Press gang

first_imgPress gangOn 9 May 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Theadvent of electronic publishing had forced the magazine industry to improve itsrecruitment and retention practices and led to the launch of an HR networkgroup last year.  Veronica Simpsonreports on the network’s progress in raising the profile of HR issuesThe supposed glamour of a career in publishing has often been consideredlure enough to justify a cavalier attitude to staff recruitment, salaries, trainingand conditions among much of the industry. HR has often found it hard to gain afoothold in an industry which traditionally exults in its macho managementculture and hard-nosed business approach. The periodical publishing industry ranges from large companies responsiblefor many of the magazines on newsagents’ shelves to tiny operations publishingspecialist journals for small audiences. Philippa Kennedy, editor of the journalists’ newspaper The UK Press Gazette,says, “The trouble with this industry is that the rewards at the top areso great, young people will put up with shoddy treatment in the hope that oneday they will hit pay dirt. It’s still a very unfair and precarious industry towork in.” But the dotcom explosion two years ago enforced a much-needed reassessmentof priorities in some quarters (although by no means all). Suddenly,experienced staff were jumping ship from old technology to new, and goodreplacements were very thin on the ground. The result was that publishers wereforced to review their approach to training and career progression, recruitmentand retention. Now the industry body the Periodical Publishers Association has launched itsown HR managers network – a regular (three times a year) gathering of HRmanagers to facilitate the exchange of information, ideas and legal andcommercial updates. The PPA’s training officer Felicity Keane says, “It was launchedbecause in many companies there is only one person in charge of HR, and theyfound it quite isolating. You need opportunities to network and mix.” As a result of this group’s existence over the past seven months, severalmajor publishing companies have agreed to cooperate with a full salary survey,alongside a benchmarking study of HR practices, so that direct comparisons canbe made. At the suggestion of the HR Network group, the PPA has also initiateda graduate recruitment fair, which will take place this October. Says Keane, “HR has been raised up the agenda, to the extent that itwas a topic for discussion at the PPA’s CEO conference for the firsttime.” As an indicator of intent, it is a positive move. But this networkis a self-selecting community, as it comes from publishers who belong to thePPA and of representatives from publishers who are progressive enough to haveHR staff in the first place – still by no means common. It mustered 30 representatives for its first meeting but only just over 20for the second. Judy Little, who chairs the HR managers network group and isalso HR director at The Economist, concedes that there is still a long way togo. “HR is still a fledgling discipline in magazine publishing. You haveto remember that magazine publishing is not a homogenous industry. It goes fromthe large, reputable organisations such as The Economist or NatMags to one-offpublications. “And the presence of good HR practice is by no means indicated by thesize or presence of an HR department: small companies will often take quitegood care of their staff but not have the resources for an HR division as such.And there are medium-sized outfits where the HR role is little more thanadministrative – the management has no idea what good HR is and wouldn’tunderstand its importance if you explained it to them.” Little confirms that the big issue in publishing HR, for the past two yearsat least, has been recruitment and retention of staff although, with the recentbursting of the dotcom bubble, she predicts it may become less of a pressingmatter. “However, companies are still concerned that they can attract new,young people into the industry and then hold on to them. And it still remainshard to get good, experienced people in sales and specialist editorial.” One by-product of the recruitment problems in the industry is that it hasput pressure on managers to offer higher salaries. This has caused problems foremployers in an industry where there are no formal job grades and benchmarkingis difficult. The main recruitment vehicle, The Guardian’s Monday Mediaedition, has no salary information in many of its magazine job adverts, forsales or editorial staff. One out-of-London publisher pays rookie salespeople £10,000 a year plusbonuses, while a major rival pays its sales graduates £14,000 basic pluscommission, with structured reviews over 18 months that should end up at£17,000 basic, regardless of inner or outer London location. The company wouldnot, however, give any starting salary for journalists. Another company, whichrecently won IIP status, declares, “There are very few of our employeesearning less than £15,000 a year.” The PPA HR network group plans to undertake a salary survey which will helpto clarify matters, although the information