Love your staff – keep your clients

When I was starting in media four years ago, I was told that what media agency folk might miss out on in remuneration and work/life balance, they make up for in media lunches and industry perks. These were of course a thank you from our publisher friends for our business and were all part of the job.

I was new at the time and wasn’t getting paid much, so making sure you had a healthy supply of long lunches made a lot of sense.

Four years on and I have a feeling that the winds of change are in place at media agencies and that the perks and glamour of the industry isn’t enough to retain the best and brightest.

Agencies are constantly improving their offering to clients, which is critical to staying in business. But are those same agencies neglecting their people by being too client focused? Should we not be applying the same creativity to keeping their people?

Agencies struggle retaining people, particularly young people. In fact the latest Media i results show that of staff in the 3-5yr bracket almost 40% are actively looking for a new job in the next six months. Ouch! So almost half of the people you work with in an agency today won’t be there next year. Streams of young guns are migrating to publishers and marketing teams on the promise of better working conditions and lucrative pay packets.

This is massively to the detriment of the industry and it erodes the industry’s talent pool. Sadly, it also diminishes our overall reputation and product. The industry’s craft suffers as a result of good people walking out the door.

Agencies must continue to make meaningful efforts to provide supportive and sustainable working environments, otherwise top talent will leave. For agencies – who let’s not forget, re-invent their model more than the average business – talent leaving doesn’t bode well, especially if the smartest employees are walking out the door after only 3 years in the industry.

Traditional agency/client/staff model

Initiatives that make a good starting point include working from home opportunities for those who prove they thrive in a home environment; flexible working hours for employees that need this option; paternity/maternity leave policies that take a leading position rather than following other industries.

This article about a marketing executive’s viral post in Chicago captures the mood well.

Finally, negotiated performance incentives for bringing in new profit streams to the business and/or adding value where possible (such as finders fees).

I’ve seen it firsthand in my current agency, Slingshot Media. Flexible working policies and more trust placed in staff has meant that staff turnover rates have remained very low. As a result, clients are very happy.

It also does another job for the industry. By continually raising the bar when it comes to employee satisfaction, there will be more and more talented university students being advised to head into a career in media by advocates within the industry.

My two cents to marketers looking for a new media agency is don’t look to agencies who are in a death spiral on rates. The account servicing will reflect it and it invites a revolving door of people servicing millions of dollars of media. This erodes our craft and reputation. Any marketer who found out their account manager has resigned only after their final day can probably relate.

Look at the success the agency has had at keeping their staff happy and it will speak volumes.