I had a glass of wine the other night with a friend who runs a large local agency. He talked how committed his agency was to training its young people really well by rotating them around into all the areas of their product so they would be well rounded. He lamented the fact that after a certain time many left causing a lot of turnover at the agency.
At first I was a little surprised at the rate of turnover in this economy but then again the advertising agency game has changed. There aren’t as many layers as in past and often you get senior people stretched over too many accounts and the young worker bees. Well trained ones are even more valuable today because there aren’t as many firemen around to put out the fires quick enough for today’s client.
Keeping talent in the advertising industry has always been an industry issue. Deutsch in conjunction with the 4A’s conducted a study on the issue that was reported in Fast Company. The study found that 25% of people in the business don’t love it. That sounds high but I recently heard that in the general workforce, 40% of people don’t like their job. I also know many people in transition who would be more than happy to be unhappy at a job just to have one.
Not only has the number of people in the advertising industry declined in the last decade according to the 4A’s but the average age of the industry has increasing become younger. According to an IPA study in the UK the average age of an employee in the Mad Men biz is 34 and more than two fifths are said to be thirty or younger. I think it is the same on this side of the pond.
I often blog on today’s Millennials. I have lived surrounded by them. I have a number of friends in advertising and PR who are 28 and are working at their third or fourth agency. In a thin margin game even young people can be put on the beach. Advertising has always been an industry where you get your first job at an entry level salary and then jump to another agency for a salary increase. The other option is to stay and get promoted to increase your salary. The first option is more expedient for many when they have today’s college loan debt levels. Rock on Congress.
Some people feel that young people move because they are the entitled generation and are self focused. I don’t buy into that. Maybe for a few but not the majority. I think the entitled generation went away after the world melted. A 23 year old has lived a quarter of their lives in the great recession. Many have seen a parent or both parents in transition. They know what foreclosures are. They also know plenty of friends who are unemployed or having trouble finding a job.
So how do you foster an environment in the advertising, PR or digital game that Millennials want to work and stay? Certainly training is important but they want more than that. I think like most people in a relationship they want to know where they stand. Young people like direction. In this case what is the agency’s career plan for them? Not for the next month but the next two years. That provides vision and objectives for them.
They also want guidance. In this case it translates into mentoring and mentorship. I think that everyone that joins an agency should be assigned a mentor. A mentor for somebody who is 23 in today’s advertising business can be somebody who is 27. I have always been a big believer in mentoring up and down and everyone in the Slash Generation has their own set of skills that everyone can learn from. Capturing that helps everyone grow no matter what their age.
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