LIVE ISSUE: Situation vacant - Recruiting and training staff can be arduous. Sara White looks at how agencies tackle the subject

Recruiting the right staff poses a constant challenge to industry agencies as the pool of potential recruits is small. This is putting increasing pressure on companies as they strive to maintain their teams. Having a good team in place requires a high level of training to ensure staff are kept up to date with the latest trends and are able to interface well with clients.

Recruiting the right staff poses a constant challenge to industry agencies as the pool of potential recruits is small. This is putting increasing pressure on companies as they strive to maintain their teams. Having a good team in place requires a high level of training to ensure staff are kept up to date with the latest trends and are able to interface well with clients.

Jack Morton Worldwide director of human resources Fiona Lawlor says: 'We organise training on IT skills and ad hoc and specific courses such as time management and leadership skills. We also run an appraisal system which then puts together the training needs for staff. There is also a foundation leadership course. Most courses are run internally, but occasionally we bring in external consultants. We sometimes send staff on external courses.'

Recruitment is a mixed bag with some staff being easy to source. 'For the more junior positions it is easy as many university leavers want to get into the business,' says Lawlor. 'Senior appointments can be quite difficult. We try to find staff from our competitors but there are not many comparable agencies.' Jobs are advertised in The Stage and on the web sites, and and sometimes agencies are used.

Late last year Jack Morton ran a graduate recruitment day in a bid to find new staff. There were two vacancies for project coordinators. 'We sat down beforehand and wrote a list of the skills we were looking for.

From the initial introductions we were looking out for specific skills and ran a series of team working games, presentations, mock-up office scenarios and pitching. It was an informative day and feedback from the graduates was excellent. We managed to recruit two staff as a result of the day.' There are plans to repeat the recruitment day this autumn.

Blue Square Design marketing executive Leonardo Greco says: 'Recruitment is usually quite straightforward. When we look for designers there can be a problem with misinterpretation of ads. The agency is stable and we enjoy a low turnover of staff. We have recently recruited three staff without any problem.'

The agency runs a series of training programmes. 'Training programmes vary from person to person depending on background. We mainly run on-the-job training,' adds Greco.

Mar-Com client services manager Michelle Pugh says: 'We have problems recruiting good staff. We use agencies, but we have advertised in Audio Visual and The Guardian media section but we find we do not get a good response. In terms of training, we tend to do most of this internally and offer frequent training on a continual basis, especially in terms of new technology and kit.'

HBM has faced a number of problems recruiting staff. HBM design manager Michael Anthony-Ward says: 'There are times when we want to recruit to expand and we find it extremely difficult. One tends to get an extremely low calibre of candidates and we find that agencies are not as targeted as they would like us to believe. They do not tend to be staffed by people who understand the business. We normally end up recruiting people within the industry. But recruitment is only part of the overall picture. It is also about strengthening your skills base.

'We review and target staff each year and offer training to improve skills.

We run a range of internal courses and also use external trainers.'

PCI Live Design director Felicity Kelly says: 'There are so many freelancers in this area that you can get people to work on a contract basis. If you are looking for experienced people it is quite difficult. It is a specialist area and so much of it is about people and relationships. We have to develop each individual and develop relationships with clients. Keeping good people is everybody's mantra now. Good people are worth their weight in gold.'

PCI runs internal and external training programmes covering software, new media, presentation skills, time management, multimedia and speaker training. 'We offer in-depth training programmes and the skills set is passed on to the rest of the team. We also make sure that everybody has an awareness of brand issues,' adds Kelly.

Qudos director Anton Jerges says: 'In terms of recruitment it depends what sort of staff we need. It is challenging to find the right staff who have the ability to expand their knowledge and experience. As a multidisciplined company we have designers that span the broad focus of design. These people are hard to find.'

Specialist recruitment consultancy, ESP Recruitment has a remit to place staff throughout the industry. ESP director Liz Sinclair says: 'All our candidates are event professionals. As the industry is developing it is becoming more of a candidates' market. They can pick and choose where they work. The market is quite buoyant and there are lots of mergers and acquistions creating new opportunities.'

HP:ICM creative chairman Nigel Lloyd-Jones says: 'You get a lot of interest in our business but getting the right people is a challenge. Candidates need a strong grasp of communication skills. Recruitment is either at graduate level - we have contacts with 150 colleges across the country - or for more senior positions through word of mouth. We track people at other agencies as their careers develop.

'Every week we run some form of training activity, covering subjects as diverse as web-casting, project clinics, the marketing mix and on site roles and responsibilities. We sometimes use external trainers for specialist courses.'

The recent launch of an employee life planning course, Future Imperative, aims to help employers recruit and retain top employees. The scheme aims to assist in improving people's 'personal satisfaction, fuller career optimisation and their systematic accrual of wealth'. Future Imperative managing director Simon Lewis says: 'This will enable top people to put their personal lives under greater control. They will be more focused and motivated in the workplace. Senior people cannot fully concentrate on their business goals if outside factors are not as efficiently managed as their business.

We can help people to have enough information and knowledge to make choices that will lead to realistic action plans for themselves.'

Less than a quarter of small businesses in the travel, tourism and events sectors say they are able to implement all the training activities they would like to carry out. Most small companies do provide training for their staff, but are hindered by the cost and time involved. Research carried out on behalf of Ttento, the government-approved National Training Organisation for the Travel, Tourism services and Events sectors, shows that 72% of small companies provide staff induction training and 97% give skills training.

The organisation recognised that training improves motivation. Other benefits include informed recruitment, staff retention, improved customer service, job satisfaction, higher profits, improved productivity and enhanced performance by individuals and the organisation as a whole.

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