CFO to CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?
CEO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?
Best. ROI. Ever.
As a professional, I was always keen on upskilling myself and learning about the next new thing. As a self-proclaimed one-woman army, it pretty much served my purpose. I was willing to share my knowledge to people who asked but it didn’t really matter to me whether they actually implemented it or not.
This worked fine till I started my own company. The first couple of years were very tough for me as I had to unlearn my old way of working and learn a new one which involved creating and leading a team.
It also meant hiring new people. When I hired my first set, I was ecstatic and assumed that everyone would be as eager to upskill as me. But I was in for a rude awakening. Apart from a couple of them, the rest of them were absolutely satisfied to maintain their status quo. While I kept on searching for team members who had the same attitude towards learning as me while being great at their job, I started networking and meeting professionals from the industry. Agency heads, senior professionals, team leaders, media heads, journalists, and PR freshers. There was a common refrain among all of them – there is no talent in the market and the ones that exist are unwilling or don’t have the means to upskill themselves.
This was way back in 2008.
It got me thinking. If everyone knew there was an issue, why is no one looking at designing a solution? Some agencies had their own internal training programs, and some sent their teams to industry sessions where they were often ridiculed and told they were not good enough. I began to articulate the problem and arrived at one mission statement: We need a safe space that is meant only for PR professionals that helps them upskill and develops positivity and camaraderie within the industry.
But how would I ever start? My own PR firm had just taken off and I was still grappling with understanding what entrepreneurship meant and all the trappings that came with it. I turned to my go to soundboard – education! I attended workshops and seminars and spoke to mentors to understand how I can start without being daunted by the mammoth task in front of me. There was a resounding answer from all these sessions – Just start and don’t change the ‘Why’ of your mission. You will find the right people.
I started a google+ group first and then Facebook. And as fate would have it, a chance conversation with Sonali Sokhal who believed in the same vision as I got us together and we started on the same mission. A couple of years later Pooja joined us and brought new energy and ideas to it.
We started off in 2008 with offline sessions. Oxford bookstores kindly lent us their ChaBar across the country to do these sessions. Senior PR professionals, agency leaders and journalists lent us their time. We successfully managed to do a lot of them across different subjects like NLP, Content Writing, Digital & PR , Start Up PR, Media Relations and so many more…My team also joined in enthusiastically and supported it whole heartedly. Along the way, we all got busy with our own PR firms and the group morphed into a discussion forum on Facebook.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020 in full force, and turned the PR industry upside down, I felt the huge skill gap and the need to upskill almost at lightning speed. We PR pros are quick to adapt to change and the forum morphed again. By march then everyone had quickly adapted to the online world. Sonali, Pooja and me had thought about an online module but were still trying to figure out the modalities for a long time. This is when my mentor’s words echoed and held true – Just start!
We started with our first online session on April 4 with Sonali … and there was no looking back! Since then the subjects, topics and the depth of conversations on PR have evolved on our Saturday Facebook Live Sessions every weekend. We will continue to pick up essential and / or difficult topics of conversation in the industry that needs to be addressed. For a dynamic profession like PR, we all need to constantly upskill. And now just doing that for yourself is not enough. You need your team to be at par too. The world as we know it has changed forever and it will continue to evolve with new technologies and methodologies. Learning has also evolved accordingly. In a profession like PR, that changes and revises its definition every couple of months, we had to find a new way to learn from experienced professionals.
The platform will always remain about learning and upskilling with positivity. With compassion and practical knowledge sans fluff.
Join in if you want to intend to up your game in the field of PR & Communication.