High turnover quickest way to the bottom

High turnover quickest way to the bottom
April 29, 2013 Kaz Scott

Kieran Moore  From:The Australian  April 29, 2013 12:00AM

A RECENT article in The Australian’s Media section spoke of how entry-level salaries in the advertising industry were paying no more than they did a decade ago, failing to keep pace with inflation and driving young talent to other industries.

Fortunately, things are somewhat better in public relations.

While most in the advertising and public relations industries would agree that things are relatively tough out there, the smart agencies decided many years ago that salaries were only one element to having an engaged team.

Paying below par is crazy – firstly, because you don’t attract the best and brightest and, secondly, if you do manage to attract them they disappear pretty quickly. Once the word gets around, you find the people you have spent time and money nurturing and teaching will be lured off by big money offers as fully, or at least partly, formed practitioners.

The old adage “pay peanuts and you get monkeys” still remains true.

The smart move is to benchmark salaries against industry norms and offer a good salary commensurate with the person’s experience.

It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. The digital landscape changes on an almost daily basis. With the rise of mobile, digital and social media public relations practitioners are an integral part of marketing strategies on every level. We expect even our entry level starters to have a skill set which wasn’t invented a few short years ago. It’s simply short-sighted to expect highly skilled and smart operators to come with a low price tag.

High turnover is costly, both in monetary and morale terms, and most smart organisations realise it’s the quickest way to the bottom.

But I am also firmly of the view that the people who work only for the money are usually the ones that you are generally happiest to wave goodbye. Sure, they have to be paid in line with their peers but experience has shown that it is other, less tangible, things that keep the good ones working harder than I sometimes think we have a right to ask.

If you aspire to attract the best and the brightest and expect a lot of your people, then start offering a lot. But, and I think this is crux of the issue, I suspect the best and the brightest also want to know that there’s some sort of a deal going on: we expect them to perform and they expect us to do more than just pay them. Most people want to be challenged and to be allowed to challenge. They want to be trained and mentored from when they start and even as they move up the ranks. They want to work bloody hard but still have plenty of fun.

Recently I was involved in some research on Gen Ys – the group born after 1980 who people decry as being commitment phobic – and found that when asked which factors would put them off a potential employer, the top deal-breaker, with 88.4 per cent, was if a company didn’t offer a competitive salary but in second and third were if the company did not make an effort to be environmentally responsible (77.5 per cent) and if the company did not make an effort to engage with the community (64.5 per cent).

Respondents were also asked if they would consider changing employers if they discovered the company they worked for was being socially or environmentally irresponsible, to which 68.8 per cent answered “yes”.

The research is far from definitive but backs up the findings of other researchers who have consistently found that younger workers are looking for more than just cash.

In my opinion, I believe the best and the brightest also relish the opportunity to work on the biggest brands and the most exciting campaigns. And when they leave – and some of them do, and sometimes for big money offers – they want to know that they are much better off for the experience. And, if we are lucky, they come back with more experience and a broader outlook on life.

The corporates call it an Employee Value Proposition – but really, it is just good business.

Kieran Moore is the Australian chief executive of Ogilvy Public Relations