will be kept confidential betweenparticipants. Linda Rogers, the National Union of Journalists’ national magazines andbooks organiser, says union derecognition has made it difficult for publishersto benchmark salaries with competitors. “No publisher has been looking atsalaries in a systematic way,” claims Rogers. “We think it works against the company, as it makes the salary billvery hard to calculate, and the current ad hoc system certainly does not helpline managers to plan their department budgets. We also feel that thissituation discriminates against women, who will notoriously talk themselvesdown, as opposed to men, who will generally talk themselves up.” The lack of information on pay has also made it difficult to attractfreelance and casual staff, who make up a large proportion of the workforcewhere high staff turnover and peaks and troughs in activity are the norm.Freelance rates in many companies have barely gone up in the past 10 years. Access to casual staff is vital to publishers because with continual newlaunches, it is important to be able to assemble skilled staff quickly but on atemporary basis. London-based John Brown Publishing’s HR manager Helen Watson reckonsfreelancers can make up 10 per cent of staff at any one time. “We areputting together an information pack for freelancers so they know about healthand safety issues. It’s very important that they are briefed,” saysWatson. This rapid ebb and flow of the workforce gives HR managers considerablechallenges in internal communications. A former employee in one of the largercompanies says staff learned about the acquisition of an important publicationin the US from the company newsletter, after the line manager failed toannounce the development to the team in person. However, many publishing housesare using e-mail message boards and intranet technology to rectify thecommunications problem. In an industry where managers were traditionally selected because of theirprowess in sales or marketing, there is an increasing investment in managementtraining. Geraldine Pace, managing director of publishing industry trainingcompany Communications Skills Europe, says, “The value of training hasfiltered down as a real advantage, both in attracting and keeping staff, evenin the smallest companies.” However, according to Pace, sales training tends to be the priority, as itbrings faster short-term gains. She estimates that only 10 per cent ofcompanies really base training on individual needs and focus on careeradvancement across all disciplines. Companiesare putting more emphasis on developing staff, however. Two years ago, whenHaymarket, one of the UK’s largest privately owned magazine publishingcompanies, failed its assessment for Investors in People, the company broughtin an HR manager. Helen Tiffany has introduced job descriptions and regularappraisals focusing on training needs and career progression. “Haymarketwas very old-school, very commercially-driven,” says Tiffany. “Personnel was a department you rang to find out how much holiday youhad left. Since the dotcom departures, we have concentrated on making sure weare providing career management in the company. “Almost all staff have job descriptions and we make sure managersregularly appraise their staff, are trained to do so, and through thatappraisal process we provide a variety of different training opportunities. I thinkthese are the basics that everyone should be aspiring to. And we now have 16in-house trainers – senior managers who are willing to train people. That’s ahuge commitment.” Another factor limiting the development of management talent has been thetendency in the past to promote only sales managers to the role of publisher,in charge of overall commercial direction and magazine budgets. Some companiesare trying to open up management careers to journalists. Haymarket’s recentlylaunched publishing training scheme is open to all disciplines, for example. Emap, one of the UK’s largest periodical publishers, has introduced foreditorial staff in two of its divisions a system of coaching, training allsenior managers in coaching and mentoring to keep a focus on developing thein-house talent. All advertising staff go through an induction programme, withextra targeted training thereafter. Other career development initiativesinclude coaching and 180- and 360-degree feedback. Across the industry as a whole, lack of opportunities at senior level is oneof the reasons staff turnover is high in the industry. Many companies estimatestaff churn is about 25 per cent and most employees leave at between 18 monthsand two years. The Economist’s Little says the industry’s new awareness of the importanceof staff retention and career development means it is attracting more skilledHR professionals, “I am encouraged to see that the calibre of HR staff [inmagazine publishing] is improving,” she says. “HR is higher on theagenda but there is still a long way to go.” Case Study: John Brown PublishingHeadline features of HR functionJohn Brown Publishing was started in 1987 with three magazines and is nowone of a growing number of media companies specialising in contract andcustomer