Last month, Publicis Groupe launched an internship program for retired professionals aged 60 years and older. The program provides opportunities to an often-forgotten segment of society by re-integrating them into an inclusive and meaningful environment. Communicate discusses with Sewar Azzouni, Head of Talent Transformation for Publicis Groupe ME&T, and Tahaab Rais, Chief Strategy Officer for Publicis Groupe across the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey how this program works and in what ways will it empower retired professionals.
Why do you think organizations especially in this industry need such programs? How is it going to bring value to your network?
Sewar Azzouni: The Grand Masters will bring us a wealth of knowledge and experience, having spent years in their fields, experiencing first-hand the multiple changes and adaptations this industry has gone through. Retirees have a deep understanding of our industry’s trends and best practices, over and above their established networks. These benefits will be added to the fresh perspective, ambition and drive that interns will bring in. Interns bring in a set of skills and knowledge different than those of The Grand Masters, especially in the area of social media. Lastly, hiring those interns will be of great added value to our continuous building of diverse talent pipelines. Overall, hiring retirees and interns is helping us sustain our diverse and inclusive community and culture, enabling us to achieve our vision and goals.
Is the program only applicable in the MENA region? Or is it going to be adapted by Publicis' extensions across the globe?
Sewar Azzouni: This is a locally created program that is being shared with our global counterparts for adaptation in applicable markets. Scaling a program globally and adapting locally is an essential strategy for Groupe’s success. We are excited for this program to reach new markets, strengthening Publicis Groupe’s 'Power of One' model and diversifying our talent pipeline worldwide.
On completing the internship, will the older interns have an opening to get hired based on their performance?
S.A: Similar to our previous internship experiences, sustainable high performers will get a chance to be hired full-time, based on the opportunities that we have. The time spent in the program will be valuable for both parties to assess skillset and experience expectations of the roles, in addition to the organization’s short and long-term needs. However, labor law retirement age in certain markets can only limit the experience to the internship only.
How is Publicis planning on providing value to the interns who're going to be a part of this program?
S.A: Interns, whether they are part of The Grand Masters or The Apprentices are typically valued for their potential. Similar to our people and all talents, our interns are seen as investments and potential assets to the future of Publicis Groupe. We have different ways of valuing our interns inclusive of investing in paid internships, providing academic credit where applicable, investing in their training, and more.
The Grand Masters program is a first-of-its-kind initiative taken by your group. Where did the thought come from? What inspired you to bring this to life?
Tahaab Rais: The inspiration for The Grand Masters came from experiences with elders I’ve always had the benefit of learning from and bouncing ideas with. My dad’s stories are always insightful as is his feedback on the work I’m creating. And I’ve always wondered why, as an industry that’s rightfully fascinated by youth, we don’t also tap into the ones who have come before us and have tremendous life wisdom.
Consciously excluding their expertise and their world smarts is a missed opportunity by agencies and brands. They don’t believe they’re done yet. So, who are we to assume that? Hence, we’re focusing intently on consciously including them in our thinking process as part of our strategy community working on our brands, and can’t wait for our work for those brands to get even richer with them becoming us.
We’re also excited to cater to the next generation as well through The Apprentices Program by creating an enriching and exciting opportunity for young students to experience working in a world-class strategic environment and culture.
How is the program for older people going to work? Are there any terms and conditions/ a process for getting an intern on board? Is it going to be a paid opportunity?
Tahaab Rais: In the first phase, The Grand Masters is open to all individuals in the UAE, of all backgrounds who have worked across any industry and role and are 60 years of age or older. The program duration is open and is flexible to accommodate the individual, however, participants are required to engage a minimum of 4 hours a day, 3 days a week.
We’re really excited for them to give back and for us to create an enjoyable and stimulating environment for them too. The compensation will be decided on a case-by-case basis, based on experience and expertise.
Will the interns have the leverage to choose a department of their liking for the internship or is that a decision taken by the management?
T.R: The Grand Masters will be working as part of the strategy teams, owing to the focus on insights and strategic thinking that fuels meaningful and impactful ideas for our brands. We have the largest community of strategists – the best in the region – and I genuinely believe, with The Grand Masters, the two coming together, it will be a unique and enriching experience.
Were there any internal challenges your management faced in bringing this program to life? What were they?
T.R: As with anything new with no previous benchmark, it’s important to ensure readiness and capability to execute. What has been important for us to ensure is that our teams and our processes - when it comes to strategy - are welcoming and ready to make them feel comfortable, stimulated, and energized. So, spending time ensuring that was important. Not a challenge per se but important due diligence. Our talent team has been a fantastic partner on this journey. And we can’t wait to welcome our first batch!