Why a culture of encouragement works at OMD

by John Hilton05 Feb 2016
Being a marketing and communications agency with a young workforce and a strong emphasis on L&D comes with a few challenges, according to Martin Cowie, National People & Development Director at OMD Australia.

One such challenge involves the OMD staff balancing the L&D programs with being at their desks and servicing clients, he said.

“Our culture has always been one of encouragement; we are more of a carrot than stick culture, Cowie told L&D Professional.

“So the approach we take to training is: ‘This is going on guys, this is why it’s suitable for you, this is when the session will come, do sign up for it and then turn up’.”

However, sometimes things can get in the way of that, such as the pressure of a big client pitch, or a massive project might suddenly need to be completed, or someone might get sick. The consequence is that people have to drop out of training occasionally.

“None of them want to - they all love going to training - but that’s just the pressure,” he said.

“But what you don’t want is people becoming complacent about it and taking it for granted.”

 Accordingly, OMD are creating more incentives around training, such as: “you have got to have completed at least 10 training courses this year to be considered for your next promotion,” said Cowie.

“So we have not gone as far as some other companies do in terms of saying ‘you must do them’,” he said.

“We want people to want to learn and be here because of the training which it seems most people are.”

Another challenge for OMD is how to measure the quality of the training and making sure it delivers a decent return on investment.

In particular, they have got staff surveys which track what people think about the training, whether or not they are getting enough, and whether they think management takes it seriously.

“These are always in the high 80s and early 90s in terms of results,” Cowie said.

OMD also named on BRW’s list of ‘Best Places to Work’ (Over 100 employees) for 2015 which was another indicator they are on the right track.

Additionally, what Cowie has been doing a lot more of is implementing follow-up meetings after external suppliers come in.

This works much better than everyone just saying ‘wow that was wonderful’ and then forgetting it all two weeks later, he said.

“For instance, there is a management course we are about to start now where there will be a couple of days of intense training and then a catch up every month for 6 months just to work out how they are going, what they are learning, and how they embedded the learning, just to make sure it is having the desired effect,” he said.

Moreover, another challenge is that OMD have a very young workforce with the average age about 31 years old, Cowie told L&D Professional.

In order to engage this age group, the learning must be interactive so it involves broad participation via a means such as a discussion forum.
“I think people prefer that, rather than just being lectured at,” said Cowie.

“What we do is very hand’s on, so people are interacting, rather than just listening.”

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