When I was early in my career, I measured my work environment on the people, parties and play.  Did we have a pop a shot? Darts tournaments were a plus and of course, the beer fridge.  But now, looking back on the agencies that employed me and even my own, my measuring stick is a little different. How much access to my boss did I have? Was there someone to kick ideas around with that didn’t squelch the creative process? Did I think my boss had a vision for where I would be in a year or five years? And was she or he open to talking with me about the possibilities?

Agency owners, with a few noted exceptions, are some of the most generous, people first people I know.  They truly want to create amazing work environments where people can make a professional home for themselves.  They are proud when their team members grow and succeed. They have a very authentic affection for everyone in their shop. 

But.  (You knew there was one coming, right?) But, I think all too often, agency owners see their employees as a collective they need to satisfy. While there is some truth to that, unfortunately I think some leaders stop there.  If the team is happy, all is good.  But inside that team are individuals who are hungry for you to go deeper and focus on just them.  

When we surveyed almost 1,000 agency employees in our Agency Edge research series, the top two reasons why an employee would stay at their current agency were:

  • I am given opportunities to keep learning/growing in my skills
  • I have a career path that clearly outlines where I am going and how I will get there

I can hear you now — “they need to put some skin in the game and figure out what they want their career path to be.  No one mapped out my path.”  I’m here to tell you, they don’t know how.  They don’t know what is possible, they don’t know what it takes to climb to the next rung of the ladder and they had no idea if you want them on that rung.

Depending on the size of your agency — it may not be you but every employee needs an internal champion who is committed to their growth.  Make their growth path a joint project. Once you give them a framework and some ideas, they’ll feel free to dream about what is possible and which direction they want to invest in for their future.  Then map it out together. 

  • Where is the next stepping stone for them (title, skill set, etc.)
  • What skills, knowledge and experience gaps need to be filled for them to reach that stepping stone
  • What are their quarterly growth goals to fill all of the gaps
  • How will they accomplish that first quarterly goal (what does done/accomplished look like)

I called it a growth plan not a career plan on purpose.  If you are an agency of 11 people, odds are there’s only so many title changes that can occur.  When people think career plan, they think title and salary changes.  But every single one of your employees needs to keep growing and learning. Even if their title is never going to change.

Imagine if every one of your employees was actively working on new growth and learning every quarter.  It’s not going to happen organically, even if you think it should. Make the investment and let your agency and the individuals on your team reap the rewards.


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