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  • Writer's pictureSrinivas Kulkarni

How to nurture talent in a Digital Agency amidst competition

Originally published on Social Samosa

“I have no special talent. I’m only passionately curious!” – Albert Einstein

It is interesting how great minds of previous generations thought of talent. It was a key aspect of life skills, especially amidst a generation strictly driven through mechanisation of human beings. Yet they had some interesting learnings and development in that era.

So think about how talent is evolving today, especially with advancement in sociological, technological as well as economical spheres of human life.

‘Talent’ in today’s day and age is a process as well as an art of building and grooming your desire and skills.Eventually it helps you become really good at something and not what you’re taught to do, but what you enjoy as part of your life. Enjoying work is a factor for sure, especially in the Digital Marketing industry where business is driven through understanding and using human behaviour, interesting insights, and great ideas over a cup of coffee or sometimes over a few drinks.

In my close to 7 years of experience, I’ve seen my share of talented individuals, had the fortune of working with the most amazing people as well as learning from them.

At the same time I’d like to modestly say, I’ve had the opportunity of grooming and nurturing some of the best talent within the industry. This happens to stem from my experience with some amazing creative and digital agencies within India such as  Mirum, India (formerly Social Wavelength) and now at Kinnect.

So come to think of it, it’s difficult to have a playbook on how to nurture talent in a Digital Agency, especially when there’s so much happening within the industry itself. But what I’d like to talk about in this article is based on my insights from managing and leading teams across both the agencies I’ve worked with and most recently from my experience of hiring and training teams at Kinnect!

Find your Diamond in the Rough

Nurturing talent begins with recognizing it right from the get go. You may not always be hiring for all the positions, but it always helps to hire your talent based on their capability to do something that you envision within your organization. The right skill coupled with the perfect attitude brews for a passionate individual who will then grow within the organization. I’ve had the share of hiring #Kinnectors who were inexperienced, yet talented; new to the industry, but passionate; and most importantly had skills which matched our style of working, more than the current requirement. Once, they come into the organization they automatically learn the ropes, fit the bill and push themselves harder to perform better day in day out. All they need is your belief, grooming and mentoring!

Throw them in the fire and give them the learning to resurrect themselves

Game of Thrones fans may relate to this! “You know nothing Jon Snow!” is a common notion for a popular character in this tele-series. He’s the one who has grown, battled hard and learnt many things the hard way, even through death. As fictitious this might be, there’s some learning there! Digital Marketing is a field where the dynamicity of the industry compels to learn the hard way, make mistakes and then realize how things could’ve been made better. Yes, hindsight is always 20/20, but that’s the beauty of it and at the same time helps us learn faster and better.

So there will be times, where you, as leaders may not always be able to handhold your colleagues, but that is okay! As long as there is a process and way to keep grooming and promote learning, we should encourage it! Of course, we need to prioritize our tasks such that we cushion the brand and the clients from getting affected. But at the same time, continuous monitoring and mentoring will help them fight the fire themselves!

Need-based learning coupled with micro training

An interesting learning time and again for me across various functions has been how employees adapt and absorb new learnings! Unless there is an actual need, no matter how much and how well you train them, they’d not learn new skills to the best of their abilities. Hence, the fitment and adhering to processes and best practices of need-based learning is key. Today, chalk and talk is as dead as Orkut! Manuals, documents, PPT based learning are only as good as that one hour! Considering the retention span of millennials today, what we need is smaller and focused interactive training sessions, rather than boring day training sessions! And if need be, they should be split among multiple sessions with various activity based learning and task oriented feedback based mechanism. This would help faster absorption and drive productivity to the fullest!

All round grooming and external perspective matters

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Heard this for eons, haven’t you? Well, this doesn’t mean I’m talking about ‘Google’ like workplaces, where superficial perks and play centers within the organisation attract talent! I’m talking more about enhancing the personality of employees and allow for grooming and harnessing talent in an all-round manner. This means more opportunities with learning sessions that go beyond their functional knowledge of work. Create sessions where people can share their experience on things beyond case studies, campaigns and work life! Invite ‘Doers’ from the outside for sessions, which help people develop interest in things other than just work. This could be learning a new language, a dance form, singing, traveling, anything that lets them explore a new skill!

Talent attracts Talent

All said and done, humans are social creatures and enjoy the company of others, at work or in life. So what better than getting like minded individuals to work together and grow together? We empower #Kinnectors to bring in their friends and people who they think will help grow, contribute to their personal growth as well as that of the organization. And yes, it always helps to inceltivize them to do so, be it a monetary referral program or any kind of reward that helps individuals to rope in smart folks like them!

There might be a ton of things one can do to hire and nurture talent in the cutthroat and competitive industry that we have today.

A not so contrarian school of thought that always existed, rather grew around the time of the Industrial Age was that each man must look out for himself. Hence, the more you help talent grow, the higher the liability that they will move on.

Today that school of thought has been turned around. By nurturing talent, you not only create an asset, and drive the passionately curious folks in your organization, but also create an opportunity to hire many more likeminded people and create a better industry. What do you think?

Srinivas Kulkarni has been a communications professional for over 15 years, and has been blogging since 2005. He's worked with Mirum (Formerly Social Wavelength) for 4 years. For the past few years he has been with Kinnect: India's largest Digital Independent Agency in various Intrapreneurial roles such as HR, Learning and Development, Analytics, Client Servicing. His passion for Advertising, Creativity, Social & Digital Marketing helps #Kinnectors make a difference for the brands they work with. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to Podcasts, Audiobooks and is also a Travel Blogger blogging about his escapades @

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