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Manjunath Padiki - Co-Founder & CEO - Verbly Integrated Communications

In the dynamic landscape of independent PR firms, finding and retaining top talent while sustaining growth is a multifaceted challenge. Manju Padiki, Co-founder and CEO of Verbly shared valuable insights during a panel discussion at “IndeComms 2023 Session 4: The talent conundrum – How are independent PR firms acing this game?” 


Here are some of his key learnings shared during the discussion.

1. Impact of the Pandemic on Talent and Growth Plans

The onset of the pandemic raised concerns about talent and growth strategies. Manju Padiki drew from his experience at Text100 (now Archetype) and emphasised the significance of talent retention. Despite initially believing that talent would not be an issue due to his prior experience, he realised that attracting top talent to a smaller agency posed unique challenges. However, the pandemic facilitated the influx of job seekers, which aided in sourcing talent.

2. Talent Segmentation and Recruitment Focus

Manju highlighted the importance of understanding talent segmentation. In any industry, talent can be classified into three groups: the top achievers, the average performers, and those who might not be a good fit for the organisation. In smaller agencies, attracting average performers could be challenging due to their preference for security. Recognising this, Manju emphasised the need to focus on recruiting top performers and avoiding the bottom segment.

3. Training and Mentorship in Smaller Firms

While structured training might not be feasible for small teams, Verbly embraced a robust mentoring program. Each team member is assigned a mentor, often from a different team, fostering cross-functional learning and information sharing. Additionally, Manju conducts monthly catch-up sessions to discuss individual growth trajectories and provide insights that help team members excel in their roles.

4. Specialisation and Retention

Regarding the connection between specialisation and retention, Manju challenged the conventional notion. He expressed his belief that the future belongs to generalists due to the benefits of cross-pollinating ideas across industries. While specialisation in a specific industry can restrict an individual’s perspective, fostering holistic expertise in specific skills (e.g., content creation) can offer more versatility and the ability to move between various industries.

5. Building a Leadership Team and Succession Planning

Manju emphasised the significance of building a capable leadership team within the organisation. Although it might involve additional costs and efforts, having a second rung of leaders is essential for sustainable growth. He recommended creating specialised roles within the core team, such as HR and brand building, to distribute responsibilities effectively. This not only facilitates specialisation but also ensures the agency’s continuity in case of unexpected changes.

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