How agencies can win the talent war

Now, more than ever, it’s time to change the way agencies engage with talent, demonstrate business values and make employees feel heard.

 People in the agency world are highly sought after and not surprisingly. They are experts in their field, they are clients’ leaders, they are business development wizards and they are entrepreneurs. Who wouldn’t want to hire them? Back in 2018 it became apparent that talent was leaving agencies and migrating into brands, consultancies and tech and as time has passed agency networks have seen their best people moving to the likes of Facebook/Meta, Google, Accenture and such like.

Then the agency world was shaken by the post effects of COVID and the industry faced the Great Resignation, where it’s estimated that in the US alone, 47 million people quit their job in 2021 leaving their former employers struggling to replace them. Sadly, the agency world has been one of those industries to suffer that loss.

However, with challenges come opportunities: the market is moving on and it has never been as dynamic across the creative and marketing industries as it is in 2022. Agencies’ phones are ringing again and with the economy bouncing back, employers are witnessing the worst staff shortages since the 1990s. By the end of March 2022, the US had 11.55 million jobs to fill and not enough workers to do so according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.

The pandemic opened people’s minds to what might be possible, both for employers and employees alike. There is now every chance to take advantage of this moment in time, but it requires a new culture, a move to a mindset of servant leadership where we must treat talent as an asset. For too long talent has felt like a commodity and to win in today’s market that must change.

To be successful, agency leaders must move away from the transactional employee relationships of the past and build strong emotional bonds with their teams. We are encouraging our agency clients to spend time with their teams, make time for them and build relationships that make them feel you as a leader are right alongside them on this journey, both for now and for the future. They need to feel that there is a real vested interest and that they can become the next generation of leadership of your company, rather than a cog in the wheel to achieve this year’s numbers.

There has been much talk about the importance of new ways of working but amidst all the noise there has been very little doing. Successful agency leaders have the opportunity to work with the demands of this generation of talent and make a virtue of doing so both internally and externally. Leaders of agencies need to create a way of working that enables people to live the life they have chosen and as a result avoid losing their most important assets. Right now, there is a great opportunity to move fast and be known as the people first agency.

People need to know they are well heard. Leaders need to demonstrate their agency’s values and their commitment to a culture that allows people to thrive and do their best work.

There is something special about agency talent: their agility and ability to work with clients and other stakeholders makes them best placed to run any kind of business, but agencies must give them the right opportunities.

The best agency leaders will be there for their talent, have an open door for anyone to walk through and give them a presence in important meetings internally and externally. These leaders will make them dream and believe in all they can achieve within the agency world. Talent needs to be trusted and empowered.

To win in the talent war, it’s time to change the way agencies talk to people and engage with them. The employers that will win will be those that build deep relationships with their teams, make them feel they’re part of the journey and, ultimately, allow them to share in the success of their organisation.

By Jay Haines, Co-Founder Grace Blue Partnership and CEO Americas