Top 5 Ways PR Agencies Can Keep Talented Employees

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PR agencies need to invest in talented pros

Since the beginning of my career both in PR and on the media side, I’ve witnessed firsthand a number of talented professionals leave their job for a ‘better opportunity,’ which almost always translates to more money. And lately, I’ve heard this happening a lot more frequently from friends and colleagues across all industries as the economy slowly improves. The result is a terrible feeling for both the team and the client(s), who I’d argue care as much about keeping a strong team intact as they do getting media opportunities.

I completely understand that sometimes you can’t give everyone what they ask for. I also know that people move on and the agency/company will not go into a tailspin with the loss of a few employees. However, it’d be comforting if more often we saw companies do what it takes to keep those skilled, exceptional workers so as not  to see them look around, much less take offers elsewhere.

So since everyone loves lists so much, I came up with five suggestions for agencies/companies regarding how to improve retention rates and keep as happy a workforce as possible. After all, a happy workforce can mean happy clients (well, we hope!).

1) Inve$t in Talented Employees. I realize that in this economy we should all be thankful for a job, let alone receive a raise. However, rewarding those employees who go above and beyond with generous raises, especially in this job climate, would go a long way in having them ignore the calls from recruiters. Again, reward those that deserve a hefty raise, not staff members that only bicker and moan for one.

2) Work/Life Balance. If the agency cannot afford to give substanial raises then there should be other ways to incentivize workers. Maybe it’s the option to work from home once a week? More vacation days? The possibilities are endless. Here’s a few of them in an article I read in Inc. back in April.

3) Eliminate The 1-Year Review. Make Reviews Occur Frequently. People get bored at their jobs. Whether it’s from being in the same position for several years or just not feeling challenged anymore. By having, lets say, quarterly reviews then it would be possible for staff to be more transparent with senior management about their job, what they like/don’t like, where they’d like to be going, etc. This would also remove some of the guessing game that junior and senior staff play in regards to who is unhappy and who might leave soon.

4) Launch Agency-Wide Promotions & Contests. How many times have you recommended to a client that they provide free giveaways to their target audience to create buzz and excitement? A ton, I’m sure. So why can’t agencies do the same thing? They could award money vouchers to the person(s) that gets the most media opportunities in one month, or give an extra personal day to someone that helped win new business for the firm.

5) Show Signs Of Appreciation. Often. No matter how many times we say otherwise, we all like to get a pat on the back. I don’t know about all of you, but I love getting e-mails from my boss(es) or having one of them walk by my office telling me how proud they are of something I accomplished. Even if it’s just a note saying they appreciate all of the hard work a team is doing during a tough time. The more these types of things happen, the more I think staff will respect and support management.

What do you all think of these suggestions? Anything you’d change or add to the list? Am I completely off-base? Let me hear your thoughts!

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21 comments on “Top 5 Ways PR Agencies Can Keep Talented Employees

  1. Thanks for writing about this important topic – these are all great suggestions. As an HR pro, my experience is that companies start to think about this stuff when it’s too late (when the economy has already started to improve and they are dealing with a mass exodus). If you don’t engage and reward your employees, another firm will, and there is a lot of talent out there right now that’s ripe for picking because they are not feeling the love from their current employer. It is well past the time for companies to wake up and smell the job market coffee – things ARE picking up and talented folks are getting calls from recruiters.

  2. As you know I am a firm believer in retainage! Its very important in invest in talented employees witha generous increase in salary, or perhaps a modest increase with some added perks, such as a work from home policy or comp time. I love the idea of 360 quarterly reviews to help employees, which is something that I believe all agencies should follow. It not only helps the employee, but the manager really keep track of growth in each employee. I am a huge fan of the reward factor – previously I worked for an agency who gave out awards for best hit secured, jr. star of the month, etc. It really brought out the best in everyone who appreciated the recognition and strived to compete for the next round of awards. Your suggestions are not off-base at all – its what makes a good manager 🙂 I think its extremely important to retain your talent and help them grow, ultimately providing a positive work environment!

  3. am I allowed to send this to my boss? My company doesn’t believe in raises or promotions. Every single person in my department is unhappy and looking for a new job!

  4. I can’t agree more. As a younger PR practitioner at a non-profit, my employers cannot afford to pay me the salary that I’d like.

