Telum Vox Pop: The "Great Resignation".

Telum Vox Pop: The "Great Resignation".

Following the pandemic, the “Great Resignation” and a swathe of ex-pats returning to their home country, there is a shortage of PR professionals across some parts of the region. Telum asked professionals in the industry to share some insight into ways around the problem.

What’s the biggest challenge when hiring remotely?
Adam Benson, CEO, The Recognition Group
While the idea of working from home might seem attractive, it doesn’t suit everyone. We’ve found a small percentage of people we’ve hired have enjoyed the benefits of remote work initially, but then realise they’re just not wired to work on their own physically for the longer term.  It is a small number though.

Lucy Newcomb, Director, Salt & Shein
There are a few challenges when hiring remotely in the PR and communications industry. The first thing would be having majority of clients based quite far away. Work rights and visa issues, if hiring abroad. Some employees may find over time it becomes harder to interact without being face to face with work colleagues or clients.

Is offering remote working enough, or does there need to be more to your approach to enticing good talent?
Adam Benson: We need to show people that working remotely doesn’t limit their career options, personal and professional growth, or the ability to collaborate with clients or their teams every day. For example, we offer a $1000 payment for new starters to get their home office set up, we supply work laptops, VOIP phones, access to our book club, which pays our team for every book they read, the ability to buy extra leave, $100 per month to cover at-home work expenses, fortnightly online team activities, a staff recognition programme and support for post-graduate learning and professional development courses.

Lucy Newcomb: Remote working is important, but you need to consider other aspects. They are looking for:
  • learning opportunities
  • a company focussed on harnessing talent and developing individual careers
  • a company committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace  
  • actual demonstrated capacity, not just words
  • an environment that fosters collaboration and recognises high performance
  • good leaders, recognised in their field 
  • an impressive portfolio of client work
  • $$$ - they need to be remunerated in line with market expectations
  • opportunities to learn from each other in a great environment, in person
Clever recruitment and offering remote working help fill specific roles, but what is the answer to the shortage?
Adam Benson: This shortage (at the Consultant / Account Manager level) has existed for more than 20 years. It became a bigger challenge when the PR sector lost access to the migration visas we used to rely on to bring in overseas talent (upwards of 30 per cent of all PR agency staff in many agencies). The reality is that agencies got lazy when it came to investing in graduates and junior team members, and training them up inside a business; it was faster and cheaper to just hire "ready to go" PR Account Managers who had landed on our shores (or encourage them to come to Australia).  

There are thousands of communication graduates coming out of universities around Australia.  It’s on all of us to invest in their professional development so the pool of more senior operators expands in the future. We’ve made a rod for our own backs and its coming home to roost.  

Lucy Newcomb: Getting back into normality now will help with the shortage. For example, Australians returning home after years overseas and ex-pats coming to Australia to work and live. But there are things PR agencies and consultancies will need to consider when hiring to ensure the shortage is reduced. Things like good work conditions and a competitive salary, hybrid working (offering two to three days from home) is often attractive nowadays, hiring junior level PR candidates and providing the right training to introduce more people into the industry. In terms of things outside the workplace, increased visa opportunities and clients open to sponsoring candidates would be a good idea.

As previously reported by Telum, The Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), has launched a Migration Taskforce to advocate for migration reform, providing relief to the communication and public relations industry's entrenched skills crisis. 

Health-focused PR agency, Palin Communications, has also spoken up about the crisis and reported they have looked to hire in the UK as a possible solution to a skills shortage in Australia, ramping up their British Sponsorship Program.

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