Attrition worries have led to transactional practices in PR, opine our roving millennial reporters

“What are your future plans? Are you sure you’re not planning to go to graduate school? You understand that we have a lock-in clause for at least a year right? We just want to make sure you can commit to our company.”

For young PR professionals, there is usually an additional section of the recruitment process: the commitment testing. PR firms all over the country seem mortified by the turnover rate in the industry and are determined to have their firm be the exception. There exist several articles on the problem of employee turnover in PR: why it exists, how to solve it, how to deal with it. It’s understandable why this topic is one that keeps managers and directors up at night.

This is a relationship-driven industry, and when employees leave, relationships leave with them, leaving behind the additional burden of developing a new set of relationships to sustain smooth functioning. However, as a result, a rather transactional culture has emerged in Indian PR: where employee tenure has become a more important metric than employee performance, where short tenures on a resume are an immediate red flag and the pursuit of “loyalty” is all-consuming.

As young entrants to the PR industry, seeing our sentiments echoed in publications like Forbes - “Millennials aren’t afraid to job-hop!” feels reassuring and heartening. Having discussed the job-hop phenomenon with peers, the common perception that emerged was that such moves better accommodate the journeys and perspectives of the “keen to learn, not just earn” workforce. We see our careers as journeys, not necessarily up the career ladder, but across a plateau: not for the designation but rather the multiple destinations it takes us - gathering experiences and skills that help fulfil us. Quitting a job is not necessarily a rejection of a company but an understanding of what the next best stop in this journey should be.

While employee turnover has some undeniable inconveniences arising from it, there are also opportunities that firms should try and embrace. New employees provide a fresh perspective, which legacy employees might struggle to, having been entrenched in the same systems and ways of thinking for years. Each PR firm has their own structure, from how decks look to how client interactions are conducted to how brainstorms are conducted. If they gain employees who each have a set of diverse experiences, they can benefit from the collective knowledge of the industry.

Inferring from this, an employee exit to their next opportunity should be celebrated too - just as their entry and potential value addition to the organisation is widely announced. This not only helps them view their former workplace as an important milestone in their journey, rather than a hiccup on their way to newer odysseys. Further, this can be viewed as an opportunity for a PR firm to better their own employee branding too.

P&G alumni, popularly known as Proctoids, are found in C-suites marketing roles across industries - from football to tech to FMCG. A quick LinkedIn search reveals over a 100 CMOs started their careers at P&G, clearly building its reputation as a place where a marketer wants to spend some portion of their career at, though not necessarily all of it. Currently, no Indian PR firm can boast of such a metric. Although, if employee retention remains a concern over employee value addition, chances of achieving this metric for an Indian firm are slim. 

It would be ideal to see employee satisfaction be made the primary concern, albeit this is far more difficult to define and measure, including supporting and understanding if that satisfaction is best sought outside the company. With this focus, ex-employees also continue to serve as cheerleaders and flag-bearers of their former employers, building a network of professionals who perceive the company as a place of learning and value. By embracing employee turnover through aiming to maximise the quality of an employee’s tenure rather than the length, and a smooth exit process, PR firms can adapt to today’s workforce and build their own reputation too. 

Karishma Joseph, currently with The Mavericks India and Spriha Dhanuka, previously with The PRactice and currently pursuing a masters in Digital Communication Leadership at the University of Salzburg.

Two young, fiercely feminist entrants to the Indian PR industry analyze their world paring apart layers of complex issues with their sharp perspective.

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