Retaining Talent: What Works?

There Are Few 'Gold-Watch' Employees These Days

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
I spend about 20 percent of my time recruiting talent. So do my managers. That's a big time commitment. But it's critical, for obvious reasons. Especially in a small agency, where it's tougher to attract best-of-breed talent. They often want to go to the bigger shops, or those that are creating head-turning work.

Once a small shop is able to land someone special, however, it should immediately have a plan in place to retain that individual. Especially when the economy's strong, companies are hiring, and headhunters are buzzing around your best people.

First, a realistic assessment of why someone worth keeping will stay with your shop has to be taken:
  • Are they being challenged every day?
  • Do they report to someone who can mentor them?
  • Are the clients the kind that will take smart risks?
  • Can people in your shop make a difference?
  • Is your compensation competitive?
  • Is it a fun place to work?
Walk around your agency. You'll know the answers pretty quickly. If you can answer "yes" to the above questions, you'll have a good shot of keeping good people. If not, start addressing the problems.

But something still nags at me. As an employer, I realize the day of going end-to-end and getting the gold watch are long gone. I've spoken to many of my agency-owner peers, and we all seem to lament the same thing: how come most people don't stay 10, 15, 20 years at one shop anymore? Seems it's a handful of years, and off somewhere else. Even if the workplace conditions are right. I know attrition is sometimes a good thing; however, it's also disruptive to the agency. I'd like to hear some of your thoughts on why good people itch to leave more frequently now than in years past.
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