magazines. It currently has 15 titles in its portfolio, includingspecialist consumer and business titles. There are 180 staff at the speciallyconverted offices in west London and business is ex- panding in the US. Thecompany’s HR manager is Helen Watson, and there is an HR officer to take careof all personnel matters from payroll to training and development, andreporting to the finance and operations director. The HR function has been in place for seven months but it inherited a fairlymature HR system in terms of training and appraisals. Also, Brown’s accessiblestyle as a director has fostered an approachable and non-hierarchicalatmosphere. Recruitment is carried out on an ad hoc basis. Training is unstructured but responsive to the individual. Training needsare identified through job description and annual appraisal procedures, withmost employees going on at least one training course a year. Training isconducted both in-house and externally. Career development takes place through appraisals. Publishers come from avariety of disciplines. Salaries are discretionary There is a state-of-the-artcanteen, a bar (with regular “happy hours”), a film screening roomand regular on-site visits from a yoga teacher, a masseur and a beautician. An optional pension scheme is open to all full-time staff plus full lifeinsurance from day one, health insurance and worldwide travel insurance. Every month, John Brown hosts a staff lunch where the latest companyactivities are shared, plus any major individual or team achievements praised.Also, the entire company is taken on an annual teambuilding weekend in France. Maternity benefits are currently discretionary or the statutory minimum butthe company is looking to instigate a more generous offer of six weeks at fullpay and 12 weeks at half pay. Job shares and part-time positions are available.HR basics include job descriptions, regular appraisals and mature systems toensure training and career development programmes are provided. “Our systems are good and pretty well established,” says Watson,”although of course I would like to take it further, and will need toexamine our progress as the company expands.” Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more


Football: Clement hopes to increase practice workload

first_imgThree touchdowns on 11 carries and 115 yards in the cold rain isn’t a bad day for any running back.It was especially not a bad day for Corey Clement, the Wisconsin football junior who posted the aforementioned stat line in his first game in nearly two months.He did it feeling at about 85 percent, he said Monday.Clement said he hopes for an increased workload during practice, but it is still too early in the week to tell. In the past few weeks, Clement has only practiced the first half of practice, then sat out the remainder.Head coach Paul Chryst isn’t sure how the staff will handle Clement in practice yet, either.“I think you’ve got to let the body guide you, and I feel good with what we’ve been doing and how we’ve approached it and what he’s done, and need to just continue to do that,” Chryst said.Clement said his doctor told him he couldn’t re-injure himself. While the doctor’s official prognosis after the surgery was four to six weeks, ultimately Clement’s tolerance for pain would dictate how quickly he’d return to the field. Clement’s return Saturday marked four weeks after the procedure.“This is a test of my own strength,” Clement said. “It’s really a mental thing. Some people have it worse. And I keep thinking that.”Two days after Saturday’s game, Clement said he was still sore, but will practice on Tuesday.Clement’s rust showed as the game wore on. He reeled off a 58-yard gain late in the third quarter, but a Rutgers defender chased him down. It was evident Clement wasn’t running at full speed in the waning yards of the dash.“If I was 100 percent, he wouldn’t have caught me,” Clement said.Badgers look forward to breakWhen the Badgers travel to College Park, Maryland for Saturday’s matchup against the Terrapins, it will mark their 10th week in a row with a game.But next Saturday, Nov. 14, the team will have its first bye of the season.It has been a grind thus far, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave said, going all the way to the four weeks of training camp before the actual season.“That, stacked on four weeks of camp going into the year, that’s a long time,” Stave said. “The physical grind and the mental grind is a lot on guys.”Stave said the team uses Sundays and Mondays to recuperate physically, while preparing for their next opponent mentally by watching tape and going over scouting reports.Senior safety Michael Caputo pointed out strength and conditioning coach Ross Kolodzieg and his staff’s work  to keep the players fresh throughout the grind of a football season, all while maintaining a rigorous strength regimen. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, Caputo said, players were setting personal bests on the squat rack.And mentally, Caputo said, all is well for the Badgers.“Mentally, I think we’re fine,” Caputo said. “I think we’re fit. I think we’re good in that regard.”last_img read more