Staff turnover a worry?  5 steps to retain your high performers for longer

07 Apr 2017 by Sarah Leembruggen.

During a recent conversation with an agency MD, she said that her biggest challenge was staff retention at mid-level.  Losing Account Directors and Account Managers to in-house is becoming common practice.  The loss of mid-level operators has an impact on clients, the teams’ workload and it’s an utter headache to replace at those levels. 

It struck me that she isn’t the first one to say this, and as an observer of how a large number of businesses are run, I thought I could share my advice.  Here are 5 easy steps to holding on to your high performers – for longer than just a short stint with the company.

Step 1 - Mix it up with a change-over

According to our annual salary survey findings, the number one reason you lose your staff is lack of career progression, and this it at every level.  In today’s mobile work world, your employees come in with one eye looking out the door for their next big opportunity.  When they reach the point where they can’t see themselves moving up any time soon, and the intellectual stretch levels off, then you need to act.  It may feel a little unconventional, or even uncomfortable, but mixing it up is a great way to make a positive change.   Take the bold decision to move that Account Director off a few of their clients (or all of them) and give them completely new ones.  It’s like having a new job, learning new industry sectors and ways of working.  The knowledge of the client is still kept in-house for a smooth hand-over, but this bold approach will shake things up for your high performers and keep them growing and developing.  Remember your people come first, not your clients.  Happy employees mean happy clients.

Step 2 - Crystal clear clarity

A clear career path, or lack thereof, is part of the number one reason why people leave – not money, as many people think.  If your best people can’t see what their future holds in the company, then why should they stay?  A simple solution is having absolute clarity about what it takes to move up at every level.  This shouldn’t stop when you get to director level, either.  When all your staff are regularly reviewed against clear criteria (and I don’t just mean a revenue figure) and what they will need to do to progress, then you will have more engaged employees.  More engagement means better results all round.

Step 3 – Money matters

It’s a top five motivator for most people, so pay market rate or above market rate.  Simple.  Use the salary survey on our website or ask me to come in and assess your whole team.  Invest in your employees, and they will return the investment several times over.

Step 4 - Take a hard look at your company benefits 

However large or small your business, 25 days of holiday allowance is standard.  It’s easy enough to close between Christmas and New Year in addition to this – you are only a phone call away.  In my mind, it’s a good idea to survey your employees and ask them which company benefits are important to them.  Don’t assume anything - who knows if it’s a contributory pension, healthcare or a massage on a Friday that your employees want.  An anonymous survey will tell you.  Find out what is important to them and make a change.  Even if it’s just one to start with, it can make all the difference.  Major corporates have some impressive company benefits so there is no harm taking a little of the sparkle away. 

Step 5 – Light touch flexibility

From an MD’s standpoint, clients come first, so being present in the office is important to create a good team culture but you have employed grown-ups.  A really simple and well-loved benefit is having a flexible start and finishing time.  What about having an hour or half an hour flex around contractual start and finishing times every day, i.e., if you start an hour later, then you finish an hour later.  This can make an enormous difference to your employees’ lives and you will stand out in the market.  It costs you nothing apart from happier employees.  How do I know? I have done it. 

If you’re an agency CEO or MD looking to hire a rainmaker to take your business forward, or you would like some help with hiring high performers, then please feel free to call me, Sarah Leembruggen, on 0776 258 602. 

As you know, we are a specialist The Works Search is dedicated to securing a 'best in class' professional, a top 5% industry performer.  We focus on executive search for senior corporate and financial communications professionals and have a 100% delivery track record for search assignments.  We are happy to advise on team structure and are known for our expertise on salaries and market insights.

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