One thing the pandemic has taught us all is the value of being self-sufficient. For most people getting I.T. help, or a graphic designed for a web post, used to be as simple as pressing a button on an intercom or walking down the hall. With those resources taken away we’ve all grown to appreciate their value. Also, hopefully we’ve used this time to broaden our own skill-sets. Because frankly radio could use more self-sufficient employees. That’s one area where we are falling behind other industries because of compartmentalization and years of supplementing terrestrially skilled employees who lack digital savvy with a handful of digital savvy employees that lack terrestrial skills.
Over the weekend I watched the new “On The Trail” documentary on HBO Max that follows several women reporters imbedded with political campaigns. I was struck by how talented and self-sufficient all of those women were. Each of them were copy writers, bloggers, make-shift videographers and editors, investigative journalists and, when necessary, on camera talent. They likely picked up those skills out of necessity, because it’s way too expensive to send huge crews along with each potential candidate. But, regardless of the cause, the effect is an incredibly versatile employee with a wide range of options for their future.
As a life-long radio guy, and now a consultant, I’m often asked by young people looking to get into the industry for my advice. My response has always been, “Learn everything you can, accept anyone’s offer to train you on anything and never utter the phrase ‘that’s not my job’.” Which I’d follow with, “The more you know, the harder you are to fire,” for effect. I always assumed that mind-set came from growing up in our family owned small market station where being chief, cook and bottle washer was a means of survival. But, I also think it stemmed from years of working with and observing radio groups that were so compartmentalized that they often missed, or at the very least under-utilized, the handful of self-sufficient employees they had. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for structure and delegation, just not to the point that it creates a bottle-neck for innovation, creativity and ultimately, execution.
If we, as an industry, hope to compete and thrive in this new digital world, we’ll have to start valuing self-sufficient employees. The radio groups that create an environment that encourages this, and rewards it, will prosper. Conversely the ones that don’t will lag behind and suffer the consequences.
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