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Speaking up for professional development

Candidates are leaving jobs due to the lack of training. That’s the headline from Prospect Resourcing’s recent study of employee views on talent training and human resources.

The Employees Speak Out (PDF download) study polled 50 candidates from account executive to associate director, at ‘well-regarded agencies.’

It’s a small sample granted, but it almost universally tells a story of an industry that is self-taught and learning on the job. Most respondents rated their digital expertise as 5 or 6 out of 10.

‘The findings, unfortunately but perhaps not unsurprisingly, make for uncomfortable reading with many of those working in agencies feeling that little more than lip service is paid to their professional development,’ says the report.

‘We work hard to provide the best candidates the best opportunities. What are considered the ‘best opportunities’ are from those PR agencies that nurture and develop their people,’ said Prospect’s Ellie Gair.

Prospect’s findings are shameful. Its view is that unless the industry addresses professional development people “will leave the industry disillusioned.”

There’s a bigger issue at play here that’s fundamental to the industry. Professional development is critical to addressing the reputation of our profession.

During the recent CIPR election I proposed that all members should commit to continuing professional development. After all it’s a mandatory requirement for the professions such as accounting and legal that we aspire to sit alongside.

Friends in other professions sacrifice evenings and weekends to pass qualifications and maintain their annual Continuous Professional Development (CPD) record.

It’s not all bad. There are examples of excellence within the industry. I’d cite theCIPR’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme as a good platform.

It provides a clear route for professional development through to Accredited and Chartered Practitioner status.

My own firm Ketchum takes learning and development very seriously. We’ve got our own internal university based on a CPD model and streams to support each area and level within the business.

In fact I’m just back from Camp Ketchum in Mont Tremblant near Montreal, Canada, where I spent a week at our week-long international summer school that brings together more than 80 campers and 30 tutors from Ketchum agencies around the world.

Personal development should start at home. It requires personal commitment but it must also be supported by agency investment in cash and time.

It’s an issue that lies at the heart of us developing from a craft to a profession.

This blog post first appeared on PRWeek.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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