Ten tips to develop your agency staff

Lessons from our CPD Gold agencies.

Helen Tupper, Commercial Marketing Director at Microsoft and Chair of Judges for CPD Gold looks at the agencies who achieved CPD Gold this year and highlights examples of how they are leading the way with exceptional professional development.

1. It need not cost a fortune to learn technical skills

Bray Leino’s Digital Developers showed exemplary initiative and determination to learn about new technologies such as face recognition. Suppliers were reluctant to help so they found free resources online and built it themselves. Most of us assume that an external supplier will want money to come in but The&Partnership reminds us that you can get so much useful learning for free from tech giants such as Facebook and Google. And, that little nuggets of knowledge fire the creative imagination to create a new way to talk to customers.

2. Appraisals aren’t annual – they’re always on

One annual review is increasingly out of sync with our under 30s, they want ongoing feedback and development, to regularly achieve and take on new objectives. Hunterlodge was way ahead of the curve; their 121 dashboard system operates monthly and allows everyone their say on contributing to the business. Recently they added ‘How’s life?’ which asks about work/life balance and wellbeing. People are also asked about the extent to which they feel heard, valued and respected. The fact that this is valued by those involved is evidenced by ‘noticeable improvements in office morale’ and reduced absence through sick days.

3. CPD can help in adversity

When business is challenged investment in CPD may seem counter-intuitive. Two agencies in particular showed how CPD can be a positive force. In a cyber attack Mindshare lost all power. Instead of banging their heads against a brick wall the team seized the initiative and ran very popular Old School Training. Like most agencies, Mullen Lowe London has many employees from the European Union. Instead of wringing their hands, the HR team organised a Brexit seminar to explain what they knew and how they could help.

4. Useful learning can come in very small sizes

Not all training needs to take a week, or a day or even an hour, sometimes the most useful nuggets of knowledge come when fitted into five minutes as St Luke’s found when they run five minute sessions exploring effectiveness case studies.

5. CPD can make you money, fast

As RAPP UK found when educating their clients on GDPR (the ‘Data Apocalypse’) helped secure a new client.

This is also reflected in data from previous years’ CPD Gold winners; agencies who received CPD Gold in 2016 won £36m in new business and have a 57% pitch conversion rate.

6. CPD can be a force for good and simultaneously help the business

Increasingly agencies are not just investing in wellbeing they are looking at the cost to an individual and the agency of mental health problems. The Specialist Works took this one step further by training managers to not only spot signs of deteriorating mental health in their people but practical ways they could help.

7. Even your senior staff can always learn new things

Several of Gold agencies this year had those at the highest levels – founders, CEOs, MDs – taking time to learn and teach others. Wordbird’s founder made good use of a procurement seminar with many positive results and a much desired favoured supplier status.Elvis’s CEO and Financial Controller waterfalled their understanding of e-auctions/RFPs which resulted in protected margins. NOW invested in business strategy coaching and the management team have been able to use these techniques to make more informed commercial decisions in relation to new business and resource planning.

8. Gold agencies recognise that diversity and inclusion is vital to equal opportunity

Employees are more likely to remain loyal when they are respected and valued for their unique contribution

AMV BBDO were impressive with the number of ways they retain and recruit staff; encouraging those from diverse backgrounds to apply – to feel confident in their ability and to achieve their best. This included unconscious bias training, throwing open their doors for Advertising Unlocked, and a top panel for International Women’s Day.

9. Gold agencies never forget that the little things matter

All Gold agencies have good welcome programmes because they know that a poor start is more likely to foster a dissatisfied employee and a quicker exit. OMD have an excellent induction but it is the little touches which resonate with us such as giving the newbie a box of chocolates to share, and helping them break the ice while manning the agency bar and establishing the ethos with a copy of The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams.

10. Knowledge matters

Gold agencies have a high percentage of Accredited MIPAs, the IPA’s badge of professionalism, which signals to clients and prospective clients how seriously they take the depth of learning. Generation Media are 39% MIPA, including the entire board and, refreshingly, their Finance team too.

Helen Tupper is Commercial Marketing Director at Microsoft.

The IPA’s CPD programme offers inspirational career development and training through engaging and effective courses and award-winning qualifications, ensuring agency practitioners’ skills match their clients’ needs. To find out more see A Guide to Gold Accreditation.

Last updated 21 January 2022