Qualities P&G wants when hiring young talent for marketing, and tips to retention

Known as one of the companies to spearhead transparency and accountability in the marketing industry, Procter & Gamble (P&G) has been big on cutting marketing costs during the past year, with the FMCG giant witnessing a 6% drop in overall marketing spend during the previous quarter.

But to keep up with the fast paced changes in the marketing industry, the FMCG giant keeps a close eye on the type of individuals it hires for its marketing team. According to P&G's HR Asia practice leader, Shirley Zhai (pictured), brand management at P&G comprises consumer and marketing knowledge, communications, design and brand management itself. Its marketing team, Zhai told A+M, falls under the brand management function to signify the broader purview of the company and its marketers.

As brand management acts as the "core driver and lead function" of brands and businesses within P&G, Zhai said it is crucial for the company to groom talent who will become top marketers and future leaders.

P&G takes a 70/20/10 approach to learning, where 70% is experience-based, 20% is derived from colleagues, mentors and peers, and 10% through structured courses and materials.

According to Zhai, young talents and fresh graduates are offered ownership and "huge" responsibilities from day one, such as entrusting them to lead multi-million projects internally and agencies externally. The young talents also have the authority to shape and create "disruptive ideas" that drive brand value across the organisation. Such a move, Zhai said, "especially resonates" with Millennials today as they strive to create something meaningful at work and highly value their freedom and ownership.

This is part of P&G's "Build From Within" strategy, where majority of its employees start at an entry level before progressing throughout the company in their own unique way. With open access to company leadership, Zhai said young talents within P&G have huge opportunities to learn from the top leaders in the company.

"We look for young talents who are curious, ambitious and driven. A value fit between the employee and the company is also critical. We also look for talents who are passion for winning, have strong ownership and integrity level," Zhai said.

Nonetheless, with the market becoming "increasingly saturated", Zhai noted that it is tough to break from the noise as companies, including P&G's competitors, compete for the attention of capable candidates. To cut through the clutter, P&G recalibrated its approach and launched a new talent strategy known as the P&G CEO Challenge.

As part of the challenge, students are given a brand case with a business challenge which they are required to solve. This pushes them to bring to life business strategy, real-life critical thinking and problem solving beyond the campus. P&G believes this provides an arena for young talents to flourish, where the clashing of ideas bring about even more innovative ideas fueled by analytical thinking.

Meanwhile, P&G also faces the challenge of retention when it comes to attracting top talent. "Especially with today’s generation of young talents, who are comfortable with having a fluid career, it is important to make the workplace Millennial-friendly. As an employer, it is our role to have the employee at the core of our engagement strategy – to have the elements that Millennials deem important," Zhai explained.

It's more than just having experience in digital

While P&G values experience in the digital field, the company believes it is increasingly important for candidates to understand how to effectively apply their digital skill sets to drive holistic business objectives. Marketers act as champions of the brand by leading and growing the business, and as such, Zhai said candidates are required to understand the full integration of digital and retail. Zhai said:

Digital cannot work in isolation.

"As our P&G CMO Marc Pritchard mentioned, P&G’s stance is that the next frontier of digital needs to show that marketing investment results in a sale, rather than adding to the clutter."

Other skillsets that are equally important are learning agility and a natural affinity towards the digital landscape. P&G expects candidates to be in tune with the latest social media trends, popular conversation topics and how it can capitalise on them, as well as having an understanding of the latest digital developments.

"A natural inclination and interest towards digital and social media already gives the individual a head-start, especially when combined with the right attitude and zest for learning. This is also why P&G values the importance of young talents. With their digital acumen and social media mastery, they are able to help P&G break new ground and pave the way to success," Zhai said.

Additionally, Zhai believes that creative problem solving and critical thinking are "absolute must-haves". P&G grooms its talents to plan and execute creative marketing campaigns which are supported by sound data and have strong business rationale. "Having the sharpened business acumen to translate data into disruptive ideas that are the next big thing – this is a skill we hone, and one that is highly sought after," she explained.

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