Members of the CIPR Inside committee share their insights into the latest State of the Profession report.
Binu Jacob, CIPR Inside committee member
Current job and working conditions
Doing more with less has been the modus operandi for most practitioners globally across the industry, even from pre-pandemic days. The CIPR State of the Profession 2022 Report highlights that about 56% of practitioners are challenged with working more hours than they're paid for, and/ or have the budget for.
In fact, there's a plethora of resources and strategies available online and through leading industry experts that talk about ways of accomplishing this.
But what if that was flipped around - to do less, for more? Well, it looks like better days may just be on the horizon, with a 4-day work week now being trialled in the UK. This means working for 100% pay, but for 80% of the time. Some of the other countries where this work policy has already been successfully adopted include the UAE, New Zealand and Iceland. Numbers from the report indicate that 48% in the industry have been working increased hours in the past 6 months alone.
So for practitioners, what this could mean moving forward is improved productivity, greater flexibility, and far better working conditions and experiences all around from where it is now - especially for 67% of female practitioners who make up a major chunk of the profession.
Elizabeth Hall, Change and Comms Manager
The buoyancy of the job market, especially for Change Comms people, feels the strongest I've ever seen. State of the Profession report echoed this sentiment as 17% of respondents have changed roles in the last six months.
I am part of the 17%, as the current market gave me the confidence to leave a permanent role taken during Covid and move back to contracting. I'm excited and hopeful that, as Internal Communicators, we have more choices in the available roles. For me, it's also been about gaining experience across sectors and building my global project experience.
Michael Smith, Senior Internal Communications Manager
Many internal communicators will have been involved with supporting organisational resilience over the past two years of the pandemic – from supporting recruitment programmes to manager capability. It’s clear we need to focus on our own resilience as well.
Working more hours than we’re paid for has and can be a common occurrence in our profession during key times of change – doing so over a such a sustained period has not. Issues of loneliness seen in the report is just one manifestation of working longer hours.
There are plenty of CIPR resources to support practitioners to connect with others and remain resilient. We should be drawing on them to support ourselves and others.
Shalini Gupta, CIPR Inside committee member
As a profession, we relentlessly celebrate and cheer the successes and achievements of colleagues in our organisations and in doing so, we live by the idea of ‘soldiering on’, pushing through whatever challenges face us. Too often this means we put it off again, and again until one day we reach for our cup and find that it is completely empty. This is reflected very clearly in the CIPR State of the Profession report. So, no surprises about the biggest challenge facing PR practitioners:
2021 - mental health
2022 – mental health
Reasons? There are many highlighted in this report and they seem to be linked closely to the overall wellbeing of PR practitioners:
- Lack of growth/career progression
- Unpredictable volume of work
- Poor work-life balance
- Feeling undervalued/no recognition
- Limited opportunities for professional development and training
And this is not a mass generalisation or assumption. It is very much supported by the findings of the survey in the report too. 48% of respondents have reported an increase in working hours and the most immediate impact of the struggle to recruit is the pressure it’s putting on existing PR professionals.
While the results in the report don’t really show any trends on ‘great resignation’, they do suggest considerable movement within the industry. So why are professionals moving/thinking of moving jobs? Speaking to some of my Comms friends, it’s clear they’re looking for support on clear career progression plans, work life balance, recognition and most importantly mental health as an absolute minimum in shaping their experience as engaged employees. In brief, it’s because of all the reasons listed above.
We spend hours shaping messages and pulling together resources to support people in our organisation with all of the above. As a profession, why are we waiting to fill our own cups?
Becky Paul, Senior Employee Communications Manager
There isn’t a huge amount about diversity in the report, and no conclusions to draw about inclusion. That said, there are some interesting points to highlight, to continue the important conversations about making the PR industry more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
The report offers some demographic data, including ethnicity, and confirms what is, unfortunately, blindingly apparent from attending PR conferences and training sessions. Our profession is still shockingly white (89% of respondents identify as white). I invite you to read this report from 2020 which shares some experiences from the people behind the numbers: Race in PR: BAME lived experiences in the UK PR industry.
Attitudes towards job mobility differ across age groups. Younger people are more likely to want to look for a new job in the next six months than older people – but the difference here isn’t as stark as you might expect (42% of 16-24 year olds compared to 35% of 45-54 year olds). Confidence is a different ballgame though. All 16-24 year olds are confident they’d get a new job if they tried, compared to only 67% of 25-54 year olds, and this decreases dramatically to 53% 55-64 year olds.
This confidence gap when it comes to moving jobs might partly explain why fewer older respondents have changed jobs in the last six months compared to younger respondents. A quarter of respondents between 16 and 24 have recently changed jobs compared to 7% of those between 55 and 64.
The survey results corroborate the long-known fact that there are more people who identify as women in the industry than people who identify as men. Disappointingly, based on the 771 responses to this survey, the gender pay gap has widened since 2020. Men still disproportionately occupy the most senior roles. The average income for men is £63,498 (in 2020 it was £57,347) while for women it is £52,274 (2020: £49,125). The gender pay gap had got smaller between 2018 and 2020.
It is not possible to report on how many respondents identify as a gender other than male or female because this option was grouped with ‘prefer not to say’.
Appetite for more diversity
Only 24% listed 'lack of diversity among PR practitioners' among the main challenges facing PR over the next 12 months. This is disappointing because A) the research tells us that more diverse and inclusive teams are more effective teams, B) we need to reflect the ‘publics’ we represent, and C) DEI is a topic that comms professionals are getting increasingly involved in for organisations* and we should practice what we preach. One hypothesis is that this low percentage is, in part, due to an education/confidence issue. I suggest this because Gallagher’s 2021/2 State of the Sector report told us that one in three practitioners do not feel knowledgeable about D&I.
*Source: Gallagher’s State of the Sector report 2021/2
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