1. Attrition control : Here’s how ad agencies can smarten up and fix the talent leak

Attrition control : Here’s how ad agencies can smarten up and fix the talent leak

Hiring and retaining good talent has always been the advertising industry’s biggest priority. But the issue has gotten more accentuated in the past decade. There are many more career options today for young advertising minds.

Published: November 15, 2016 6:05 AM
Most of the recruitment is done by poaching from another agency, often at 20-25% more cost, since everyone wants people with experience, who can hit the deck running. (Representative image: Reuters) Most of the recruitment is done by poaching from another agency, often at 20-25% more cost, since everyone wants people with experience, who can hit the deck running. (Representative image: Reuters)

Hiring and retaining good talent has always been the advertising industry’s biggest priority. But the issue has gotten more accentuated in the past decade. There are many more career options today for young advertising minds.

The biggest issue is, as an industry, we don’t have a mechanism or an organised process to spot talent from the grassroots and develop it. We still look to the very few postgraduate schools to get our freshers — primarily for account management and media. And we don’t have a way to tap real creative talent apart from a few commercial art colleges. Most of the recruitment is done by poaching from another agency, often at 20-25% more cost, since everyone wants people with experience, who can hit the deck running. The only ones benefitting from this are the search companies.

Hey, why are you leaving?

Retention, on the other hand, is a different ballgame. The younger generation is happy to shift jobs even when there’s no real problem. Loyalty and consistency are thought of as old school values. Few agencies invest in training. And when they do put in a training budget, it’s the first thing that gets the chop when times get tough. Sadly, many senior managers believe that giving someone a designation and a pay hike every year is enough to retain them. It actually isn’t.

Look, I’m a client now!

It’s unbelievable how many brand managers on the client’s side today come from ad agency backgrounds. Obviously, the marketing side is also facing a big talent crunch, given India’s strong economic growth. So, why not hire talent from advertising? At least, they have some ‘brand handling’ experience. For the individual, moving to the client’s side is seen as an upgrade in the power game with much higher pay scales. But sadly, very few advertising people seem to make good clients. Maybe one in 20.

Bring our mojo back

We need to make our business more desirable for youngsters to want to be a part of this mad creative profession, just like it was 20-30 years ago. Perhaps we became too officious and pompous. And we lost a lot of that madness. Second, we need to bring back the respect this industry used to command. We seem to have become marketing service providers (or ‘vendors’ as the procurement people call it). We undercut each other under the garb of being competitive. We give things for free. We aren’t united as an industry, so we are paid less. We need to get back to the top table by delivering huge business-building value to clients. By creating work that is genuinely effective and not some silly indulgent stuff that no one sees.

Invest in creating a fabulous office atmosphere where people can thrive and feel cared for. An organisation’s culture cascades down from the senior leadership. The best way to do it is to build leaders from within. Create proper succession planning and then empower them with the freedom to fly. Perhaps it’s time we actually lived up to that old saying that we are a people’s business.

The author, Subhash Kamath is CEO & managing partner, BBH India

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