With high churn rates and people focusing on the short term rather than the long term career benefits, what does it take to retain talent and keep teams motivated in often high pressure environments? Our FYI session: Are We Investing Enough in Our Managers on 9 October featured open and honest discussions with global, regional and local leaders in the industry. Here are the 10 key takeaways from the session –



  • We are a people industry. People is our business.

The success of businesses depends on the value of their human capital. Organizations need to adopt a people-first mentality, make decisions that are right for individuals and invest in their teams in order to get the best out of the business. Anthony Tsang, Manager, Account Management of Oracle Data Cloud International highlighted the importance on developing soft skills on top of technical skills.

When it comes to spotting the right people for your team, it is a combination of attitude and ability. Attitude is mandatory; ability is something you invest in as a business to develop in an individual. Find those who are hungry to learn, willing to go the extra mile and give their time to volunteer for ad-hoc projects. It is easy for those entering the industry to be attracted to the glitz and glamour. Ensure that they understand the nature of the business.

  • Talents are not unicorns.

“It is not just about unicorns running around that we need to catch and tame,” shared Regan Baillie, Chief Digital Officer of GroupM. It’s not always about finding the special magical traits in people you are looking to hire. Having a structure in place to set your team up success can weather the storms of changes in teams or business.




  • “Leader is not in your title. Everyone is empowered to lead.”

Highlighting the above, Baillie pointed out that leadership extends beyond one’s job title. While top level management act as a catalyst to drive change from top-down, having champions within the business to drive it through the business is mandatory.

  • Being flexible in the midst of change.

“Business needs change constantly,” highlighted Nina Devouge, Director of Talent Acquisition, APAC, Essence. In a fast evolving business, is there value in learning or investing and developing talent? Addressing this, David Haddad, CEO of IPG Mediabrands Singapore emphasized that “learning the art of learning is valuable,” and teams need to be conditioned to adapt to new processes and technologies.

When inheriting a team and implementing changes, a manager needs a roadmap, backed with clear reason why you should be pivoting the business and the authority to make the change.

  • Diversity does not mean inclusivity.

Transcending age, gender or ethnicity, Michael Parsons, Vice President, Marketing & Strategic Relationships, Asia Pacific of Accor Hotels points out the diversity in ways of thinking. Working with individuals of less industry experience may offer new perspectives even if they might not always be feasible.  Increased diversity at the workplace is a natural phenomenon and needs to be celebrated. What is often overlooked is the need to condition and train your managers and how they handle and embrace diversity.

Millennials are not aliens. “We talk about them like they are a whole other species,” shared Jess Davey, Chief Marketing Officer of McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific. “Every generation has different values, they are not fundamentally different people. We build these artificial segmentations, but we are not that different. Everyone wants recognition and feel valued,” Davey emphasized on the need to understand the industry’s future talents.

Organizations need to appreciate the nuances in each market. Mature markets tend to have a more traditional, hierarchical promotion model. Asia, on the other hand, has been very dynamic with digital marketing emerged relatively recently. As such, the skill sets needed are different and the paths to success are more fluid.

  • Don’t wait for things to happen.

“Ask for forgiveness, not permission,” advised Davey. Instead of waiting for the roll-out of initiatives from the global team or the sign-off from HR, managers need to be proactive about doing what is right for the business, market and team.




  • Talents come and go.

“Good people leave, that is how it is,” Nicholas Pan, Managing Director, Strategy & Intelligence of VMLY&R. Strive to make the time they have in the organization meaningful and valuable, be it walking away with greater capabilities, career mobility or a strong network.

  • It is a value exchange.

You are your own brand. Individuals need to understand the value they bring to the company. The organization in turn has the obligation to have a structure set up for you to be successful.

“Value is not always the revenue you bring to the table”, shared Sunita Rajan, Senior Vice President of Advertising Sales of CNN. There are many areas of work which involve creativity, initiative and innovation. “It is about celebrating initiative and good work, however you want to pack into that,” she added.

In measuring success, there are soft metrics to determining what makes someone successful, not necessarily those who bring in the highest sales or have the loudest voice.

“Remember what it takes to deliver results – teamwork and everyone focused on the same goal and outcome” added Rajan, highlighting the need to also recognize unsung heroes who often fall under the radar.

  • Small things matter.

“Monetary is always going to be important but celebrating people and their successes is also crucial,” shared Joanna Wong, Head of Business Marketing, Asia Pacific, of Spotify.

There are certainly many ways of rewarding to ensure your team feels included and valued – spot rewards such as team dinners, the act of giving time, opportunities for growth and networking, official letters of recognition, listening and advising, flexible work hours, providing air cover to make mistakes and fail.

“You will not remember what you did wrong but you will remember how you dealt with it, and how your managers dealt it with you” shared Rochelle Chhaya, Chief Digital Officer of Omnicom Media Group and IAB Singapore Board Member.

“Reward can come in many forms….but timing is key,” shared Rajan. Recognition and rewarding initiative and business outcomes which are driven by team members going the extra mile needs to be immediate. “Now is important,” she added.

While rewards can come in many forms, Rajan emphasized that timing is key. Recognition and rewarding initiative and business outcomes by teams which go the extra mile need to be done in a timely manner which resonates well with the expectations of Gen Z.

  • At what point do you give up?

“If you realize they are bad for the business or team, they have to go now,” shared Matt Harty, Senior Vice President, Asia of The Trade Desk and IAB Singapore Board Member, emphasizing on the need to find the right people for your business.