Blogger: Mike Rusbridge, Chairman of Reed Exhibitions

As we operate in an increasingly complex, competitive and challenging global market, companies will rely ever more on a smart, diverse and flexible workforce. Consistently, the CEOs of UFI’s largest member companies have identified the recruitment, development and retention of the best quality people as one of their highest priorities. At the 82nd UFI Congress to be held in Milan, November 4 – 7, we dedicate a panel discussion to “winning the war for talent”. We wanted to know what we are doing as an industry to attract the brightest and best and asked panelist Mike Rusbridge, Chairman of Reed Exhibitions how his company has been responding to these challenges.

Finding good candidates isn’t hard. Finding qualified applicants can be difficult. However, finding the best-fit talent, both in culture and in skill-set, can be very challenging. We asked Mike where he sees noticeable changes in the war for talent today compared to some years ago?

From generalists to specialists! People previously entered the exhibition industry equipped with a broad repertoire of management skills and we needed them. This has changed; today we focus on bringing together specialists, experienced and competent in distinct areas such as social media, big data and digitalization. These specialists will increasingly be used on a project-by-project basis. How we manage teams is now changing, requiring different management skills and career flexibility.

As a world leading company, we also have to have a management in place that has experience and relevance beyond just the country they traditionally work in. Thus, moving people across our business, offering them a global perspective and insights into different markets and exposing them to various cultures remains a high priority of Reed. The younger generation of management strives for a better work/life balance and this means long periods away from home may be less attractive. We are therefore focusing on multiple short-term deployments.”

When talking about a “war for talent”, who are exactly these people everyone seeks to win over and where does Reed look for them?

Finding new good talent is challenging. We find a great number of people moving within the exhibition industry but these are not necessarily the right fit for all positions we want to fill. In order to get high calibre staff, we also need to fish outside of our normal talent pool. Reed has established several mechanisms to externally acquire the right people. In China, for example, we developed a graduate programme to bring in young talent directly after their studies. If we get these people early enough, we have an opportunity to train them in the exact way that is most relevant to us. In 2014, Reed has offered almost 40 scholarships for young talents. Besides the graduate programme we offer numerous internships and put in place sales academies around the world. Whereas these programmes demand a lot of effort, Reed benefits from a significant high retention rate as a result of them.”

Practically every company these days has some form of programme designed to nurture its top talent. We asked Mike how Reed ensures that high potentials they have recruited stay with the company?

After having spotted and hired the right talent, we want to make sure that they stay with us. We note that the first 1-2 years is the most crucial period after joining the company when newcomers are most likely to leave. As new staff come in, it is crucial that we show them who they are joining, how they fit and where the company is heading. When you manage a multi-national company with more than 40 offices, and close to 4000 employees around the world, this task is demanding. “RX-Story”, an internal communication campaign, was implemented by the Global HR Director to ensure that everyone working within the company was familiar with Reed’s vison and global strategy. In addition, we have to ensure that we provide ongoing professional challenges. It is at the heart of our talent management to ensure management succession.”