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How to retain your marketing staff

How to retain your marketing staff

By Gareth Chick, Director, Spring Partnerships

One of the major challenges for any marketing company in 2008 will be how to retain good staff. The CIPD’s Recruitment, retention and turnover survey 2007 stated that the overall employee turnover rate for the UK is 18.1%.

Whereas in some industries, it is easy to find and train new employees at relatively little cost, in marketing where a certain level of skills and experience is required, the recruitment process can be lengthy and costly and cause major problems for managers.

So where are companies going wrong in terms of employee engagement and motivation?

Many companies are tripping up in the recruitment phase. Deciding who to employ is one of the most important decisions a company can make and it is vital they get it right. If companies want employees that stay with them for years, they should employee people that aspire to working for their brand.

If your company promotes luxury goods, it is more likely to thrive if its employees care about the products and are proud of their association with the brand.  There is no point in Apple employing technophobes or people with no interest in innovative design.

The Interview

During interviews, companies should assess the candidate’s enthusiasm for their company. The question ‘why do you want to work for us?’ is really important. If a company wants to attract the very best candidates, everything about its recruitment processes needs to reflect its brand image and reputation.

Every part of the interview process should tell the candidate to expect the very highest standard and the interview should leave inspire then, even if they don’t win the job.

Candidates should also be put through their paces enabling the interviewer to distinguish their attitude, ambition, skill sets and values. The process should tease out hidden potential – enabling employers to spot the extraordinary where no one has seen it before and before the candidate is aware themselves.

The Induction

The induction is the next milestone. It needs to be thorough, consistent and exceed the employee’s expectations. It should enable managers to start to understand what motivates the employee and what future development and training would help them.

The induction should introduce the company’s culture and philosophy firmly – whilst it is not a cult, it should be made clear that the culture is non negotiable. This is also the time for the employer to talk through any concerns that may have arisen during the recruitment process. This should alleviate potentially ‘difficult’ conversations over attitude or behaviour in the future.

The recruitment and induction processes are the employee’s first impressions and they should affirm that they have made the right decision; this goes a long way towards future retention. Conversely, a poor induction when the employee is at his or her most vulnerable can make them doubt their decision and question their long-term commitment.

Training and development

Training and development is an essential part of the employee retention equation and in some marketing companies it is overlooked. However, training delivery must be in the hands of people who are completely committed to the company brand.  It is also really important that training is tailored to the needs of the individual and that it addresses the skills or knowledge gap that they have at a given time.

Rewards and recognition helps to retain talent, but again, rewards needs to be individually tailored. A dream reward could be a weekend away for a young account manager, but this ‘treat’ could become a logistical nightmare for a married person juggling small children and child care.

Recognition should continually change if it is to be fresh and meaningful for employees and it should not be generic, but instead address directly the work that has been undertaken and the goals achieved.


Appraisals are another important tool in the staff retention mix; but so many companies get them wrong because they are universally seen as a management chore. Often line managers, without any HR skills, end up giving appraisals and the whole process is seen as an added pressure they could do without. Employees quickly pick up on this ambivalence and they soon lose respect for the system.

Appraisals should be motivational experience, carried out by a skilled professional, with the line manager present and contributing. The majority of the time should be spent on the employee’s achievements and where they have performed well. Too often, more time is focused on the negatives; on what needs to change or improve or what hasn’t worked so well.

If this is the case, there is a real danger that the employee will take only take on board negative information, immediately forgetting any positive aspects of the discussion. They may become demotivated and begin to consider alternative employment options.

Flexibility is key

Another key to retention is by adapting processes to suit the different lifestyle changes of an employee – for example, being flexible when employees become parents by perhaps extending flexible working rights or by giving staff time off for hospital visits. If a company is flexible when it matters most to an employee they will be more than likely be rewarded with their commitment and loyalty.

There is no excuse for companies losing good people from their failure to look after them; by not providing the right opportunities or creating the right environment in which they can flourish.

The cost of attrition is immense – in terms of the quantifiable costs of recruitment, paying for notice period and in retraining new staff. The largest cost of all is the performance decline when new recruits are getting up to speed and often, in the irreplaceable knowledge that has left the organisation.

One thing to remember is that people have a real desire to do work that is valued and really contributes to a special cause; they want to work in an environment that lifts their spirits; they want to be proud of themselves and have a boss they admire and emulate. This is the real secret of employee retention.

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