Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Five Ways For Companies To Keep Employees And Lower Turnover

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a very popular post entitled, “Five Reasons Why You May Leave Your Job.”  This post is the opposite. Turnover is way too high at ad agencies.  They should do everything possible to cut back unnecessary employee loss.  In the long run this saves money.

1 - Never fail to give raises when due
Every employee knows that if they are valued, all they need do is get another job offer and they will get their raise, no matter what.  

One thing is for sure, employees do not understand the ebb and flow of business. The problem is that wage freezes have become so usual that management takes them for granted.,  When there is a legitimate reason for a wage freeze, employees need to hear it from the people running the company, not from finance or HR. Preferably, management will have a staff meeting and do it in person and not by email. In person meetings show care and commitment.  If there is a legitimate wage freeze, then when the freeze is lifted, salary increase should be given retroactively to when it was due. This will increase morale substantially and generates employee loyalty. 
Giving raises only once or twice a year is an inexcusable policy.  This is done only for the convenience of administrators. While it may simplify procedures for a few, it is demoralizing to the many.

New supervisors refusing to approve raises is also inexcusable.  That is why companies have performance reviews and that is what human resources is for.  Companies and managers that don’t allow raises are considered callous. 

2 - Communication Is Essential
While management has many priorities, especially in a crisis (as when an account is lost or when a key employee leaves or when a significant client undergoes a change in management, etc.), failure to communicate with employees causes extreme anxiety.  Staff emails or a staff meetings can go a long way towards keeping employees involved and motivated.

3 - Allowing Difficult Managers to Continue Unfettered is Poor Management
Over the years, there are many jobs which I have filled multiple times due to difficult managers.  The fees paid to recruiters and the high cost of retraining new employees is not justified. If a difficult manager is essential, then companies should get that person counseling. 

I can think of one manager, a notorious screamer who got help and became a model boss.  I can think of another well known, award winning creative director who was sued, along with his agency, multiple times because he had a habit of improperly touching and making advances on female subordinates.  When he was finally terminated, the agency lost no business.

4 - Re institute a Policy of Rotations
A huge percentage of the people who go to a recruiter do so because they are bored. Once upon a time, most agencies had a system of rotations.  Those changes were policy. Clients knew it would happen and expected it. Keeping employees motivated and challenged is critical.

While managing rotations is time consuming and costly, it is less expensive than the cost of replacing bored employees.

Training goes hand in hand with rotation. Training should happen at every level.  It needn’t be expensive or complicated.  And training shows commitment to employees.  Once, an HR professional confessed to me that 75% of the people in the training program left anyway.  I told her that it was thee 25% who remained that the program was for. She was also was honest enough to say that the agency did not give out raises or promotions easily.  No wonder so many people left.

All of these five elements are interconnected and each goes with the other.  If ad agencies are looking to improve margins, these suggestions should help lower overhead.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why Account People Should Carry A Portfolio and Reel

I have been in the business long enough to remember many of the great “creative” agencies.  The list of them was long and, sadly, most have disappeared or been merged out of existence.  What characterized these agencies was an absolute belief in the ability of their work to cut through clutter and sell their clients’ products.  The people at the bigger agencies liked to call these agencies, “creative boutiques”, which was slightly pejorative, meaning that they were not strategic, especially since many of them were actually fairly large.  However, the truth was quite the opposite; these agencies were actually quite disciplined and hired really strong account people.

What set the creative agencies apart was that everyone who worked at them felt to be a part of the creation of the work.  The really good account people were considered to be an extension of the creative department. Not only did the account executives (in the broadest sense) develop the strategy, they were often able to make significant additions and contributions to the executions.

As a result, if you were an account person, the work was almost as much a product of the account group as it was the creative team.  It was evidenced by the fact that a significant percentage of the account people from these agencies carried portfolios of their work.  As a recruiter, I took great delight in looking at the reels and “books” which the account people brought for me to see.

Today, few account people carry a record of their work. I miss this enthusiasm and dedication.

Account people should carry reels and portfolios of their own. It would show their pride and commitment.  The fact that they don’t keep a record of what they have been doing is a manifestation of the way that most agencies operate vis-à-vis account people.  

One of the observations that I have made is that the most successful account people – the ones who rise to the top – have an innate enthusiasm for the business and the work.

It isn’t necessary for an account person to take a recruiter or a job interviewer through their portfolio page by page (nothing worse, actually), but the fact that they have one and link to it on their résumé says volumes about the account person and how they feel about the business and how they see their role.  

I would like to see more of it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Adventures In Recruiting: 7 Absurd Reasons Why People Have Turned Down Jobs

When working with me, candidates can be reasonably sure that I match them with jobs that they want.  And clients generally understand why I send the candidates I do.  But occasionally, even I get turn-downs.  Often it is because a candidate has not been honest with me or with my clients.  

I thought I would write about some of the funny reasons why candidates have turned down jobs.  Not all were my candidates or jobs; some have been shared with me by clients.  They are all amusing, but may not have been at the time they happened.

                                1)  I asked them to open an office in Los Angeles because that is where I want to work
This was said by a fairly junior account supervisor after being offered the job.  It completely blind-sided both them and me since it had never been mentioned.

2                 2)    I was once engaged to the head of account management.
I suppose this is a legitimate reason not to work somewhere.  The thing that made it absurd was that she knew it from the day I told her about the job.  She even went and interviewed with him, but turned down the job once she realized she would be working for him. What was she thinking?  She was an account manager and had to have known she would be working for him from day one.

3                3)    I never really wanted to work on this account
The candidate turned down the job after being offered the same job he had always interviewed on. His comment to the HR director was, “I would love to work here, but not on this account.  What else is open?”

4                 4)    I must have my own office
Said by a very senior account manager at Chiat/Day in Los Angeles in the early days of open space by a very senior executive to Jay Chiat who did not have a private office. (Now, frankly, I completely understand since at the time, few other agencies had open plan space, but the candidate knew it from day one; and Jay Chiat had told him how proud he was of the space.)

5                5)    By The way, I won’t work on Procter.
            This was said when a new executive creative director, who was to run the agency's entire 
            creative department, was told that on his second day he was to fly to Cincinnati to meet the 
            client.  P&G was the agency's largest and most important account. He didn't last long.

6                6)    I don’t have a driver’s license
Said by a candidate who was interviewing at a suburban agency with nearby clients.  The agency was not located near a train or bus.  Each time the candidate interviewed, she walked the mile and a half to and from the station. It came up because, after the job was offered, they told the candidate that there was an important meeting at the client the day she was to start and asked her to rent a car and meet them there (she lived in the City).  It was then that she said she did not drive or have a license.

7               7)    I don’t want any client I have to visit two or three times a week
After giving her offer a weekend of thought this is what the candidate told me.  So glad she did not accept the job.  Imagine an account person who does not want to know her clients.

The amazing thing about all these stories is that the candidates had to know of these issues from the moment they heard about the job.  What could they have been thinking?

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