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High staff turnover can be a problem for any company, but is especially damaging in the creative industry where a tight-knit team can make or break your company. Client relationships take time to build, and when someone leaves, they often take all those hard-won client contacts with them. Not to mention the fact that turnover is expensive: The Chartered Institute of Public Relations reports that staff turnover costs the British media industry ₤184 million a year.
This is less than ideal when you've invested time, energy, and money in recruiting and training. So how to you create an agency where people want to stay? How do you retain your best creative talent?
5 Tips for Creating Loyal Agency Employees
Staff Loyalty Tip 1: Improve Your Benefits Package
Not every company can compete on salary alone. But the truth is that there are many benefits above and beyond money that make your team feel valued and happy.
Some of the benefits you can offer include:
- Flexible work hours, such as enabling staff to start or finish at different times to fit their schedule.
- Remote working options so that members of your team can stay home with a sick child or skip the commute a few days a week.
- A shorter work day or half-days in the summer.
- Fancy coffee, smoothies, and other snacks to keep the energy levels up.
- Extra vacation days so your team can come back to work refreshed and reinvigorated.
- Quality equipment and furnishings. Creatives love to work on nice computers and ergonomic chairs. Spare no expense when it comes to the right gear.
- Initiatives that align with staff values. One of my friends works at a PR firm that has a zero-waste policy. They make a huge deal out of being environmentally aware. This is an important perk for her as someone who is conscious about this cause.
Staff Loyalty Tip 2: Create a Staff Onboarding Program
One of the reasons many creatives look for greener pastures is because they don’t feel invested in the company they’re working for. They don’t understand their role in the overarching company goals.
The good news is that changing this mindset is easy, but it should be done as soon as the new team member starts at the office. Part of your recruitment policy should focus on how to bring a new employee into the organization so they feel included and invested in the success of your agency from the beginning.
When a new hire joins your team, you should:
- Have a formal welcome meeting so he or she can be introduced to the agency team.
- Send an information pack containing important details for staff, such as instructions for the photocopier, alarm, expenses, etc.
- Give a presentation or workshop about the history, goals, and strategic direction of the agency. Ideally, this should be done by the owner or CEO.
- Plan an informal get-together. A welcome outing or lunch can help someone to build connections with other members of the team
- Pair the employee up with a buddy or mentor who can teach them the ins and outs of life at your agency.
Staff Loyalty Tip 3: Provide Opportunities to Grow and Learn
Recently, ad agency Deutsch and the 4A's compiled a study on retention in the industry. It revealed that the biggest reason creatives left their agency was because of growth -- or rather, the lack of opportunities for growth.
A huge part of growing as a creative is being able to take ownership of projects and improve your skills and abilities in other areas so you can stretch the boundaries of what you’re capable of. To keep talent, you have to keep them engaged and interested.
Consider what type of learning opportunities you can provide at your firm. This could include:
- Funds to attend creative conferences
- Workshops on different aspects within their discipline
- Time to attend free or inexpensive local events and networking opportunities
- Time to attend webinars and online learnings about different subjects
- Time to work on fun and challenging in-house projects
- Opportunities to take ownership of client projects and leadership roles within the team
- Understanding of company strategic objectives and the opportunity for people to take an active role in figuring out how to achieve them.
Staff Loyalty Tip 4: Allow Creatives to Build Their Personal Brands
This tip may be controversial, but to me, it’s at the heart of a lot of creative job shuffling. Many creatives have their own vision of how they want their personal brand to evolve. If they don’t feel as though they’re getting enough of the type of work they want, they’re going to look for new opportunities.
Of course, you can only work on what your clients give you, but you should keep this in mind when you are looking for new clients. Some clients might not be extremely profitable, but they will give your creatives the room to grow and experiment, so there is value in these types of accounts.
You can also facilitate this by:
- Allowing your team members to take credit for work when possible (for example, a written bio at the bottom of a blog post).
- Inspiring staff to take ownership of projects that are a particularly good fit for their skills.
- Avoiding micromanagement. Offer your advice on critical aspects of the design, but let your team take the reins and become the stars.
- Talking to each team member individually about their goals and future plans as a designer, writer, etc., and help them initiate projects to move them closer to their goals.
- Enabling team members to include pieces in their portfolio, as well as share work they’ve produced on sites such as Behance and Dribbble.
Staff Loyalty Tip 5: Reward Hard Work
Creatives are no strangers to hard work. In fact, agency staff are often some of the hardest workers in the industry. All those late nights and frantic last-minute changes to meet impossible client deadlines are just part of the package. But that doesn’t mean your team doesn't value acknowledgment.
Rewards aren’t so much about the gift itself, but rather about the recognition of a job well done. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and to know their contribution matters. So what kind of rewards could you grant even on a small budget?
- Take the team out for a lunch or host an afternoon get-together after completing a complex project.
- Acknowledge hard work in front of clients, so they can see that you stand behind your team and their efforts.
- Start each meeting with some reflection on great work done in the past month.
- Make sure employees have one-on-one time with managers each month to discuss goals, strategies, and progress. Ensure this time is positive. Focus on what is working and what has been successful.
- Frame feedback and criticism in a constructive way. Don’t allow creatives to feel as if they’re being “ganged up” on.
Keeping your talented team members is about more than paying them a competitive salary -- though that definitely helps. Your people want to be creatively stimulated, nurtured, and above all, appreciated. How you do that is up to you, but what’s most important is that you provide the tools and direction for your creatives to find satisfaction in their positions.
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What policies do you have in place at your agency to help with retention?