Nikki Wicks
Jul 10, 2015

McCann Worldgroup invests in mobility to close talent gap

McCann Worldgroup claims it has made progress in retaining talent in part thanks to an Asia-led initiative to build a structure that encourages movement within its global network.

McCann Worldwide is driving mobility in Asia-Pacific
McCann Worldwide is driving mobility in Asia-Pacific

Talent continues to be a real issue for the advertising and marketing industry as agencies and brands ask themselves where they can possibly find the best talent?” Increasingly, though, that conversation is changing to be less about where to find the best people and more about how best to develop—and keep hold of—the talent you already have.

“Devote sufficient care to the people you already have on your roster, and you may find there isn’t a shortage of talent after all,” Andrew Benett, global chief executive officer of Havas Worldwide and Havas Creative Group, recently wrote for Campaign.

“When you have a big organisation like McCann, there’s an opportunity to move people around," said Jean-Michel Wu, chief talent officer at McCann Worldgroup Asia-Pacific. “But it hasn’t been properly advertised or promoted in the past, and also there hasn’t been a formal structure around it.”

Mobility opportunities are now seen as key factor in attracting, retaining and developing talent. And this is increasingly true among millennials. According to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a massive 71 per cent of millennials say they want and expect an overseas assignment during their career. The growing importance of emerging markets, according to the report, has created a shift in mobility patterns, where skilled employees from emerging markets are increasingly in demand.

"Talent and mobility strategies will need to progress significantly to keep pace with this change, and the further increases in mobile employee numbers we expect to see," the report authors concluded.

Jean-Michel Wu: "We need to take into account that new experiences are really important."

Wu joined McCann in 2014 after 10 years at WPP, where he was most recently based in Shanghai as regional talent director. Whilst mobility in the industry isn’t a new thing, he believes that for it to be truly successful there needs to be a clearly defined system in place. 

“We know that millennials are obviously a lot more curious and are interested in doing different things, and we need to take into account that new experiences are really important,” Wu said.

Among the regional team helping to facilitate the mobility initiative is Nikhita Elizabeth Cyriac, associate director, talent projects; Makarand Tare, regional talent director; Rachel Earhard, learning and development director; and Alok Bhatia, associate director compensation and benefits.

“It can be a long process, and that’s why you need a full team to make it work," Wu said. "We’ve invested quite heavily so we can actually do this professionally." Having worked in some of the larger organisations, Wu said, he saw the benefit of having a good mobility process.

“Coming to McCann gave me the opportunity to implement a full mobility process and really drive it," he said. "And also to build a team around it. It’s not just about having a policy in place, it’s about it executing properly.”

The mobility drive, he says, is wrapped up into a bigger talent effort, which is about how the agency appraises its staff. With a “more rigorous” appraisal system, Wu said that the agency can better identify its best and brightest people as well as promote mobility. The programme offers staff the opportunity to move within the network for short-term or longer-term projects, ranging from three to six months to three years or more.

It’s been just over six months since McCann began to drive mobility in APAC. Wu said it’s been well received throughout the region. The agency is aiming to double the number of moves this year compared to 2014. The ultimate goal, Wu added, is to see a reduction in the churn rate of McCann’s high-potential people.

“Which ultimately means we want to keep our best people, invested and interested in McCann,” he added.

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