When ENVY came up against the challenge of finding the right staff, it decided to take matters into its own hands and form a specialist training program – ENVY Academy. Nine years on, and with 54% of ENVY’s workforce being a product of the academy, ENVY reflects on the state of graduates today and why more universities are now beginning to pull their weight and recognise the need for a new approach.
Runners are the backbone to the creative world and nowhere is this more acute than in the post production industry with its incessant demand for good people. But the role remains one of the most misunderstood outside the industry, with few grasping its true value or what it takes to be successful. With a glut of graduates from high-quality universities to choose from, you would think that there is no shortage of talent. But how many really fit the bill?
Not many, was the conclusion ENVY came to in 2008.
“ENVY Academy was created because of the challenges we faced finding the right people,” explains Tom Morgan, Head of Client Services at ENVY. “The company was growing rapidly and we needed staff to fill these positions. We were keen to hire, teach and train them in a way that suited ENVY. We also promote from within, so our runners are vitally important. ENVY Academy is the brainchild of our Facility Director and co-founder, Natascha Cadle.”
When employing from a pool of graduates we encountered two main problems: the first was the distorted view of the industry held by graduates, particularly by the most qualified ones from the top universities, who expected to be in freelance roles straight away or to be starting as editors. Graduates are often dismayed to find the only entry into post houses is at runner level, which they mistakenly consider to be the bottom rung; in reality, many experts start off as runners, the majority of the management team including Tom himself and ENVY’s Managing Director, Dave Cadle, to name just two started that way.
Secondly, there was a severe shortage of ‘people skills’, which seemed to have been the result of a traditional education without any real-life work experiences or industry interactions.
“What’s often missed by those outside the system is how post production houses rely on soft skills as much as technology. Knowing AVID Media Composer inside-out isn’t enough to become a good editor. It’s a client-facing, client-focused world, so day-to-day social skills such as the ability to hold a conversation with a client, to read a room and recognise when to speak up or step back, are just as important as technical know-how,” explains Tom.
ENVY Academy operates on two levels: as an internal training programme and an information source for university students.
Internally, ENVY Academy is an in-house training tool allowing runners to learn from their senior co-workers and log academy training hours. These hours are then reviewed each month by the heads of department and taken into account when being considered for promotions. In 2016, an impressive 2256 hours of internal academy training have been logged. Entry level staff are also invited to monthly networking events and masterclasses run by senior professionals.
Externally, the academy is a useful tool for entry level candidates to keep in touch with industry events, trends, and opportunities at ENVY. Using various social media platforms, the academy reaches out to students across the UK that show an interest in the industry. ENVY takes this even further by inviting university students in for work experience where they get to encounter the ins and outs of post production. Last year, ENVY had 90 students come in for work experience, who collectively stayed for 105 weeks. A third of these work experience placements were later invited back as employees.
New runners undergo two to four weeks of paid training, which covers the hospitality and soft skills needed to operate effectively as an ENVY Runner. As soon as they qualify and are signed off by Tom, they’re free to explore any part of the company they wish.
“Ultimately, it’s about having a more meaningful and rewarding dialogue with educators,” says Tom. “We’re weary that most students have the desire to start their career in a less junior position; however, they are unaware of the many career structures available. It is therefore very common for students to change their career path once they arrive at ENVY. If they joined wanting to pursue audio, they might suddenly be interested in Flame. Those opportunities don’t exist at university, so the purpose of the academy is to show students what’s actually available here.”
Externally too, the outlook for graduates is looking up. Universities are increasingly beginning to adopt a model in line with ENVY’s creative approach, with a growing number of students now undergoing integrated work experience as part of their course.
Now in its ninth year, ENVY Academy is stronger than ever, with 44 runners operating across six buildings throughout the year. Impressively high retention rates are just one indicator of the scheme’s resounding success. In 2016 alone, 38 promotions were given to runners and this year has already seen six runners promoted.
The academy has undergone notable improvements during Tom’s tenure. Namely by allowing runners to digitally log their training hours in detail, it has streamlined the process whereby ENVY can promote those who have shown initiative.
Says Tom: “ENVY’s university roster is expanding year on year, and it’s great to see more being done to prepare students. We tend to visit the universities that are most closely involved with the industry. Our client services team frequently give talks at these institutions, kick-starting an all-important open conversation with the students about their possible career paths and opportunities within the industry. With our runners coming from far and wide, we’re always excited to discover fresh talent.”