What is Your Ad Agency’s Talent Risk?

McKinsey & Co. managers spend thirty days per year training and evaluating their people. In contrast, agency managers spend two. Given that consulting companies like McKinsey are encroaching on turf that has historically been the purview of ad agencies, what does that say about the future…?

We use the excuse that we don’t have time.

The reality is, we aren’t taking our own advice – the advice we give to clients every day, said Andrew Benett, Global CEO of Arnold Worldwide at the recent 4As Transformation conference. He conducted a survey of 3,000 people at all levels in all types of agencies. This is what he found:

  • 30% of employees said they’ll be gone in 12 months
  • 70% will call a recruiter back
  • 96% are confident that they could easily get a new job

“We accept that an employee will be with us for just a few years.” 

  • 30% think they’ll be with your agency for < 1 year
  • 37% think for between 1-5 years
  • 35% for > 5 years

Other alarming statistics:

  • 70% believe they need to take care of their own careers
  • 60% would leave for better compensation
  • 43% answered that “employees” are most important in their agency.
  • 50% feel there is no career path

This latter point is critical. Employees want the ability to learn, and the ability to be creative. If your agency can’t give them this, they will move on.

It’s not a factory, it’s a garden. Adjust your paradigm.

Less than 10% of new employees come from referrals. In other industries, it’s 50-60%. Bottom line, says Benett, the ad industry is not promoting itself. For example, “We are no-shows on college campuses.”

Five steps to get the ad industry moving on talent:

1. Go back to school.

  • Commit senior management time to train
  • Partner with universities; go beyond career services

2. Promote cross-training

  • Share training sessions
  • Encourage reverse mentoring
  • Offer employee exchanges

3. Introduce new incentives

  • Offer paid sabbaticals; education reimbursement; relocation
  • Offer support to families

4. Fix performance management

  • Just do it.

5. Engage employees in the conversation

  • Solicit ideas; listen
  • In the decision-making process


What do you think? Will these ideas work?








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *