The bottom line: Agencies aren't doing a good job of training,
motivating or retaining employees. "We are a people-focused
industry but we don't embrace that with our employees," Mr. Benett
For agencies, one fundamental problem is employee retention.
According to the survey, 30% of the collective agency workforce
will be gone within 12 months, and 70% of employees would call a
recruiter back if one reached out to them. An overwhelming 96% of
employees surveyed said they feel they could easily get a job, in
part because of the improving economy.
"We're not taking our own advice. We don't have time to market
ourselves, to care about our talent," said Mr. Benett. "We say
'Talent is our number one asset,' but you look more into it and you
look at how managers are, revenue is more important."
And while employees may be leaving any particular agency, they
aren't necessarily leaving the industry. According to the survey,
37% expect to stay one to five more years in the industry; 66% plan
on staying more than five years in the business.
As for training, employees said they generally had to
essentially train themselves, or figure out many aspects of their
jobs on their own. According to the survey, there was a large
disconnect between what employees and managers are saying in terms
of training: 90% of employees said they learned by figuring out
problems on their own. Conversely, 25% of execs said employees
figured out their own issues. "The average Starbucks barista gets
more training than the average communications employee," Mr. Benett
"It's an incredibly attractive industry, we're just not
leveraging and leaning into that. We're not doing a very good job
marketing to our people."
Mr. Benett offered up five solutions to turn employee attitudes
around: invest in talent in the early stages, such as schools;
promote cross training; introduce new incentives, such as education
financing or sabbaticals; fix performance management; and engage
employees in the career conversation.
"This is a major, major issue and it will take everyone in the
room -- times 10, times 100 -- to fix the problem. We need a
commitment from the industry and our agencies," said Mr.