Creating a culture of curiosity, agility, career opportunity, ownership, and seeing the bigger picture

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On piloting a new cross-discipline learning program, delivering 165 hours of training for MediaCom LA, managing partner Seow Leng Porter speaks to Don Lupo for the ThinkLA podcast on creating a culture of curiosity, agility, career opportunity, ownership, and seeing the bigger picture.

Q. You've taken a new approach to training at MediaCom. Tell us about that, please.

Seow Leng Porter: Our training approach is based on MediaCom's philosophy of 'people first,' where we want to enable and empower our team members. Training is about creating opportunities for everyone, and throughout training programs, every person can craft their own path, their career path. So our training would include hard technical skills, such as, you know, using tools and activation and platforms. But also softer skills like leadership management, presentations, storytelling, and diversity and inclusion training. So a broad spectrum and really thinking about the whole employee, both the hard skills and the soft skills.

Q. So, how does this commitment to employees help address turnover at MediaCom?

Seow Leng Porter: Our employees have told us that career progression is the number one thing they're looking for when they join the company. So it was essential to us that MediaCom is the place to grow your career. It's not just a job. And we understand our team members' ambitions, especially those just starting in the industry. We want them to have visibility and ownership of their career growth.

We have a very robust performance review process that happens annually. And during this process, it's not just about how you've done; it's about what you wanted to do next. So it's about talking about your goals and what you want to achieve, and the type of training you might need to achieve those goals.

Based on our internal survey, team members have indicated their training is one of the key benefits at MediaCom and one of the key reasons they would recommend MediaCom to their friends.

Q. How do you approach the training?

Seow Leng Porter: We have this cross-training program with a clear intent of nurturing our talent and reinforcing our vision of seeing the bigger picture.

So while specialty is important in our business, we want to train agile employees who can understand the nuances of various channels, not just limited to their field. We want them to know how to work across disciplines to take a holistic approach to campaign optimization and not just optimization within each channel.

If you come from a different discipline, for instance, if you're an ad ops person and you're interested in learning social, you can go into the social track while doing your day job is as an ad ops person, you're learning how to become a social specialist and same thing for some social team members who are interested in becoming search specialists.

Q. That sounds like your clients would be getting twice the team with the same amount of people when they're in a meeting.

Seow Leng Porter: I think what clients these days expect is for us to think broadly about marketing. It's not just about one channel and how do you buy the best pricing in that channel. It's like what we said, seeing the bigger picture to have broader and deeper conversations with our clients that goes beyond just media and think about all of that marketing activity from e-commerce to brand building short-term to long-term.

Only with such agile employees who understand multiple disciplines can we achieve that with our clients.

Q. So it's definitely affected people's careers. How has it affected the culture overall?

Seow Leng Porter: I think it cultivates a culture of learning and curiosity, and what I find is that people who volunteer for the training program, who raised their hands, are self-starters who are driven, curious. They have a thirst for learning and a passion for this industry. That passion is a key part of the MediaCom culture that you meet many curious and passionate people.

The media industry is changing so rapidly every day. And so our team members need to be adapting to how the media industry is changing, how consumers are changing. And it's this focus on our team members that make us different. Every agency has a proprietary tool or technology that uses a wide range of data. It's how you interpret and apply that data that makes what we do valuable.

Q. How would you like to see this training program expand? What do you see for the future as MediaCom continues to dedicate itself to this?

Seow Leng Porter: Well, the cross-training program is relatively new, so there's room to grow there. It's a pilot program within the LA office, and we see positive results, so definitely, the next step is adding more disciplines and then rolling it out.

Q. That's great. Do you eventually see it as being centralized with the company, or do you see it more as each region has its specialties and expertise?

Seow Leng Porter: That's a very important part of MediaCom. We offer mobility within disciplines, within accounts, within offices, and even globally. We have a mobility program that we can build on. So thinking about that, that's how we want to approach our training program, that this offers you even greater mobility.

Q. What advice would you have for companies that are thinking about starting a program like this? What are some of the pitfalls that you might be able to save them from as they start?

Seow Leng Porter: I think it's finding the right advocates and champions to help push the program along so that it's not just one person doing it. It is having a group of champions to support you, to get team members to participate. That's number one. And then number two is having managers make sure to carve out the time for employees to be part of the program where your employee is part of the program.

I think those are the two key components: the champions and then the managers to support the employees who are part of the program.

Q. So, as you started with, it's about continuing to put people first.

Seow Leng Porter: Absolutely. It goes back to our investment in our team members because they are what make MediaCom great.

Listen to the full podcast on Spotify and iHeartRadio.

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