forbes once quoted diversity as “the art of thinking independently together”. The concept of diversity has therefore, become extremely crucial to any organization’s success. Employee diversity in any workforce situation is seen as a sign of employee engagement and a reflection of the organization’s overall vision and belief systems.
The conversation began with the students urging him to share his perspectives on the change in the hiring processes over these two decades, to which he said that earlier the hiring was done on an ad-hoc basis with the basic skill set being good oral and written communication and media relations capabilities. As the Indian industry advanced and had to match pace with changing technologies, international standards and more dynamic business structures, there has now emerged a need to hire people who possess specialized knowledge of business strategy, technology, planning and media relations. “I am glad to see an engineer do an MBA in Public Relations” he remarked.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Mantri was the only male employee at his first PR job, which brought the conversation to the topic of gender diversity in the PR industry. He recalled that traditionally, PR was more woman-oriented as a practice, which has changed over the years. “With changes in business processes even in the realm of PR, there is a requirement of a workforce where both men and women contribute towards the firm’s growth”, he observes. “In the case of men, more often than not, PR is not the first career option, unlike women. In fact, women are more loyal than men!” he quipped.
When asked about the high level of employee attrition in PR agencies, he mentioned that since the industry is female-dominated, a considerable amount of attrition is due to the fact that women leave jobs due to certain personal factors such as marriage, pregnancy and higher education pursuits. He added, “Once you subtract the female employee attrition, the equation changes.” Another cause of attrition is the size of the firm. He says, “When the size of the firm is above 100 employees, it is difficult to keep the attrition rate below 10%. At Avian Media, with 150 people across India, the attrition rate is at about 15%, which is fairly good as compared to competition.”
When inquired about low employee retention despite equivalence of agency and corporate compensation, Mantri said that the problem lies at the entry level. “The starting salary of an account executive will be lesser than a corporate communication executive, but the growth is faster in case of an agency”, he said. As a solution to keep employee attrition in check, he offered two solutions: first, to have a good work culture and second, to give the employees enough opportunities for training and development.
In the light of the above discussion, the conversation then touched the topic of strategic collaborations between the industry and specialized education providers such as SIMC in order to provide skilled and trained talent in the field of PR. He said, “It will be a win-win situation for both the industry as well as the institutes. It is a brilliant initiative, which is already in consideration. Being an industry representative, I have personally given inputs to education providers regarding topics to be covered as part of course curriculum. I would also love to continue this momentum forward by engaging students in real-time, mentored projects that they can do while attending college.”
As a closing statement, he urged budding PR professionals at SIMC to gain as much knowledge by reading more and more, so that they gain broader perspectives of the world and contribute towards a more diverse and productive workplace. “Read. There is no substitute for knowledge. One must possess general and global knowledge in order to succeed, on the job as well as in life”, he concluded.