Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Turnover And Job Change Frequency Can Be Controlled

Turnover in the advertising business is legendary.  There are no statistics that I know of to show how often advertising people change jobs compared to other businesses, but from my experience and observation, job changing every two to three years may be average.  Nationally, I just read that in all jobs, people now take a new job every five years.  I have written about it many times.

The reason for this turnover in all business often has to do with money and advancement.  But another major reason is that people don’t like or resent their supervisors.
In advertising, gone are the days where employees knew for certain that they would be promoted and get salary increases on a scheduled basis.  And even at those agencies where there is a policy about the frequency of raises, it is almost inevitable that a salary freeze will be put in place that blocks an expected salary increase.  In advertising, the way that many people fight back, is to accept a new job and hope for a counter-offer; but as I have written, counter-offers almost inevitably result in the termination of that employee as soon as the agency can replace them.

However, all companies, especially ad agencies could control and lower turnover with just a few inexpensive changes.  

Raises must be given to employees on a regular and scheduled basis.  This is especially true of juniors – imagine living in New York City, Chicago or L.A. on $45,000 a year.  Putting in a wage freeze just as someone is due for more money is a sure way of driving them away.  I have met many senior people, who have worked at the same agency for a long time, and have not gotten a raise in three to five years; that is just unacceptable.  Given the rate of inflation, that means that people who have not gotten a raise in so many years are actually making less than they did before their last increase.  This, too, is unacceptable.

Promotions and rotations should be scheduled regularly.  This was one of the things I liked most about advertising when I was an account manager.  I loved working on new accounts and learning new industries. And I knew that I would be rotated after a couple of years – just when I needed a change.  Many agencies used to have policies about rotations.  They were built into the agency’s new business pitch and staffing proposals so that clients knew about and accepted these changes as part of hiring the agency.  For instance, until about the late 1990s, many agencies, prided themselves on their rotation policy at all levels.  Rotations just don’t happen much anymore.  This attractive feature of employment went away for two reasons; first, it was time consuming to administer and required human resources to make these complicated changes. And, second, the client fee system put clients in charge of who worked on their business and if the client liked, even a very junior person, that was the end of the rotation, despite that the client often rotated the people on the brand.

Promotions once could be expected on a regular basis.  Today, not so much.

Finally, there is no management training or counseling for poor supervisors (who may be very talented at their jobs otherwise). Occasionally, I have heard stories about how some companies have sent managers to therapists to learn how to manage the people who work for them, but this is rare.  In advertising, even when it is offered, managers claim that they are too busy to go and, unfortunately, management does not insist that they do so.  As long as their clients like them, they are immune to disciplinary action in terms of their management skills.

Turnover can be very expensive for a company.  While the financial people frequently only look at the out of pocket cost of replacement, lost productivity and lost knowledge are a huge unmeasured cost. If Human Resources were allowed to truly manage employees, I am sure that turnover could be lowered significantly. 


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