Workplace turnover hit an all-time high in 2018, according to a report by Compdata. Marketing agencies both large and small have noted turnover as a key challenge for years. For example, Publicis Groupe’s CEO Arthur Sadoun said talent retention is among the top challenges he faces. It’s a concern that comes with a price tag, and it cannot be ignored.
So how can an agency combat turnover? In my experience, it’s by making a significant investment in workplace culture and professional development.
This isn’t about offering free snacks, throwing bean bag chairs in workspaces or designing an Instagram-worthy office space — it’s about shaping culture through operating practices that empower and inspire your team to outdo themselves and grow with each project.
Talking about culture and agency turnover can’t happen without mentioning millennials, who, according to the Pew Research Center, now make up more than one-third of the U.S. workforce. Gallup found that “an impressive 87% of millennials rate ‘professional or career growth and development opportunities’ as important to them in a job.”
Creating culture and developing and retaining professionals is hard work. Roll up your sleeves and get started with the following tips that I’ve amassed from running a small agency (which was named one of Inc.’s best workplaces in 2018) for the last 20 years.
Start Anew
I’ve found that an effective workplace culture values high-quality work, and nothing less. Teams can run into trouble, though, when they become enamored with a particular campaign or concept.
They may find themselves so far down the path of development that they’re unwilling to address a change in direction or client feedback due to fear of not living up to a specific standard or meeting a deadline. Avoid this by creating an environment where people feel comfortable voicing concerns — the benefits go way beyond addressing bad creative.
Our team openly pushes each other to start over from scratch when we discover that an idea isn’t right or when we uncover a problem.
Going down the proverbial wrong road is a huge part of the creative process, and we don’t want our employees to feel like they can’t start over because of judgment or budgets. Recently, we fleshed out a creative direction for a client and designed concepts in line with the brief, only to realize it didn’t align with our target audience. We canned the idea and inspired the team to think differently and ended up with a campaign we’re proud of.
Embrace Obstacles Together
Establish a culture that welcomes challenges with open arms. We’re in the business of serving clients, and with that comes obstacles on a daily basis — from varying opinions on creative to navigating new projects with looming deadlines.
That said, there’s nothing better than when one of our team members walks to the center of the room and invites everyone to come together for a spontaneous brainstorming session to craft a new creative approach or reprioritize how we get work done.


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