4 Steps to Retaining Top Talent in the Ad Industry

For an industry tasked with developing the brands we know and love, it seems the advertising industry may have an image problem. Notoriously low entry-level pay, a stigma of historically questionable morale and weekly hours competitive with those in medicine or law plague workers. Considering all this, it's no wonder the advertising industry is quickly seeing an increase in turnover rates across the nation.

Recent data is staggering: The annual turnover rate for advertising positions is now estimated to be upwards of 30 percent, including a whopping 10 percent increase over the span of a year. It’s no secret that turnover is costly to an organization.

Turnover equals lost revenue, ranging from 25 percent to 250 percent of the annual salary per exiting employee. As if lost revenue weren’t bad enough, high turnover also has adverse effects on company morale and overall culture. And although the ad industry isn't often pegged as sexy or glamorous, it seems the industry isn’t even meeting minimal job expectations of its employees.

A new study conducted by LinkedIn and 4A cited the main reasons for employee dissatisfaction in advertising to be a concern for lack of advancement opportunities and a desire for more challenging work. Essentially, ad professionals want to feel a greater sense of motivation, professional development and self-fulfillment at work. In the same study, 45 percent of respondents said they wanted more recognition and rewards on the job. Employee engagement and recognition strategies have proven to quickly and effectively combat issues like these, and in ways that are beneficial to both employers and employees.

Here are tips for ad industry leaders to increase retention, build culture, and retain top talent against emerging trends of high turnover:

1. Rethink What Engagement Means to Your Employees

Jobs that experience high turnover typically are exceptionally demanding in at least one area in an employee’s life: the pressure of meeting high client demands, meeting exceptional financial quotas each month or constantly battling against the clock to meet deadlines. Companies that claim to care about employee engagement understand and deliver connectivity, communication and reward with transparency and ease. Approach engagement with the philosophy that it should improve employees' work and personal lives.

2. Design Rewards Programs to Deliver True Value

Austin-based advertising and marketing software company Bazaarvoice recognizes and gives micro-bonuses to employees when they participate in wellness-related activities. When employees feel an employer is invested in their overall health, they feel appreciated, respected and motivated to give their best to the job. This is the essence of a great company culture! Practical rewards such as cleaning services, grocery delivery, gas cards or transportation passes can offer a boost in quality of life that will impact quality of work. Even small rewards can be the boost employees need to perform their best and reduce turnover.

3. Ensure Executives Are a Cornerstone of Engagement

Recent research found that while managers believe they recognize their employees, a much smaller percentage of employees feel that their boss actually appreciates their hard work. Feeling underappreciated should not be brushed off as some kind of ‘millennial issue’. It also should not rest solely on executives and HR directors to accomplish, because by the time they learn about an issue troubling an employee, the situation may be too far gone to save the employee and fix the problem.

Managers and supervisors are the direct line to employees, and quality managers sense dissatisfaction, communication breakdowns and failing morale right away. Allowing managers to identify positive behaviors and respond with real-time recognition incentivizes long-term job satisfaction and better performing teams, even through the peaks of stress in pressure-riddled environments. Managers should be aware that the highest performing teams receive six positive comments for every negative one. There is a time and place for negative feedback, but for employees to work at their full potential, remember that positivity feeds high performance.

4. Invest in Professional Growth to Develop Long-Term Employees

Decade-plus careers in high-turnover industries are uncommon. Continued education is one powerful way to build and encourage talent to invest in themselves, improve and stick around for bigger and better challenges within the company long-term. Progress and opportunities are great motivating factors for employees.

Creating a culture of appreciation and investment might seem like a ‘nice to’ and not a ‘have to’ when hiring new talent is becoming a monthly occurrence. But the benefits of slowing down to understand how engagement, rewards, feedback and professional development form a culture that saves a company’s products, clientele and reputation, can quash the obstacles high-turnover industries face in employee retention. And in an industry that thrives on creativity and the consistent exchange of ideas, assuring employees feel recognized and appreciated is crucial.

Autumn ManningComment