10 Reasons Your Agency Has High Employee Turnover

In the digital agency world, your success really boils down to the quality of your team. Recruiting top talent is often at the top of agencies’ internal priorities, and many are successful in enticing great employees to join their ranks with promises of leadership development, growth, and awesome culture and perks.

But why do so many SEO, digital marketing, web design, and online PR agencies fail to retain great employees once they’re on board?

In fact, more than 30% of employees interviewed by Forbes believed they would be working someplace other than their current company inside of 12 months.

High employee turnover costs agencies greatly. Not only is a top employee’s departure disruptive to internal teams, leaving coworkers with already heavy workloads in the unfortunate position of having to fill large gaps (somebody’s got to do it), but it also greatly impacts client relationships. When clients run through 1, 2, or 3+ account managers, they might suspect that something’s up, and feel less confident in your services or start to question if your brand is really what it claims to be.

Here are 10 likely reasons your agency is failing to keep the best and the brightest in the industry, and what you can do to avoid high employee turnover.

1. Your agency has a toxic work environment

Modern workplaces have changed from their rigid, assembly-line corporate counterparts of the Mad Men era and decades past. Company culture is no longer just a hollow phrase touted by HR departments in their recruitment spiels, but rather a core facet of a company and often a top reason an employee chooses to work there.

If your agency isn’t fostering a positive, energetic, personable, and transparent culture, you’ll see your best talent walk right out the door quicker than you think in favor of greener fields. You don’t have to be the next hip tech startup like Hootsuite (afternoon naps, ping pong, and dogs, anyone?), but at the very least develop a pleasant physical space and a congenial, social atmosphere that employees don’t dread being in day in and day out.

2. Your agency lacks flexibility

Today’s employees desire more work-life balance than ever before, and they should — the world of work is changing, and perks like remote workplaces, flex hours, and reliance on digital communication is more widespread than ever.

The expectation for workplace flexibility is quickly becoming a main driver of employees career decisions — this is especially true of millennials.

At MySiteAuditor, our employees work remotely, meaning we often make good use of our freedom by drinking ungodly amounts of coffee while enjoying the weather outside on coffee shop patios. An old-school thinker might believe this encourages distraction and poor work, but in reality this helps us work smarter. We truly own our work and are passionate about our goal to help agencies generate more leads and sales.

It’d be a wise move for your agency to ditch the rigid 9–5, or at least find ways to allow employees to better balance between their competing work and life responsibilities.

3. Your agency stifles creativity and discourages independence

The most talented employees have good ideas, opinions, and observations — and they want to be heard. Top talent that feels your agency doesn’t listen or value their creativity know that they could work someplace else that does. And, professional personas and personal ‘brands’ are more intertwined these days, resulting in talented individuals wanting to be seen and heard for both their skills and who they are as people.

4. Your agency lacks leadership development and mentorship

Employees are looking to their workplaces to help them grow in their career. If your upper management is providing little coaching or constructive feedback to their subordinates, they’re doing everyone and the agency a diservice. Leadership development not only makes an individual better in their role, but improves the overall competency of the company. Mentorship often makes employees feel more invested in their roles, too, so evaluate your agency’s mentorship tactics and explore ways to further cultivate it between employees.

5. Your agency doesn’t invest in its employees

Investing in people is two-fold — truly demonstrating your commitment to your agency’s people means investing at both the emotional level and at the monetary/benefits level.

At the emotional level, this means treating employees with respect and dignity within the workplace in a way that makes them feel valued and recognized for their good work. Leading agencies invest above and beyond this basic workplace right by providing employees opportunities to unwind and bond outside of work.

At the level of compensation and benefits, this means your agency offers competitive salaries and pays people what they’re worth. In addition, robust benefits packages will keep employees around longer, and can make employees feel invested in — care about employees’ families? Offer paid family leave. Want to show you’re committed to a stress-free workplace? Offer a good vacation policy.

Investing in employees both emotionally and monetarily will go a long way in your agency’s ability to retain top talent.

6. Your agency doesn’t allow employees room to grow

Career-oriented people are thinking about the big picture, and where your agency fits in. To retain talent, offer a clear growth path to employees that rewards them for their hard work, and let them know exactly what they need to do to reach the next level.

While smaller agencies may be limited in their capacity to offer senior roles or higher salaries, know that smart people also want to challenged — if your agency isn’t committed to at least fostering a learning environment where employees can grow their skill sets and mature as professionals, employees will quickly feel stagnated in their role.

7. Your agency isn’t adapting to marketplace trends

If you’re an SEO agency that’s still relying on blackhat or outdated SEO tactics to run client campaigns, you’ll likely be unable to retain the best SEO’s out there today. This is true beyond SEO specifically. No matter what your services entail, your agency must be forward-thinking and able to adjust to industry trends to not only achieve great things for your clients, but keep employees who are looking to develop their own skills to stay on the cutting edge of the market throughout their careers.

8. Your agency doesn’t promote on merit

Nothing breeds a lack of trust and confidence in senior coworkers and managers more than knowing that your agency has a tendency to promote individuals based on criteria other than merit. If you’re finding that your agency is becoming guilty of doling out promotions solely based on how long an individual has stayed put in their current role (with complete disregard for if they’re actually competent enough to step up to the next level) or through nepotism (whether or not you’re willing to admit it), don’t pretend like other employees won’t notice and head straight for the door.

9. Your agency doesn’t keep its promises

If a new employee enters a position in your agency understanding their role and responsibilities as one thing, and the reality of the job is a distant other thing, you’ll have a very hard time keeping employees on.

Many agencies fall into this trap without even realizing it, piling on additional responsibilities far outside of a role’s scope strictly because they need to. And of course this can be necessary and perfectly reasonable for a rapidly growing agency, but there absolutely needs to be open communication, defined limits, and the chance for employees to voice concerns or recommendations. If an employee feels they’re not getting what they were promised in terms of a position or opportunity, they’ll resign in favor of what they thought they were actually getting.

10. Your agency isn’t recognizing its faults

At this point, if your agency is habitually struggling with high employee turnover and you’re still clueless as to why, it’s time to start identifying the real reasons. The best way to do this? Survey your employees, and listen to what they have to say. Despite thinking you’ll learn everything you need from exit interviews (in which leaving employees often withhold real feedback because 1) they don’t want to burn bridges, or 2) they just don’t care anymore), be more proactive and discuss the topic with current employees. High turnover affects them, too.

You may find that despite believing your agency’s culture is great, it’s actually got some flaws on the front lines. Or, there are some areas of improvement where current employees think your agency could be advancing in the market, and consider their ideas and input.

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About the Author: Jessica Kandler is Director of Content at MySiteAuditor and a frequent contributor to online media publications, covering content marketing, digital marketing, and social media. She’s currently based in Chicago and loves traveling, hosting dinner parties, and playing with her 7 month old lab/pit bull mix puppy.

About MySiteAuditor: MySiteAuditor is an embeddable, white-label SEO audit tool that helps digital marketing agencies generate leads and sales. Follow us on Twitter at @mysiteauditor and read our blog for tips, advice, and research specifically for SEO, web design and digital marketing agencies.

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