Staff Training: A Cultural Essential
One afternoon in August 2000, the Hunter Public Relations staff hopped into a handful of minivans at 41 Madison Avenue and headed to an inn in the Catskills. While there, employees experienced two days of off-site training on creative thinking and brainstorming techniques. Aside from providing the staff with interesting work-related workshops, the off-site was an opportunity for the 25 employees to become better acquainted outside of their work environment.
Fast forward to August 16, 2012. That evening, our now 75 PR employees returned to New York City after — you guessed it — two days of training in several new brainstorm participation and facilitation techniques.
In the span of 12 years, at five different locations and with 50 additional employees, our annual off-site training has become not just an anticipated summer ritual, but one of the agency’s most unique HR endeavors.
Many of the large public relations agencies have some type of formal employee development program or “university.” However, for small to mid-sized firms — like Hunter PR —this type of program may not seem practical, given the time and resources necessary to create and maintain it. Our once-per-year off-site training was and is our answer to a traditional employee development program. Initially, when we numbered only 25 employees, the off-site was an effective way to ensure that all staff were formally trained in one of the agency’s core competencies: creative thinking.
Today, the annual off-site still centers on common training around one topic of importance to all employees; however, it’s now the cornerstone of a year-round, employee development program that provides opportunities for staff members to attend either industry-sponsored webinars/seminars or skills-based sessions taught by our own employees. Although the program has evolved to meet our needs, the goal and result are the same: to provide staff members with the skills necessary to succeed and advance at Hunter PR, so that we can provide the best service to our clients.
Employee retention and recruitment
According to the MetLife 10th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends:
- 48 percent of employees feel that company culture is important in fostering a sense of loyalty to a company.
- 56 percent of Gen Y employees and 52 percent of Gen X employees stated that the benefits offered were an important reason why they chose to work for their employer.
As these statistics suggest, a solid benefits package and desirable company culture are important considerations in recruiting and retaining employees. For us, the off-site training has been a value investment in both of these areas. Prospective employees are usually intrigued by the novelty of our staff training program, while current staff members often herald the off-site training as the best example of our dynamic, family-like company culture.
In an industry that essentially needs to thrive with change, the Hunter PR annual off-site training is an example of how one consistent HR initiative can help a small/mid-sized company achieve multiple HR objectives.