Last week I posted about the Publicis/Omnicom merger. The comments I made about this merger further limiting talent movement had unintended consequences. They generated a lot of discussion about the possibility of moving from one holding company agency to another agency within the same network. I thought this subject deserved additional discussion.
Until a comment was made on my post, I was unaware that any network encouraged its employees to move from one of its agencies to another through jobs posted on its website. Apparently Publicis does, which is a good thing. I am not sure it exists anywhere else, or at least I haven’t heard about it. However, I am sure that the fear of being discovered and fired for disloyalty hinders response to this website. Getting fired for responding on line should not be an issue for human resources since most HR professionals would not break the confidence of their own employees. But the websites are public within those agencies – or at least they are perceived to be public (I have no idea if they are or aren’t), so the fear persists.
Most of the holding companies actually discourage movement between their agencies; some pay lip service to it.. I have heard that at one network, if an employee goes to their human resources department and to their supervisor and obtains permission from each, that such an inter-agency move can be made - but they cannot even interview without approval.. This requires a long leap of faith by an employee. It is hard enough for most employees to request a rotation to another account at their current agency and not incur the wrath of management. Asking permission to go to a different agency within the network is perceived as asking for trouble. And perception is reality.
The possibility of moving within the network does exist for employees who have suffered cut-backs or loss of accounts since all of the networks maintain human resources departments which, in theory, know of all the openings within the network. This system is probably most successful for long term (five plus years), high visibility employees and senior people (maybe, $200,000 +). But in fact, few employees are able to move within the same holding company. One former employee, a senior vice president, told me he had to wait over a month to see the holding company internal recruiter.
With this latest merger, despite the excellent policy by Publicis, the possibility of movement does become that much more limited because of the huge number of companies which will be under the same roof. It is a shame since different agencies, even those within the same network, have different cultures; someone who is unhappy and even unsuccessful at one may be wildly happy and successful at another within the network.
I would propose that recruiters be given the incentive to make these kinds of moves with employees by offering them reduced commissions to move them. A recruiter who is trusted can deal with human resources to bring about the move with no issues. A verbal or even emailed introduction by an objective third party is much more likely to be kept confidential and probably would not put an employee in any real or perceived danger. Besides, finding a way to allow this would improve the speed with which harried HR people could fill jobs.
Every company seeks the best talent they can get. And every agency and holding company should seek to maximize the loyalty of its employees. Making inter-network movement easier should be the goal if the right talent for a job - any job - is somewhere within the network. The prevailing thinking is that moving people would be counter productive since it might hurt an account at one of the agencies. One person moving rarely hurts an agency client relationship and if an employee is unhappy, they will probably leave anyway. So, if they are productive and well liked, allowing them to move would be a very good thing.