How PR Agencies Retain Employees in a Competitive Job Market

Public relations agencies have notoriously struggled with staff turnover. It’s a costly issue. The time and cost involved in finding and training a replacement, the employee morale issues associated with staff changes, and the overall client dissatisfaction when a new manager is put on the account every few months, keep agencies looking for new ways [...]

Public relations agencies have notoriously struggled with staff turnover. It’s a costly issue. The time and cost involved in finding and training a replacement, the employee morale issues associated with staff changes, and the overall client dissatisfaction when a new manager is put on the account every few months, keep agencies looking for new ways to combat staff churn.

“Generally, the cost of losing a middle manager can be equivalent to 100 percent of his/her salary,” says Aaron Heinrich, Managing Director of SHIFT Communications.

While most managers attribute staff churn to pay-related reasons, most cases have little to do with salary. Employees move on more because:

1. The job is not what they expected - or were told it would be when hired.
2. Lacks opportunity for professional development, growth, or advancement.
3. Staff doesn’t feel valued or recognized for their work.
4. Work/life balance issues.
5. Lack of trust in the leadership.

Regardless, some turnover is bound to happen, but there are things you can do to ensure your employees aren’t easily lured to another opportunity.

Make the Office a Fun Place to Hang Out

While we can’t all offer employees rock concerts and catered lunches every day, focusing on group activities to foster team work and a fun, creative work environment will pay off. Agencies should create a company culture that encourages employees to want to be part of the team and not want to rush home the minute five o’clock hits. Find ways to encourage enthusiasm, and yes, maybe friendly competition among peers.

“A handful of times each year the petty cash drawer opens for Trivia $100,” explains Heinrich, “Employees are asked a trivia question about current news and the first person who answers the question correctly wins some extra cash to fill their pocket.”

Offer Appealing Perks

Fred Bateman, CEO and Founder of Bateman Group, is proud to have kept his firm’s turnover so low. Most years, it’s been zero, and never above 5%.

He says the company follows certain rules to keep that number low, one of which is providing an appealing place to work: “In San Francisco, we selected the Hamm’s Building because of the amazing views of downtown and the Bay Bridge and because we’re able to give everyone parking privileges, regardless of title,” says Bateman.

If you can’t afford killer views, find other ways to reward your staff, such as giving them a random day off, leaving a Starbucks gift card on their desk after a job well done, or taking your team out for after-dinner drinks.

Create a Clear-Cut Path to Success

For many employees, there’s not an obvious career path at a company, which may cause them to seek out a job elsewhere. It’s important to show your staff that they have a long-term future at your company, even if it’s not in the same role or department.

“At SHIFT we strive to have roles clearly defined, craft career paths for each and every SHIFTer, award bonuses and compensation increases that are meaningful to employees, and complete performance reviews that are timely and productive,” explains Heinrich.

Bateman says at his agency, giving performance reviews on time is a non-negotiable must. Employees who know where they stand and what they need to do to continue their career path are more likely to be happy, they’ll want to do just that. Bateman also suggests salaries and bonuses should exceed individual expectations, but not be out of line with the high end of other firms in the market.

Offer Flexibility

Bateman says one of the keys to his zero turnover is offering flexible work situations. His employees can work from home and/or work part time so that they have more time to spend with their children, and to reduce lengthy commutes.

He also says his company ensures employees have the right tools to succeed to take advantage of flexible work. His staff has access to the latest laptops, iPhones/iPads with Windows Mobile, good server access, and cloud-based software like Clicktime.

Be Different

What can you offer employees that other agencies just can’t touch? SHIFT recently gave a slice of the agency to each of their employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. As quoted by CEO, Todd Defren, “Now we’re a new agency. Independent in spirit, as always, and now with the added backbone of knowing – truly knowing – that our fate is in our own hands.”

A Constant Effort

While offering enticing perks and maintaining a youthful company culture can help attract eager employees, it can’t all be fun and games.

SHIFT’s Heinrich says, “Without a culture of clear expectations, honest feedback, open communication and the feeling that employees are treated with fairness and equity, the fun and games can be meaningless. The talent war is ruthless and cultivating a company culture that nurtures an environment in which employees truly feel valued and respected is not an easy undertaking.

“Retention can become less daunting when employees feel empowered to use their voice, valued for the work that they do day in and day out and treated with respect,” says Heinrich.

So make the effort to develop a company culture that appeals to talent and encourages them to stay with you. In today’s competitive job market, you can’t afford to ignore setting yourself apart aside from the competitive compensation and benefits.
 

Client Disclosure: We recruit for SHIFT Communications and Bateman Group.

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