The average staff turnover at PR agencies in London remains at 20%, which means one in five people will leave every year. Of course, 20% isn’t that high, BUT if you are a mid to large sized agency, the constant challenge to replace talented staff with more talented staff is gruelling not to mention the extra staff required to cover new business wins and growth.
So keeping talented employees is becoming more important. At Utterclub we listen carefully to all our candidates to understand what makes them want to move on (and ensure when we do place someone, they stick!) So, if you want to keep hold of these precious gems, read on!
1. Lack of career progression
While the structure of a PR agency is usually pretty standard as people work their way up from Account Exec to the dizzy heights of Director, the path is often badly defined and bureaucracy often gets in the way of meritocracy. This means people frequently move on to move up. A clearly defined path to promotion would help people visualise their future. Make sure you organise regular meetings to discuss personal development plans and twice yearly appraisals to keep your talent on target as a minimum.
2. Lack of flexible, parent-friendly hours
4 days a week, job shares, work from home …. The PR industry needs to take some inspiration from the Professional Services industry here BUT in the last few years, there has been effort made to accommodate those that want reduced hours due to family life, study or personal projects, but there is still work to do. Guys get with the programme – or get left behind.
3. Long, long hours
The long hours culture is still endemic across PR with 41% working 49 to 79 hours a week! The benefits of a good work-life balance are well documented but the message doesn’t seem to be getting through to the world of PR and no amount of fresh fruit, massages or bean bags can make up for being permanently exhausted. Get some timesheets out, document the over-time and do something about it! You might find some client over-servicing links here and be able to kill two birds with one stone.
4. Culture / nightmare boss
For some strange reason, being shouted at, bullied, ignored, dealing with bonkers internal politics, crazy bosses or coping with passive/aggressive seniors just doesn’t make staff want to stay put! The sad fact is that often numerous PRs will leave the same agency due to the same individual. It’s odd how the culprit themselves is never asked to leave…
5. Being bored
PR can be cyclical but as the whole industry becomes more integrated and less risk-adverse to trying new creative ideas, PRs should never really be bored. So if you spot your prized account handler staring out of the window or spending too long on facebook, it’s time to give them something exciting to do!
6. To go ‘in house’
This has to be the number two reason AD’s up want to leave agency life. In house offers the chance to develop deep knowledge about a sector with the added benefits of a better work life balance and often better actual benefits.
It should be as good as a rest, but often isn’t. Mergers, acquisitions and alike are hard to get right and while everyone hopes for smooth integration, you can never please all the people all the time.
8. To freelance
More and more of the candidates we meet want to try freelancing. It offers greater control over work life and when the market is healthy, good freelancers can pick and choose the projects they work on at the agencies they desire. The choice to freelance though is often born out of one of more of the reasons already on this list!
Low on the list and with good reason as cash alone is seldom the only reason people leave. Yes, everyone would like more but you’d be surprised how few people cite a raise as the reason to go. Even so, it’s worth ensuring your salaries are competitive as it’s much easier to hold on to good people than acquire new ones.
10. Fed up with PR altogether
Increasingly senior (Associate +) candidates want to try another marketing discipline. The idea that advertising, marketing or digital offer the pot of gold at the end of rainbow, continuous excitement and zero frustration isn’t the reality although somehow PR still feels the ‘lesser’ of the marketing disciplines even in PRs’ eyes.
However, at the end of the day, if you find your employees are leaving due to natural attrition, as a final farewell, conduct a professional exit interview giving the employee a chance to air their views and gain closure. It will leave them feeling they have moved on with your best wishes.