Havas Lofts Program Encourages Global Talent Swap

Staffers Get Chance to Work in a New Agency in a New City for Month at a Time

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Havas Lofts program participants in Paris
Havas Lofts program participants in Paris

Advertising is a global business, but few employees get real benefit from working for multinational companies. The Havas Lofts program is an attempt to put that right, giving staff the opportunity to work in a new agency in a new city for a month at a time.

Toward the end of last year, 20 people swapped around between Havas agencies in New York, Paris and London, and found that the experience of living and working in a different culture -- even for just a month -- had a big impact.

Jessica Klein, who moved from New York to London, was baffled by the tea breaks. "Whenever my colleagues got up from their desk, they graciously offered to make everyone a cup of tea," she said. "That is unheard of in New York. We are just so consumed in our own day and the way we like our coffee, we simply do it all ourselves, all the time." The same sharing ethos, she found, applied to working practices.

Program is the brainchild of Patti Clifford.
Program is the brainchild of Patti Clifford.

The program is the brainchild of Patti Clifford, global chief talent officer at Havas Worldwide, who joined the ad industry after 20 years at Dun & Bradstreet and was surprised by what she found. "Advertising has a robust pipeline on the front end of recruitment," she said. "But once you are in, it falls off a cliff. Nurturing talent wasn't happening in a meaningful way."

Chicago's The Marketing Store has a similar program called Desk Swap, implemented both to recruit and to retain talent that might have become bored.

Potential Havas Lofts candidates were nominated by their managers, and then a matching process began, identifying the right partner agencies and local coaches. Ms. Clifford stressed the program isn't just for millennials. "Someone who is married with children could still participate for a month," she said. "We don't need visas because it's a training program, so there's plenty of flexibility."

The program is being expanded to include Latin America and Asia this year, spread across two separate Lofts "classes," each with around 25 participants.

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