‘Turnover’ a New Leaf to Attract and Retain Great Talent

Guest post by Shani Magosky of Vitesse Consulting

This is a guest post by Shani Magosky, CEO and executive consultant at Fort Lauderdale’s Vitesse Consulting.

What new approaches has your agency tried to reverse the troubling trend of high employee turnover (which is especially problematic in the communications industry)?

If the answer is “few or none,” then Einstein might have suggested that you suffer from insanity, i.e. doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

As a former COO of a PR firm with exceptionally low turnover and now as a talent management consultant who spends most of her time thinking about employee engagement themes, I submit there are at least a few things that PR agencies can learn from companies that excel in these areas.

Let’s use a tree as an analogy for an organization, and consider the roots and trunk as values and mission. Simply put, values are what a company stands for and a mission is the reason it exists. Extending up and out from the roots and trunk are branches, which represent culture and how it must proliferate in various directions in order to grow a healthy “tree” that ultimately bears fruits, leaves, and flowers.

For example, Apple’s original mission statement in 1980 was “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” Years later, Steve Jobs articulated what became Apple’s most oft-quoted value:

“We believe people with passion can change the world for the better….and that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who actually do.”

Well, any PR professional worth his/her salt saw Apple’s January 26th announcement reporting the most profitable quarter of any company ever (and, may I add, in an industry that is arguably THE most competitive for talent). Money may grow on (apple) trees after all.

Culture starts at the top, and it is no longer effective to manage people with the old carrot and stick mentality of reward and punishment. I subscribe to author Daniel Pink’s philosophy on what motivates people to greatness at work, including control over their own destinies, continuous learning or challenge, and the ability to do good while doing well. Pink refers to these as Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, and we see these elements showing up in abundance at companies with cultures that attract great people and then nurture engagement, loyalty, and low turnover.

An example of the right culture driving enviable talent attraction and retention is illustrated by one of our own MarComm brethren: Miami-based interactive marketing agency BGT Partners, whose success led to a marquis acquisition by PwC in late 2013.

BGT was repeatedly named a Best Place to Work not only by the local South Florida Business Journal but also Advertising Age and numerous other national publications. Prior to being acquired, the company could boast of nearly 100% retention and no layoffs in 15+ years. What did they do to stand out? Their secret sauce had innumerable ingredients, but among them were alluring perks like the ability to bring dogs to work, a meditation room, ongoing professional development programs, flexible hours, and Art Expo Fridays, a weekly free lunch and creative showcase of musician and artist employees performing for their peers. Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose? You bet.

Think your agency is too big to undertake a culture change? GE would beg to differ.

In response to employee engagement survey feedback and the enduring shift to a workforce more heavily represented by millennials, leaders crowdsourced from employees themselves GE’s official new cultural paradigms, called the “GE Beliefs” and introduced a new operating platform called FastWorks. GE’s vice president of executive development and chief learning officer, Raghu Krishnamoorthy, summed it up nicely in a recent HBR Blog:

“When culture is not given enough attention, it becomes an obstacle to change. Just as they do with strategy, companies should make constantly examining their cultures a part of their operating rhythm.”

Shani MShani Magosky is a talent management consultant and executive coach. Previously, she worked at Goldman Sachs, managed a local TV station in Vail, Colo., and was chief operating officer/chief financial officer of an all-virtual international PR/marketing company. Her firm, Vitesse Consulting, helps companies accelerate development of leaders, engage employees, and improve performance. She can be reached at shani@vitesseconsult.com.