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  • Writer's pictureCommon Good Company

The Great Resignation: Why the mass exodus? And how to stem the flow.


Cast your mind back 18 months and industry titles were awash with news of mass redundancies, furloughs, cut-backs and huge losses. Times were bleak and job opportunities even more so.


Fast forward and post-vaccine life is beginning to open back up, economic confidence is returning and so too are client budgets. And yet the biggest challenge we’re hearing time and again from agency leaders is this - how do we attract and crucially, retain talent.


The creative industry has always tended to have a higher rate of churn when it comes to talent but now it has been amplified to even greater levels. People are continuing to leave in their droves. But why? And crucially for agencies, how do they begin to stem the flow?


When it comes to why, to my mind there are three main things that are driving resignations.


  1. Re-evaluation

Of self, values and needs. The pandemic gave us lots of things, mostly unpleasant, but it also gave us time to think, to really consider what we want and need from life. As a result new ventures have been started, other opportunities and industries pursued and needs scaled back. The extended period away from the ‘norm’ also gave us the opportunity to take on a greater perspective and for many Covid was a reminder that life is all too short. It has led people to redress the work/life (in)balance, moving away from the rat race and realising that there’s not much to be said for being the richest person in the graveyard.


2. Burnout



When Covid came along it brought with it all the ingredients for burnout; uncertainty, pressure, blurred work/home lives, homeschooling and more. And this in an industry which has always had a reputation for high pressure, fast-paced and high attrition careers. For many this has meant looking elsewhere.

3. Effective support and investment


Gone are the days that salary alone will satisfy employees. Most are looking to employers to support them in their development and invest in them beyond a Bupa package and free breakfast. They want an agency that understands its values, mission and objectives and where each person fits in relation to that.


Employees now have a wealth of choice and as agencies receive more briefs, so too do recruiters. So whereas 6 months ago those burnt-out, frustrated or under-valued employees felt they couldn’t risk handing their notice in, confidence is now high. It means there’s a rush for the door and plenty of options to choose from. So if an agency doesn’t cut it when it comes to their flexible working policy, doesn’t have a compelling EVP, or isn’t clear when it comes to its own vision, they’re at risk of losing out.


 

So given all this, where should agencies start in trying to attract and retain talent?



Firstly, whilst the drivers I’ve outlined may be common themes, it shouldn’t be assumed that this is what’s going on for everyone. Before agencies try to keep people from quitting, they need to go deeper and be open to learn from their people. Understanding their talent and the unique and nuanced challenges they’re facing will be key in order to address them.


Here are my thoughts for how to attract and retain agency talent.


  1. Demonstrate trust and flexibility

People need to be given the opportunity to take ownership of their roles and deliver against their requirements in a way that is best for them rather than forcing them into a way of working that’s based on habit.

In practice that means giving opportunities to put forward new ways of working and supporting a culture that allows employees much needed freedom to fail.

In a creative industry there’s also an opportunity for employers to embrace side hustles. Allowing a certain amount of time for each person to explore them can boost creativity, ease frustration, bring new ideas to the fore and lessen the need to leave.

And, when it comes to remote and flexible working - whilst some agencies fear it, the reality is it presents a bonus. It opens up a wider talent pool and begins to challenge the London-centric status quo.


2. Communicate


Getting consistency in messaging and ensuring leadership is listening to and learning from all levels in the business is key. That requires clarity of direction and means encouraging and supporting openness and fostering a culture where opinions are welcomed and truly listened to rather than shot down. This in turn will build confidence and clarity with employees and bring about new thinking that’s valuable to the agency.


3. Ease the load


There’s no denying that ours is a service industry and one that will always be demanding. However, if you ask yourself truly, how many of the meetings in a week are vital, could you honestly say all of them? Clearing diaries at regular points in the week is becoming more common and can be an effective way to ease workload. It should however, come with educating staff around efficient use of time and meetings, encouraging them to question the value or focus of a session if they feel the need.

One of the most effective ways to ease the load is by enabling managers to ask the right questions - how is your week looking, where are the challenges and what can I do to support? - this can get to the heart of the challenge before it becomes an issue.


4. Reward and recognise


If employees don’t feel recognised for their contribution resentment and demotivation will follow. Employees are an agency’s greatest asset and undervaluing them is to do the same for the agency. This doesn’t necessarily mean more money (although paying their worth is extremely important) and could be as simple as acknowledging their value, providing clear feedback and celebrating successes. Employee motivations vary so understanding each person helps to be more personalised with rewards.



5. Tailor support


Our experience at Common Good Co. tells us that training is most effective when it is based on truths and borne out of insights from within the agency. That means taking the time to understand the challenges before pointing resources (and money) at a perceived problem.

It might be assumed that delivering personalised support to employees is expensive but that needn’t be the case. Arming managers with the skills they need to manage and lead (rather than assuming that that knowledge is somehow innate) is one way to invest in the long-term. Expertise like coaching and mentoring are also invaluable in developing and retaining talent, especially when the desire to take action and support is there on the part of the agency.



What is true of all these tactics is that change needs to come from the top. Agency leaders must be visible and vocal in their support of these steps and act as sponsors and role models in order to stand out as a place where great talent should work.


Fancy a chat to talk about how we could support your agency?



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