School rules

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It's good to see the likes of DDB Worldwide, J. Walter Thompson Co. and Young & Rubicam embrace employee training and education in today's competitive agency world. Now the challenge to the rest of the agency community: Get with the program.

A generation ago, when Mad. Ave. was fat and happy, training was more the norm -- a weapon to recruit and retain talent and to inculcate fresh talent with the agency culture. Then came tough times in the '80s and early '90s, and training went out the window.

With the agency business booming today, executives are laboring to keep their cubicles stocked because talent has alternatives: dot-coms. To be sure, dot-coms are overrated. Many are new economy sweat shops, with long hours, mediocre pay, lousy morale and, to cinch the deal, dwindling cash, stocks in the tank and worthless stock options. Yet the best can be appealing, creative places and it's no surprise many of the best and brightest are looking to the Internet.

It's a zero sum game for agencies to simply raid the competition. Investing in training is a real solution. Give people a chance to learn and to grow through formal classes and online training. That generates something money can't necessarily buy: commitment and motivation.

The agency with a reputation for giving people the tools and training to excel -- for being an enlightened employer -- will win more people than it loses. And those workers will be smarter and equipped to perform. The world is changing. It's up to agencies to adapt, and to help their employees to adapt. Agencies that don't get on the training track aren't going to make the grade.

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