NEW YORK, April 12—Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide has cut about 70 positions in the United States since the beginning of the year, downsizing as dramatically as any agency following the collapse of the technology public relations sector, but that doesn’t mean the firm has abandoned its commitment to attracting, keeping, and growing the best talent available.

This week, the firm promoted Angela Scalpello—who joined Ogilvy in 1998 as vice president of training and development—to the new position of chief people officer. She will be responsible for setting and managing the firm’s human resources strategy, including recruitment, employee relations and integration, performance management, work-life balance issues, and professional development. She will report directly to chairman and CEO Bob Seltzer and will serve on the firm’s executive and management committees.

“We have steadfastly committed ourselves to being the employer of choice for PR professionals,” says Seltzer. “Thanks to Angela’s leadership, we reduced employee turnover by 30 percent last year. Her appointment to this new position will help us further deepen our commitment to our people.” 

Ogilvy launched its current AGK (Attract, Keep, Grow) program in April 1999, after working with management consultancy Pricewaterhouse Coopers to find out what issues were on employees’ minds. The firm created an AGK committee, comprising of account staff and led by health and medical practice chief Kym White, improved its benefits (including 401k participation after just a month of employment), stepped up its outreach to college campuses, and rolled out a comprehensive management training program designed to “build a better boss.”

Scalpello has led other initiatives, including:

  • Holding successful open houses to attract non-traditional talent in every U.S. office 
  • Establishing a relocation and transfer program, which included more than 30 senior level transfers in the last 12 months  
  • Introducing mandatory management skills training  
  • Expanding the firm’s training program 
  • Formalizing the firm’s mentoring and coaching program

The recruitment climate may have changed in the past few months, but the firm’s belief in the importance of the AGK program has not. Says Scalpello: “I was in Europe twice in the last few months and one of the people in a senior management training session asked whether things had changed because of the economic problems in the U.S. My answer was that the ability to attract, keep and grow the best people becomes even more important when times are tough, because you have to be absolutely sure you are getting the best from the people you have.”
Before joining Ogilvy, Scalpello was a vice president of human resources at Ogilvy & Mather for nine years.