    However, I have more vacation days than others my age, and my boss is always quick to appreciate the work I do. My schedule is flexible. My great relationship with senior management allows me to have open dialogue with my bosses, and they give me the respect of a peer.

    These factors (as well as a surfeit of great experience) give me job satisfaction that far surpasses a pay raise.

    • Similar to what I wrote below to Philip, I’ve never experienced a flexible schedule but have friends that have the option of working from home once a week. That must be awesome. Glad to hear your employer is helping you out as best they can!

  5. Thanks for the post. I especially like #3. Frequent reviews make for infrequent turnover. I firmly believe in the adage that where performance is measured, performance (and retention) improves. Thanks for the list!

    • I’ve never experienced a 360 review, so that could be a good alternative as well. However, I think having them more frequently would really do wonders for everyone involved.

      Thanks for the comments, Philip!

  6. I’m lucky to be working at a firm that practices these tips, but have had the experience of working at a company that just – doesn’t get it. It’s amazing how many employees are unhappy because their management doesn’t practice these motivational and encouraging tips. Companies, if you know what’s good for you – this is a great post, listen up!

  7. Great post. And while I think that all are important, I would offer that #3 and #5 would be my most important. From a personal perspective, money is great and all (I certainly won’t turn it down), but I find that enjoying my work and knowing that I am providing value is a bit more important. If you never hear from leadership, get guidance or job-performance input, how do you improve that performance or strengthen your value to the company? Just some rambling two cents …

    • I think everyone is different, and different things motivate different people. Whether right or wrong, I think money continues to be the biggest motivation, but the other benefits cannot be ignored.

      Thanks, John

  8. Your thinking on this is right on target– at least from my perspective as an agency owner.

    We’ve opted to freeze salaries until we completely get over the economic hump. But we offer some benefits that I believe keep our team engaged in and happy about their work:

    Our #ThinkingFit program includes three time weekly group fitness workouts, a company bike for errands and impromptu “need to clear my head” rides around the neighborhood and participation in a Community Supported Agriculture program. We blog about it and recently won an award for our efforts, which made our entire team feel proud.

    We allow our team to create their own schedules (our office is open 10 hours a day but everyone picks the eight hours they work) and we close at 3pm on Fridays. Instead of sick and vacation days, everyone has a specific number of personal days that can be used for whatever reason they’d like.

    One way we invest in our team is by providing a monetary stipend for professional development. Recently we signed on as a sponsor of a conference that many on our team wanted to attend. We helped promote the conference in exchange for complimentary registration for our team. A value added was a strong feeling of togetherness, which goes a long way in building a team environment.

    Cutbacks mean people have to assume more responsibility. When this is framed as “you’re capable” and “this gives you the opportunity to try something new” as opposed to “here’s more work I am piling on to your already full plate,” then your team members will understand that the extra responsibility means they are trusted, valued, and growing in their career. It’s a real vote of confidence.

    Small ways we say thank you include occasionally buying lunch and sharing coupons for free Chipotle burritos and deeply discounted car washes. The little things can go a long way.

    I suppose what my comments boil down to is the value of team building. When your team assumes an ownership mentality over the business and over their work, they are invested and less likely to jump ship for a few more pennies in their pockets.

    • Love hearing from the head of an agency! Sounds like you’ve created some great work/life balance programs. Hope you continue to use them when the economy gets better.

  9. Thanks for this post, Andrew. I agree it’s very timely now that the economic downturn (fingers crossed) is turning around and employees are receiving more offers from the outside. I especially agree with #s 1 and 2 and I like your idea about more quarterly reviews. From my experience, especially in an economic downturn, junior and senior staff are less likely to squabble with their employers about lack of opportunity, $, etc., for fear of being ungrateful (“At least we all have jobs!” is a common office utterance) and when a better offer comes along it seems like an “easy” out. #5 is a tricky one for me, because although kudos from a manager is important for an employee’s growth and sense of self, it doesn’t replace #s 1-4, and I think sometimes employers forget that. Do you agree? Thanks again!

    • I think all of the suggestions I posted are important, though I do agree that maybe no. 5 is something that should happen naturally and we shouldn’t have to ask senior management for these types of reinforcements

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