Agencies can no longer expect to hold onto fantastic writers, designers, or account managers for the next 20 years. In fact, they’re lucky if they can get three years. After surveying almost 1,000 marketing and advertising agencies, I learned that just about every agency is facing similar turnover problems. Agencies are struggling to find and keep good employees, especially because workers are being poached by clients, other agencies, and even corporations. 

As a result, agencies are worried about taking on new business opportunities that would require recruiting more talent. To resolve the problem, they’re adding more significant benefits (and more money) to their new employee packages. It won’t be long, however, before there’s another economic shift. Throwing more money into the mix may not be an option: Likely, agencies will have to ratchet it down as soon as next year, especially when clients are asking for prices to remain the same or sometimes even shrink. 

So how can you become a stickier employer without emptying your wallet? 

Beef up your company culture. You must know how to celebrate your agency’s unique core values. What’s the ultimate vision for your agency? Consider the intangible reasons someone chooses agency life over corporate life (and why someone would choose your agency over another). You work there, too, so don’t forget to make the agency unique in ways that matter to you.

As you determine what makes the business unique, emphasize it. Money alone won’t win the day. Create a work environment where someone chooses to stay for fit instead of funds. For example, do you offer flexibility that allows an employee to attend her child’s midday soccer game or opportunities to take longer vacations? 

Invest in what matters to employees. According to the “2018 Workforce Learning Report,” 94% of employees said they would stick around if employers invested in their futures. In other words, give employees the opportunity to continue growing and learning. 

Make one of your greatest differentiators offering educational opportunities — whether that means helping employees take a new online certification course, providing lunch-and-learn events, or paying for their entrance to educational conferences. Another way to spur professional growth is through hiring support staff such as traffic managers or project managers. This way, employees can concentrate on their roles rather than administrative work. 

Allow at least one remote day per week. Just a decade ago, many agencies couldn’t see themselves offering telecommute opportunities. Fostering a collaborative environment seemed impossible if employees were located in different places. Times have changed. 

Today’s agencies are increasingly flexible. This is due in part to a rise in contract labor but it’s also because agencies don’t want to lose great talent as people move to new cities. Remote work keeps those employees around, whether they’re working from a Denver coffeehouse or a London flat. 

Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, employees are actually more productive when they work remote. If you’re not ready to have a fully remote team, try providing at least one work-from-home day per week to see how productivity fares. If you’re not going down that path, at least one of your competitors is. 

Agencies are struggling to find and retain great talent. To reverse this, they’re working tirelessly to be the most attractive peacock atop a nest made of money — but they can’t compete on price forever. While wages and benefits are undoubtedly important, you need a retention strategy that goes beyond money.

What can you do to make your space special?

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