PHD is a leading communications planning and media buying agency. Founded in London in 1990 as the first planning-led media agency, PHD was established in Australia in 2009 and quickly grew to now employ over 250 staff across Sydney and Melbourne. As the media partner for high-profile clients including Google, Volkswagen Group, Virgin Australia and Unilever amongst many more, PHD’s role is to advise and guide clients to the best strategy to invest their marketing budget across media channels (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, online platforms, etc.). As such, PHD works closely with advertising, public relations agencies and media vendors to promote clients’ products and services to their target audience in the most impactful and cost-efficient manner.
As part of PHD’s annual strategy session, the people & development team reviewed all the feedback collected during exit interviews the year prior, to identify common trends in leavers’ experiences. The feedback reviewed identified a clear link between low retention, and staff at this critical level feeling undervalued and unclear on their progression. In addition to the negative impact on succession planning and culture for PHD, the labour market is incredibly tight which means hiring experienced staff is highly competitive and staff turnover can quickly become a challenge to the very stability of PHD’s business. As such and to build a solid pipeline of Account Executives ready to step up as Managers, PHD created an initiative focusing on the growth and retention of staff with 1 to 4 years’ experience.
The Future Leaders’ Program functions by one rising star in each of the teams is selected by their manager off the back of our bi-annual April review period. The program consists of a two-day bootcamp where participants receive intensive training on strategic project management from their Leadership Team and personal development sessions with their People Director. At the end of the bootcamp, participants are presented with a real business challenge to solve and asked by the Leadership Team to come back with a viable proposal within one month. Upon presentation of their response, the Leadership Team provides feedback, guidance and ultimately approves the Future Leaders project which they then must implement within 6 months. The Leadership Team’s involvement is a big contributor to the success of the program as they are involved in mentoring each of the Future Leaders. This not only adds value for the program participants but also allows their senior leaders to get to know rising stars on a personal level and take a bigger role in developing talent in the agency. Once signed off, the Future Leaders also present their project to the entire agency. During the implementation phase, participants are supported through one-on-one mentoring by the Leadership Team. This not only gives PHD’s Future Leaders additional guidance for their project, but also supports their individual development and leadership skills. Overtime, PHD has refined the format of the bootcamp session & mentoring program, however the overall program has remained consistent both in its’ objective and outcomes.
Since the inception of the Future Leaders program, it has shown positive results on several accounts. The Future Leaders program has had a direct impact on the retention & growth of those taking part in the program as 75% of past participants in the program are still employed at PHD to this day. It is also notable that PHD’s overall staff turnover has gone down significantly. PHD have also found the program to help those rising stars raise their profile internally and mature quickly, thus speeding their readiness for promotion to Manager level (majority of participants were promoted in the 12 months following completion of the program). In summary and having run for 4 years now, the Future Leaders program has positively impacted PHD’s business in many ways and helped PHD Australia retain and grow staff which would have likely fled the business. PHD believe the program is an example of an initiative which directly answers a business challenge and achieves tangible results with very little resources using the power of mentoring, public acknowledgement and the positive influence staff have on one another.