One of the most frustrating things for agency owners is finding and keeping good employees. Before the pandemic, many agencies were having an amazing 12-18 months in terms of business development but those same agencies were actually choosing to tamp down their new business efforts because they were worried that they wouldn’t be able to staff for it.

That’s a crazy position to be in. When a right fit client knocks on the door, you don’t want to say “thanks, but no thanks” because you’re afraid you can’t convince someone to work for you.

I think it starts with having a very candid conversation with yourself. Given all the options out there, would you want to work for you? Many agencies (and corporate communications departments) are paying attention to what today’s employees value, especially given the pandemic, and modifying the work world.

Here’s what you are competing against:

  • Flexible work hours (everyone needs to be in from 9-4 but you can start earlier or stay later, based on your life’s needs)
  • Permanent work from home options
  • Unlimited PTO
  • An AGI (or another metric) based bonus program
  • Educational opportunities
  • Student loan reimbursement
  • 401K match
  • A suite of insurances (health, dental, disability, life, etc.) and the agency provides at least partial payment
  • Paid time off to serve the community or agency led community projects
  • Bring your dog to work privileges
  • A stocked snack room, with both healthy and not so healthy options

Knowing that you can get some or all of that at the agency down the street (or from one of your clients) would you work for you?

If you’re an old-school agency owner, I know you might be growling at that list. And if you started in the business when I did — you’re probably thinking back to your early days and shaking your head. We were elated when we got to work less than 60 hours a week.

When I went to college, my in-state tuition was less than $2,000 a year. When my daughter started college in 2011, her in-state tuition was more than five times that amount. I recognized that times had changed and wrote the check.

That makes sense to all of us. But for some reason, we struggle with accepting the new norm as an employer. We can dig our heels in and stay the course or we can accept that what was our normal isn’t the norm anymore.

The single most important element of your business is the people who do the work. Whether you are a solopreneur and do it all yourself, you’ve built a team of people who show up at the office every day or you’ve got virtual employees from all over the globe — your people are what get you across the finish line.

What is your people strategy? If your current one isn’t working — you may need to re-think.

This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.