Talent Development

It was the Sony Radio Academy Awards last night and it was brilliant to see Luke (above) from our radio station, Fun Kids, winning the Rising Star (Best Newcomer) award.

My favourite bit of my job is finding new people for projects. I would happily trade all the other bits to just concentrate on talent development. It’s definitely not driven by altruism but really by selfishness, I just get a massive kick out of doing it. Or maybe in the back of my head its what Marsha once told me – “they’ll eventually employ  you – it’s just investment in your own future”.

Talent spotting’s one thing but the most important thing is coaching. Everyone gets better with feedback and making time to do it is really important. At GWR everyone who had at least one direct report had to go on the coaching course. Whether you looked after presenters or sales people, the two-day course gave you some real-world skills to help review people’s work and a framework for them to get better. Later, on PC School, another brilliant initiative, I was once sent to ‘coach’ Howard Taylor using the framework. Thankfully he seemed more terrified than I was.

The course was so good that even today – probably ten years on – I still use the basis of it for all the work I do with our presenters.

Fun Kids is going great guns at the moment. Both commercially and creatively it’s doing really well. A lot of this success is coming directly from the time we spend working with the existing team and attracting new people to come and work with us. As a very small station we’re never going to be able to pay the big bucks, but we try and reward the time those guys give us by helping to support their personal growth.

At Fun, all the presenters get coaching sessions from me where we review a show they’ve chosen. We always talk about how it went, the good and the bad bits and the things to improve next time.  Coaching time means there’s also a regular spot where we can catch up on any broader issues as well. It’s also good to have conversations where we’re not distracted by operational issues and can concentrate on presenter skill.

If you’re a presenter and don’t get regular feedback on your performance, ask! If you still don’t get any, then get a new job. You’ll only ever get better through listening and coaching. If you’re a PC that doesn’t coach your team then you need to get a different job.

We have two ‘new talent’ initiatives at Fun. The first is around a show we call the Treehouse, it’s kind of Blue Peter meets T4. Saturdays from 4pm and repeated Sundays from 10am – it’s a show with three presenters and loads of features. The presenters and the feature makers all tend to be new to professional radio. The Treehouse gives  a focus and pressure to hone skills and be regularly delivering audio. Everyone gets feedback on their work as well as getting to make something fun for the kids! Luke started in the Treehouse before getting his weekday show and many of the feature creators have gone on to do more pro work for us and other stations.

The second initiative happened the other week. It came from the problem I have with demo tapes.

I really feel for people doing demos for Fun Kids – it’s a really difficult one to do. As well as needing to be ‘good’, you also have to pitch it right – not too old, not too young. But really the biggest problem is that, amazingly, these potential presenters don’t seem to be able to read my mind about exactly what I want. I know!  To try and fix this issue, we recently invited people who had shown some interest/done demos/been involved a bit for a presenter workshop day.

We talked about radio and what we all liked and why, I spoke a little about Fun and we all listened to some output to get a flavour of the presented bits of the station. Everyone then did a couple of links, including ones based on our weekly presenter content doc and then we all listened and critiqued everyone’s performance. I found it a really useful day, hopefully all the potentials got something out of it and fingers crossed some of those people will turn into new presenters on Fun.

Clearly, all this stuff takes time. But the more I do it, the more valuable I see it to be. And sitting with Luke as he won his Sony made it all even more worthwhile.