Want to Get Your Talent Back? Gotta Ride That Rock-And-Roller Coaster

July 14, 2022

TwitterTweet it:'Smart agency leadership knows in no uncertain terms that finding top talent is a top priority; they also recognize how important it is to keep the talent on their team in place.'

It was a bit more than two years ago when a lot of advertising and marketing agencies, understandably, had to get lean and mean in terms of their talent roster. As big accounts pulled back (or pulled out), workflow slowed to a trickle and keeping a big bullpen of writers, designers and account managers wasn’t financially feasible. Plenty of good people felt the pain of that reality, fighting their way forward as freelancers, finding short-term gigs, and generally hustling to survive.

Roll the calendar forward to today. Economic momentum is back, opportunities abound . . . and agencies are wondering where the heck all the talent has gone.

Here’s the hard answer: They didn’t disappear. They moved on to new and better opportunities, typically landing plum in-house gigs or enjoying the flexibility of being independent contractors and consultants. This is a logical cycle, one that typically grinds along in years-long phases that are now accelerated by a shared path through this pandemic. Agency talent is typically the first wave of professionals to feel the effects of any economic downturn. Subsequently, agencies are where the need to reconstitute the ranks is most pressing when things regain positive momentum. Roller coaster? Merry-Go-Round? Tilt-a-Whirl? Pick the amusement park ride of your preference. Whatever you like, it’s clear that the whole process is on fast forward.

Smart agency leadership knows in no uncertain terms that finding top talent is a top priority; they also recognize how important it is to keep the talent on their team in place. And today’s reality goes a measure deeper because your clients really understand the stakes. Your clients know all about the tumultuous talent landscape that’s evolved over the past few years, and they are paying close attention to what shops are doing in order to keep the right people in place on their projects.


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It makes perfect if unsettling sense. Your clients want the best people to stay on their accounts. They are even going so far as to request resource plans that confirm who will be assigned to their initiatives. This is compounding pressure to keep talent in place.

Now the high-stakes challenge of this cycle is truly revealed: You need to attract and retain top talent. You need to reassure clients that said talent will stay on their projects. And you can’t pass the cost of that talent retention on to those clients because that makes taking their marketing in-house that much more appealing -- because then they can just hire away the talent you’ve so heavily invested in.

Now we’ve hit the heart of the matter for agency decision makers. What can you offer apart from competitive compensation and perhaps a more flexible environment? Top shops are getting creative answering that question:

Hybrid Work

The pandemic proved people can get the job done remotely, and hybrid schedules are giving talent the flexibility they want while giving management the structure they need.

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Corporate citizenship counts. The workforce increasingly recognizes when a company prioritizes employee well-being, cultural inclusion, and contribution to a greater good.


A welcome perk for many is more vacation and personal time. Some shops now take an entire week off in August, which is being branded as Employee Appreciation Week.

Referral Bonuses

It might be supreme irony, but ad agencies understand better than anyone that word-of-mouth is the best advertising. They are offering serious incentives to those who help bring in new talent.

Career Forecasting

Chart a path forward for employees at your agency from the start. Show them how they can move their career forward, what path it could take, and how long. It shows your intent for long-range support of their future from the beginning.

All these strategies are solid, but that doesn’t mean bolstering agency ranks will be an easy fight. Talent found a taste for the stability that going in-house can offer, even if that means giving up the more energetic pace, project variety, and freewheeling culture that are typical hallmarks of agency work and culture. The pandemic, in short, has made legions of marketing and advertising pros think they’d rather waltz than rock-and-roll. If agencies really want to get the band back together again, they need to turn the volume up on all the advantages beyond compensation that agency life can offer.

Read Next: Adapt to Attract: What Agencies Must Address in 2022 to Build Teams and Keep Talent


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