It’s a digital staff churn frenzy: What can you do?

Business people waiting for job interview

Agencies specialising in digital marketing in South Africa and abroad are falling increasingly vulnerable to the loom and doom of staff churn. In a generation driven by instant gratification and self-entitlement, any hint of job dissatisfaction can spark a fight or flight response. Unfortunately for managers and executives the response of choice is too often flight. To protect themselves from both the financial and social strains of rapid staff churn rates, agencies need to ensure that they are doing their best in adequately onboarding new staff and up-skilling them from the outset and throughout.

Onboarding your newbies

A 2007 study by the The Wynhurst Group, a human resources consulting firm based in Virginia, has shown that when new employees go through structured onboarding they are 58% more likely to remain in the business after three years. There are a few ways to go about onboarding new hires – while some companies create internal training platforms, others allow newbies to meet one-on-one with seasoned employees to get them up to speed. The problem with both of these approaches is that they are difficult to scale and extremely time consuming.

Travel website TripAdvisor has solved the issue of onboarding through the creation and implementation of an internal video training programme. During the first two weeks of employment newbies spend 30 – 40% of their time learning from these videos- keeping them updated on the latest digital tools available to them. While core to their onboarding and training processes, the videos only make up about 50% of the overall educational programme. Content for these videos is constantly being changed and created as new digital tools are discovered and trends emerge. What’s key to the success of TripAdvisor in this realm is that all employees, not simply newbies, are given access to these videos in order to constantly re-skill and gain new insights.

If only we all had TripAdvisor’s onboarding budget. For most agencies and businesses however, both time and money can be saved through outsourcing training material and resources – and there’s some good stuff out there.

While the majority of training can be done through external digital platforms, the human factor cannot be ignored. With the rise of technology and the undeniable efficiency of communication over the likes of Skype and Slack, we see a global trend of agencies becoming lazy in maintaining face-to-face relationships with their employees. The need for human contact is even more vital in the first few months of an employee’s contract. Junior staff need to be developed and managed until the point at which they are confident within their working environment – both online and in the office.

In order to avoid future job dissatisfaction and the dreaded issue of staff churn it is vital to maintain these face-to-face interactions not only in the first few months but throughout. It’s not as daunting as it sounds. We’ve seen that all it takes is a one-on-one meeting between managers and staff every two weeks or so. They don’t need to be long (30-45 minutes) and they don’t need to be in-depth – but they do need to happen. This space should allow for employees to discuss their challenges and successes while providing them with a motivational ‘oomph’ to help get through the next two week cycle until the following check-up. It also helps to create an overall ethos of accountability and transparency in the office.

How does this help the issue of staff churn? Maintaining a level of human relationship in the workplace ensures that issues of job dissatisfaction are readily brought to the surface and addressed before things go sour. It’s also more awkward to resign when you have a transparent and face-to-face relationship with your line manager – its cheeky, but it works.

Up-skilling the regulars

The world of digital marketing is one that is constantly changing in sync with ever-transforming online technologies. This creates an in-built need for the constant up-skilling of those in the industry.

Another problem lies in the fact that many already actively involved in the digital industry aren’t adequately skilled in the first place – due to the excess demand for skills. Research
by the Online Marketing Institute, in partnership with ClickZ and Kelly Staffing, has recently revealed that Fortune 500 companies, as well as other global agencies, are facing a serious digital marketing skills shortage.

We live in an age where anyone who has a Facebook or Instagram page seems to deem themself a ‘social media expert’. CEO of aimClear and digital marketing specialist Marty Weintraub believes that “there is a glut of practitioners who think that they’re way cooler than they are. Everyone and their brother has hung a social media shingle, including unworthy PR firms.”

In reality, behind the guise of ‘social media expert’ you will commonly find traditional marketers and PR professionals. This has arguably been caused by the need for many agencies to keep up with digital trends. It becomes easy to fall into the trap of throwing staff into the big scary digital world without adequate experience or training. This usually ends in poor performance and an outright stuff-up. Just because you can run your own social media page doesn’t mean you can run a company’s.

There is good news though! With enough training and experience these PR gurus can easily be transformed into some of the best digital marketers the digi-sphere has to offer. In a recent Digital Marketing Talent survey almost 80% said they would value an on-demand library of digital marketing training classes, with over 70% showing interest in either eLearning or personal workshops. If you still aren’t getting it – not only do your staff need to be trained, but they want to be trained. Through investing in and up-skilling your employees you are ensuring their job satisfaction and ultimately their loyalty to the business.

If you think the costs of constantly up-skilling your seasoned staff are too high, weigh them up against the financial burden of constantly needing to re-employ and re-train new staff when you face the paralysing consequences of staff churn. The Wynhurst Group has estimated that the cost to an agency of losing an employee in their first year of employment is at least three times their salary. Upskilling your employees to ensure not only their personal satisfaction in the job but also their efficacy in their role is thus a long-term investment that you can’t afford to not make.

Neil Pursey


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