In conversation: Beth Ann Kaminkow and Jean-Rene Zetrenne
The transformative role of talent in future business
To coincide with International Women’s Day, WPP brings together 16 brilliant women and men from across its global network, in eight conversations about the industry, equality and the impact of our work on wider society.
Beth Ann Kaminkow, Global CEO of Geometry, and Jean-Rene Zetrenne, Chief Talent Officer, Ogilvy USA, talk about the importance of talent strategy in a successful business and why people are the lifeblood of our industry.
Jean-Rene Zetrenne: When you work in talent, you’re making connections all the time. It’s not just connections with potential candidates or external leads from our employees, it's also connections with our clients. Sometimes you're required to have a conversation with clients about what you're doing in your company to shape people’s perspectives about the agency brand. How much of your current role is to do with building connections?
Beth Ann Kaminkow: A lot. And not just connections in terms of networking or forming teams, but on a deeper level; understanding people’s needs and finding ways to fulfil them through either your own gifts or through the teams you assemble, and then making those teams perform together really well in a high functioning way.
Even as our scope broadens into leadership realms, it is critical for us to continue to learn about the day-to-day running of our business and how to transition and evolve. We can’t lose sight of that. When people talk about being people-centric or employee-centric or client-centric, to me that’s all in the service of the work, it's not a separate layer. You do that because you’re involved in the work. You get to know your talent and your people because you’re sitting side by side with them, working together, with your sleeves rolled up. That’s the best way of giving back to your people and getting to know them, and I believe the same thing goes for your clients as well.
What role do you think talent strategy plays in business transformation?
JRZ: I think people often underestimate it. I think emotional quotient is something that you almost need to regard in the same light as you regard business quotient. It’s about making sure that you’re able to help people follow and go on the journey with you. Whether it’s a business structure, in terms of the way the models are being set up, or whether it’s the way we service our clients – and the reality is that things are changing at a rapid rate – we have to be able to bring people along on the journey.
You get to know your talent and your people because you’re sitting side by side with them, working together, with your sleeves rolled up. That’s the best way of giving back to your people and getting to know them
It’s about making sure that you’re able to paint a compelling picture of what the future looks like so that people are excited about wanting to be a part of that.
BAK: I’m a huge believer in bringing people on our journey. At the end of the day, and I know this can sound clichéd, our talent is our greatest asset. It is our greatest gift to the companies that we serve. Even as things get automated, even as we have the technology to do more aspects of our jobs, it is about the mix of talent, the ability of our talent, and how inspired and motivated they feel. That comes from great leadership and it comes from daily interactions and that's leadership at every level. I’m a big believer in the Maya Angelou quote that, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did…” – although I think actions do speak louder than words – “… but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
Cultivating a more diverse workforce is a huge focus. We absolutely have to do better and reach deeper down, into high schools and junior high schools and bring people up and expose them to our industry and nurture them. Let’s act on it, not just speak about it. We need to present role models who look and speak like them – showing more women in the highest leadership positions is also part of changing how society thinks about women in the workplace.
JRZ: I completely agree. People are the lifeblood of Ogilvy, and of WPP.
I think people will be the force for change in how our industry works as we move forward, and they will continue to be a force for change and how the industry is valued. Where we work, how we're going to be working, what we do, everything… it’s about people.
Employees will be the force for change in how our industry works as we move forward, and they will continue to be a force for change and how the industry is valued
When you think about it, people are always fuelling the business. Who we need to be successful; how we use talent in the right way, in the right place; and how we bring them to effectively deliver against our needs; how we treat each other; how we grow over time. People are the key elements in that regard. And I think, for us, it’s about making sure that we can take technology and what it does and see what that will allow us to do with our people.
International Women's Day is important because…
BAK: … we do need these moments where there's a concentrated focus on appreciating the incredible talent of the women that we have around us. I mean, look at WPP right now and look at Mark Read’s commitment, which is just so authentic and genuine. I look at people like Mel Edwards and Diane Holland and what they're doing at Wunderman Thompson. Stacey Ryan Cornelius, my global CFO, and I are another dual female team. It is incredible that there are two of these at WPP. I’m not sure how many more duos there are in our industry, but I hope there are more. I think that shining a light on more of this talent is really important.
Sharing the stories of other incredible women that we can be inspired by and learn from is important too. I was just recently on a plane and I saw a documentary on Toni Morrison. I had read her books and I knew about her but I didn’t really know her story. It's really changed how I thought about so many things, even in terms of how I apply myself and the impact that I want to have.
JRZ: … we have to celebrate the contributions that women have made, that they’re making and that they will continue to make to the world and to our business and our lives. I think it fuels conversations about equality and justice, and about the inequality and injustice that women face and the solutions that we have to develop to address them. It reminds us that we have to take a stand for everyone with equal measure.
And you know, as a person of colour, there’s a dimension that's always top of mind for me: the experiences that women of colour have in terms of shaping what we do. And sometimes I think they're overlooked or overshadowed. I think we, as a society, are doing better in that regard. I think we've made such enormous strides in terms of thinking about gender and gender parity and all things associated with that. But even within that chamber, you still have to be mindful that there are women who have different kinds of experiences and backgrounds. And all too often I think we overlook women of colour and the experiences they have. So, it's a celebration of all of their contributions.
Read more from our #EachforEqual in conversation series