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Retaining Talent

06/10/2014

Retaining marketing talent is not just about pay, but about keeping people motivated and supplied with fresh challenges.

No senior managers will have failed to notice the growth of both the economy and the expansion of the workforce in the last year or more, but in the upper echelons of companies, the biggest issue is often the battle to retain talent.

As companies jostle for position in a period of economic recovery, some will see a significant route to success in the poaching of highly skilled staff from their rivals, both to their benefit and the detriment of those they compete with. This is as true in marketing as elsewhere.

This aim is one employers may find very achievable, as staff themselves are increasingly likely to jump ship. The 2014 EMR Salary Survey found 44 per cent of respondents plan to move jobs within the next 12 months. 

Many explanations might be offered for this trend; it could be demand is pent-up after an economic downturn in which even fairly senior staff have been playing safe and staying in jobs they regard as reasonably secure until better times emerged. Others might not have seen their pay rise much and feel they can get more elsewhere, while there will be a range of other reasons to do with individual circumstances. All this poses a big challenge for businesses trying to hold onto their best talent.

The EMR survey provided interesting insight into this situation, with a key finding being that pay is not the biggest issue for the majority of those planning to switch employers. For 42 per cent, the need for a new challenge is the primary motivation, whereas the desire for better pay was second on 33 per cent. A further 16 per cent cited work-life balance as an issue prompting them to seek a change.

For these reasons, marketing departments fearing they could lose staff may gain some benefit from offering significant pay rises, but they might gain even more by taking other steps. The work-life balance element may be contingent on a number of factors for which the solutions might not be easily found; an example would be a job that involves a large amount of travel, which may be an issue for anyone with a young family. However, measures like home-working or flexible hours may offer at least part of the solution.

That leaves the issue of new challenges and the question of whether a company can take some steps to provide these in-house. For many staff members considering their futures, the question they will have asked themselves is whether their own employer can provide that new challenge - which will have been answered in the negative.

Some creative thinking is needed by those at the top of marketing departments to prevent a high attrition rate. For example, could more training in new marketing skills make a difference? Would an increased focus on developing the experience of staff in digital marketing help? Would sideways moves within a department give people a fresh focus? In many cases, the answer to these questions could be yes - and then they will stay.

To conclude, it is evident that the potential scale of departures by marketers is large, while money is not the biggest motivation for this in two-thirds of cases. It requires heads of departments to think long and hard - and perhaps poll their staff - about what steps they should take to ensure that they can keep skilled employees motivated and interested.

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