Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Five Easy Ways For Every Company To Keep Its Best Employees and Lower Turnover

These are  simple and inexpensive ways to help improve employee retention.  When employees stay, profitability increases.

1     1)    Communication is the key
Every employee must feel important.  Management must communicate; in person is better, but emails are important.  These communications must come on a timely basis and from the CEO, but especially if there is a crisis or some other event which might start rumors.  Pre-formatted company newsletters are no substitute for a single subject email.  When there is an issue, it must be addressed specifically and immediately.

In ad agencies, when the trade press reports and account in review, particularly a large one, management must immediately deal with the issue.  Best to have a meeting and say that there is no plan but that you will get back to employees as soon as one is in place.  Then follow-up is critical and necessary.  Employees feel better when they are spoken to.

Communication doesn’t have to be from an issue or problem.  At an ad agency, showing the new work on a monthly basis builds pride and excitement.

2     2)    Give raises and promotions when they are due
Every employee, no matter their level of seniority, looks forward to their salary increases.  They should never be put off.  Every employee knows that wage freezes are merely an excuse.  They also know that they are meaningless.  As someone once told me, “All any valued employee has to do is threaten to interview and their pay increase will miraculously appear.” 

Most people don’t leave companies solely over raises, but they will leave over an overdue promotion.  Failure to get a new account is not an excuse.

Spot bonuses are a great management tool to let valuable employees know that they are valued. If raises cannot be given, a small spot bonus will keep employees motivated and loyal.

Unfortunately, ad agencies which have not gotten new business in a while, use that failure as an excuse not to give raises or promotions. Every employee understands the issue, but when it happens multiple times during a short period of time (one year or eighteen months), forgiveness turns to anger.  There is no reason that rotations or new assignments cannot be given; it requires more work on the part of HR and management, but it will keep good employees motivated and loyal.

3     3)    Making employees feel valued is essential
Make sure that valued employees know that they are valued.  Telling someone they are important, doing a good job and have a bright future mean a lot.  Asking a junior into a very senior meeting makes those people feel like they are on top of the world.

A dinner with a spouse or a short weekend away does wonders for morale. 

Feeling important and wanted can lower turnover at very little cost.

4     4)    Giving an employee extra responsibilities goes a long way
As a young account supervisor I was asked on to the agency’s new business committee.  I met with the chairman, CEO, creative director and many others.  Imagine how valued I felt.  Think about this or similar perks for valued employees.  Showing recognition by giving added responsibilities is a sure way to keep valued employees

5     5)    Recognition Is essential
When someone does something important, the whole agency should be told.  Creating pride goes a long way towards building loyalty. Giving recognition for a good job goes a long way – it is why some companies have awards – but giving an occasional award does not go far enough.  I remember once being secretly chosen to go to the agency’s condo in St. Croix for a week.  I felt like a king and it cost the agency cost nothing. I had to pay airfare for my family. 

Establishing special training really helps.  Sending employees for career counseling, presentation skills and other non-traditional training is inexpensive and smart.  I know one agency that sends its mid-level and senior employees for investment training and seminars.  How smart is that?

Believe it or not, all agencies used to announce new hires to the entire company; there was generally a memo and a accompanied by a photo.  Somehow this important recognition has been forgotten.  How nice it used to be to walk down the hall during the first week and have someone recognize and welcome you.


  1. Top level management changes usually impacts these efforts as well. There needs to be consistency that creates and maintains the culture of the organization. Adding new approaches to employee “feel good” methods is also key as it keeps the culture fresh. HR and management should have continual dialogue and sharing of ideas as a critical goal towards keeping happy people!

    1. Anon: Couldn't agree more. At the old O&M things like rotations, promotions and other recognition was an integral part of their culture, even changes in management did not effect these programs which were ingrained with who they were. They were part of what made them desirable and great. It wasn't until WPP bought them that these programs started to go away. It should be a lesson for the entire business.

  2. Thanks for bringing up the rotation thing. I've lost count of the number of colleagues from all agency departments over the years who eventually jumped ship because senior management ignored the need to rotate personnel. No permutation of promotions and raises could entice them to stay on board.

    In fact, I was almost saddened by your blog entry several weeks ago about an account person who had somehow ascended from entry-level to senior account director in five years at the same shop by working on the same piece of business.

    1. Everyone needs new experiences. Agencies are better at rotating junior creatives. For some reason, account people don't get moved as easily.

  3. Paul. A blinding glimpse of the obvious but unfortunately, it's not obvious to some companies that shall remain nameless. But your tips are a good reminder of what companies should be doing.


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