Thursday, February 21, 2008

Issues facing agencies

Late last month I posed the question to the readers of the Idaho Ad Agencies blog, "What do you think is going to be the biggest issue facing agencies in Idaho this year?" The responses were varied, as I expected, and ranged from serious to sarcastic.

It's only fair that I share my thoughts on the subject.

I think the biggest issue facing agencies in Idaho (and everywhere else for that matter) this year is talent. More specifically, finding, recruiting, and retaining talent.

Let's look at Boise and the Treasure Valley, for example. While there are over 600,000 people in the Boise MSA, the marketing and advertising industry is still a relatively small community. As such, the pool of available talent is very limited. Add to it the fact that agencies from out of town, and out of state are actively recruiting talent away from the Boise area, and the issue is further magnified (I've seen recruiting happening from a variety of agencies in the past year in Bend, Portland, Seattle, and Boulder, just to name a few).

Also, as evidenced last year, a number of seasoned agency staff, particularly creative staff, strike out on their own for a variety of reasons. That's to be expected, of course, and is not something that's likely to change any time soon.

The questions then, is what is the agency management / ownership doing to compensate for this? Are they on the lookout for new talent every day, or are they only looking when they have a specific position to fill? I'd be willing to say that it's a little of both, and the answer will vary depending on which agency we're talking about.

Of course, it's easy for me to sit here and say that agencies should always be on the lookout for new talent. But along with that commitment comes the time and expenses related to it. I think, however, that those who are willing to make the commitment to finding and recruiting new talent for their shop will be in a good position for continued success.

So, now that I've rambled on for a while, I'll throw the question back out to the audience: What steps can agencies in Idaho take now to position themselves well for the current, and future, war for talent?

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Anonymous said...

• Compete to win, at the highest level, or stay home. Idaho has an inferiority complex. Get over that. Top talent gravitates to successful organizations with high aspirations. If I hear one more person apologize for being from Idaho I’ll puke. The national agencies are mother lodes of institutionalized mediocrity, and a focused niche firm can beat them on merit every time.
• Find the newcomers. Quality of life is bringing a lot of talent to Idaho. They may be the spouse of someone hired by HP. Be open.
• Invest in young people. Here’s my secret super special tip. Establish a relationship with a key professor at BSU or U of I, and tell them that you want first dibs on their VERY BEST and MOST PROMISING graduate. Hire that person, and invest time and effort into helping them grow and succeed. No one wants to invest in newbie’s because they are afraid they’ll leave. But if you earn their loyalty they will stay and it will pay off.
• Focus on excellence. Top talent gravitates towards the best. Not necessarily the best salaries, but the opportunity to be a part of the best. THAT is the attraction. But you better deliver. Talk is cheap and won’t get it done.
• It’s not about money. The only people who pay absolute top dollar for talent are the ones who have to or no one would work for them. And the employees only stay until they get a better offer. Money can only keep a good person at a firm that sucks so long, and not very long at that. Think about it.
• Offer people an opportunity, not a job. Mediocre people want a job they can clock out of at 5 every day. Top talent wants an opportunity to grow, to achieve, to succeed, and to be recognized for that success. Create an opportunity for ambitious, motivated, talented people to succeed and they will make a lot of money for you. Sounds like a fair deal to me.
• It’s about growth. You’re either growing, or dying. There’s no treading water. Talent wants to be with a successful, growing firm because that means future opportunities for them. Homeostasis is an illusion.
• Earn loyalty. If you’re a user you will never keep good talent. Take care of your people, and they will take care of you. Think of your people first, and it will be you who benefits the most.

Anonymous said...

Finding, investing and retaining a quality workforce.
I think some agencies lure/attract great workers then lose them from the dailing doling of sugarcoated BS from the owners, the same rhetoric they spew to their somewhat-clueless clients. The great worker - who is also smart and been around the block - recognizes they've heard the same speech at the weekly staff meeting and answered the same phone calls from someone asking to speak "accounts receivable" at one of their smaller stepping stone shops (re: we have no money) and gets the heck out of Dodge.

Top talent does gravitate toward the best. And in Boise that is defined by shops who have loyal long-term cliens who pay on time because they know the shop is worth it. Birds of a feather....

Anonymous said...

Clients stay with agencies who keep the same trusted team member on their account year after year. Turnover forces client to inquire "what's wrong."

Anonymous said...

People don't quit jobs, they quit managers ( )

Agency managers: don't be dicks and you'll retain good talent.

Anonymous said...

Whoops wrong link. Here is a better one. John Tesh is a douche, but his point is well made:
( )

Anonymous said...

Further support of my thesis: