Last week, Jeremy Wheaton wrote an interesting piece on just how far we’ve fallen when it comes to companies and training employees to fill the increasingly large skills gap. The article talks about the issue from a 10,000-foot level, looking at the economy across industries. However, today, I’d like to talk about a topic specific to our industry:
Why don’t more companies invest in training their PR and social employees?
Because, according to what I’ve experienced in the past, and what I’ve heard from clients, colleagues and partners over the last 8-plus years as a solo, it’s a BIG problem.
Let’s start with the facts.
We know the economy is purring along well–and unemployment is very low (hovering around 4–the lowest it’s been in a long time). Translation: Times are good to be an employee.
And anecdotally, I hear from friends all the time that it’s very hard to find good people in this market in PR and social. Translation: Times are good to be a GOOD employee.
At the same time, I also hear from people that it’s hard to find people with niche skill sets–video production, audio production, analytics and paid social media come to mind right off the top.
Allow me to recap: Employees have more power than they’ve had in the last (maybe) 20 years. But, there remains a fairly long list of skills that are increasingly difficult to find for employers.
And yet, employers continue to resist investing in employee training.
Why? What’s behind that decision for employers?
If you’re having a hard time finding certain skills in the market, why not hire people with aptitude and “train them up” to desired levels?
If you have existing start performers who are clearly asking for training in certain areas, why not give them what they want to keep them happy?
Or, maybe you have other employees who aren’t necessarily “star performers” but could get there with a bit of additional training, why not invest in those people and CREATE your own star performers?
These decisions all seem easy. Yet, I continue to hear from people who have to essentially beg to attend a $600 local event. Or, people who have to make a presentation to leadership to get funding for an annual $375 PRSA membership. Or, people who are learning Google Analytics all on their own, with absolutely no help from their employers.
Why do companies continue to turn a blind eye to employee training in PR and social?
The answer is probably painfully easy: On the corporate side, PR/social folks are support staff. In other words: We are COSTING the company money. Most companies aren’t going to invest more money in staff that are already costing them money when they can invest in areas of the company that bring in the money (product, sales come to mind).
On the other hand, there are companies in our business that typically invest heavily in training and development: Agencies.
Why? Because when you’re on the agency side, you ARE the product (or, service, in this case).
Agencies do all sorts of things to help their people get smarter on PR/social. Professional development budgets are typically a bit looser on the agency side. Trips to events like SXSW are a bit easier to come by on the agency side. Don’t want to send people to industry events? Many agencies will bring renowned thought leaders and speakers in to talk with and train their employees (Olson did this for years with one notable event; not sure if they’re still doing that).
But let me go back to the question of the day: Why aren’t companies doing more to develop PR/social talent? Because it’s a great question considering employees have the huge upper hand right now in the market.
Can employers afford to hold this stingy attitude much longer? I guess time will tell. But, I’d certainly like to see more companies devoting more resources to training existing talent.
Those that don’t might be left behind in the years ahead.
Note: Photo courtesy of MIMA.