Network Ten’s digital boss: ‘Industry should worry less about retention’

Mindshare's Katie Rigg-Smith, Telstra's Adam Good, Mi9's Mark Britt, REA's Jonas Jaanimagi and Ten's Rebekah Horne.

Mindshare’s Katie Rigg-Smith, Telstra’s Adam Good, Mi9’s Mark Britt, REA’s Jonas Jaanimagi and Ten’s Rebekah Horne.

Network Ten’s digital boss has told a forum that the media and marketing industry should be less worried about industry churn and retention, arguing many employers are too focused on keeping their young workforce and should be more open to project orientated work.

Rebekah Horne, chief digital officer of Ten, told a panel of digital bosses at last week’s Mumbrella 360 conference that she is happy to turn over staff if it helps the company and employees.

“I think there is plenty of skill out there,” said Horne. “My approach is to have less expectation in terms of retention and to get the best people in, and happily turn them over, then get the next people in.

“I would rather have them young smart, hungry and motivated than have been sitting there for a 150 years.”

Horne spoke about a recent meeting where her retention rate was raised and argued turnover was not always bad.

“I had an executive meeting where retention came up and I was like ‘you say that like it was a bad thing’,” she said.

“We have to get away from this mentality that turnover is a bad thing, apart from the fact you don’t want to be losing good people – I get that – but there is a whole new generation of people coming through that have different set of expectations.”

The industry debate around long hours, pay for junior staff and the challenges many media and marketing businesses have in retaining young staff has rumbled on for years. Last year UM boss Mat Baxter drew online anger after he told a forum that the industry to stop apologising for the workload placed on young staff.

Horne had a slightly different perspective noting that many gen-Y staff, aged in their 20s, were after work and travel combinations and would put in long hours on a short to medium term basis if it helped them achieve their broader goals.

“They will work for a while, then they will travel, and then they will come back around a few years later. I think if you can go with that then you get the best people for the projects at hand, meanwhile you keep a core group of people that are your absolute stable,” she said. “My approach is more project based.”

Fellow panel member Mark Britt CEO of Nine Entertainment’s digital division Mi9, asked Horne how long she wanted staff to stay, to which she replied: “It depends on what I need to get done.”

“Usually we come to an agreement where I say look I need this, you need that, we work it out and have a great time. Honestly, that works. I think part of the problem is that in Australia this concept of the evolving workplace is a great concept but is not really very true.”

Horne made the remarks while on a panel that included Britt along with Adam Good, director of digital media & content for Telstra, Jonas Jaanimagi, head of media operations and strategy of REA Group and CEO of media agency Mindshare Katie Rigg-Smith.

Britt told the forum the structural changes in the space of media and marketing were part of the challenge in keeping staff.

“We don’t think of a skills gap so much as the media gone from an industry that has been very stable for generations be it government licensing or industry where there are oligopolies, into complete unbridled competition,” said Britt.

“It has massively lowered barriers to entry, new entrants everyday, combined with price movements. The number one issue is capacity to change and the issue you then get to is resilience – your people. We think a lot about the cultural level how do you support your people through that journey. If we do that then we kind of trust that people will train themselves.

“Where we don’t support out people well through the change, whether they can or can’t do the job, it’s that they just hit a wall.”

Britt, who is also chairman of digital body the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), said that one of the key ways to key retain staff was around giving their jobs purpose.

“You need people who can constantly grow and develop. 88 per cent of our staff are gen-Y, corporate loyalty, 55 per cent women, average age 28,” he said.

“There is a lot of fantastic research, and our own anecdotal experience shows, there is an opportunity in the industry to talk about the purpose – we serve an extraordinary purpose in this industry which we haven’t had to talk about historically. Our experience is the more charitable work we do, the clearer we are about the innovation we are trying to achieve, then we find people attach more to the purpose and their job.”

Nic Christensen 


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