How to “Poach Proof”​ Your Agency

Written By Danielle Fauteaux

The battle for skilled talent was already waging before the response to COVID. It’s definitely worse now.

86% of young professionals (like, digital marketing employees) reported being willing to take a pay cut to work for a company where their values were aligned according to a LinkedIn study from 2018. Now years removed from that finding, I would posit that trend has stretched across generations too.

Who is most poachable?

You, as an agency, are more likely to be susceptible to poaching if:

  1. Your employees careers can be fully remote (“borderless work”)
  2. You are a HubSpot Partner
  3. Your service offerings have become a commodity
  4. You serve a niche industry

Your individual employees are more susceptible to poaching if:

  1. They are coming up on the 18 month mark of employment at your company.
  2. This is one of their first work places. The grass is always greener on the other side, and this is especially the mentality of younger professionals who are early in their careers.
  3. They are experiencing constant forced change in their role and responsibilities.
  4. They don’t see a way up or they feel stuck in their role at your agency.
  5. They don’t feel heard or seen.
  6. They don’t feel needed; in other words, they feel replaceable.
  7. They are burnt out.
  8. Promises / commitments by the agency, the leadership, or direct managers are broken.
  9. Their personal goals are not being met (whether financial or otherwise).

What can you do to retain people?

In two words? Match expectations.

This starts with YOU knowing each of your employees true personal goals and professional goals; knowing what they DON’T want their day to day to look like; knowing in what ways they feel most appreciated versus most demoralized; knowing when these personal and professional goals change.

  1. Take the time to build a culture of open communication and encourage managers to respect the personal goals of those they manage while ensuring duties of their role are fulfilled properly and profitably.
  2. Ask, “What would cause you to leave your job here?” Ask the question early and often.
  3. Make the day to day fulfilling and meaningful. People want to have pride in how they spend their time, including in who they work for.
  4. Give people the time, and space, to THINK. Thinking leads to ideas. Ideas lead to dreams. Dreams lead to passions.
  5. Remove “energy sucks” as much as possible like administrative work and unnecessary meetings.
  6. Give people mentors and allow people to be mentors. These kinds of relationships foster appreciation for peers, camaraderie, and interpersonal growth WITHOUT upper management having to coordinate another virtual event that falls somewhat flat. People work for people, so the more people an employee feels like they are investing in and being invested in by, the less likely they are to uproot.
  7. Give people the space to flex their creative muscles. Creativity is not just in design, either. Book keepers and operations professionals can creatively solve problems too and when empowered to do so will feel more involved in the success of what they are creating.
  8. Make the majority of your perks “outside of work” perks, meaning the fruits of the perk are enjoyed by NOT being at work. For example, stretched office closures for holidays, an expectation of NOT checking work notifications outside office hours, and condensed work weeks.
  9. Genuinely acknowledge and appreciate people. The grind is a grind and without praise accolade in the best manner for each individual employee, the grinding becomes exponential.
  10. Live by the equation that value in = value out. Does overall compensation match the employees perception of what their value to your organization is? What would be the detriment to your organization if that employee was not there and a qualified candidate could not be found? (And if they are overvaluing themselves, what can you do to help them level set that perception?)

Next Steps

Employee turnover will always exist; the new generation of professionals does not have the same company loyalty that used to exist and it’s usually the intrepid few who are in it with you for the long haul. But we CAN prevent unnecessary poaching in what we do control for employees.

You and your managers have many levers you can pull that culminate in a positive employee experience. And then the next time employees get a LinkedIn message from a recruiter, what you’ve done may give them pause to think, “Why would I want to do THAT”.

Building a successful marketing agency takes grit, a focus on your value, and sometimes a *loving* kick in the pants.

Needing an ally as you achieve your long-term goals?

I’d be happy to help.

Danielle Fauteaux, Agency Coach

Danielle Fauteaux

Hi! I’m Danielle. I’m passionate about helping creatives recognize their value and place in this world, passionate about helping leaders regain control over their responsibilities, passionate about encouraging others to live more meaningful lives; and passionate about doing more with less. I guide creative firms through the Momentum Framework to achieve their revenue and profit goals while falling back in love with the mission they originally set out with.