Is the employee now the emperor?

Agencies are having to work harder than ever to retain their people, especially their best people. You can give them all the typical perks and even the untypical perks, but is that enough? You can give them gym membership, a canteen, drinks fridge, a snooker table, parties, store vouchers and hot air balloon rides. Those are great. I’d love some of those. But will it keep them in their job? Will it mean they are performing at their best?

Is the employee now the emperor?
Is the employee now the emperor?

There are various stats about employee engagement being disappointingly low. Burn out is apparently increasing. Stress levels are high. Lack of employee engagement means increased absenteeism, increased turnover, reduced productivity and reduced profitability….. What’s the impact of these on your agency? What’s the cost to your agency?

So how do we keep our people, especially the best ones?

Because there is a war for talent within the agency sector, recruitment agencies and head-hunters will be targeting your people. What are your people likely to say? “Tell me more, I’m interested” or “I’m really happy here. I’m valued, appreciated and growing”

They say people join a company but leave a manager. Are you the best manager you can be? If I asked your team to rate you out of 10, 10 being high, what score would they give you?

Would you want to work for you?

Jeremy was the best boss I ever had. What did he do to be such a great boss? He helped me grow and develop my career. He helped, or was it made, me stand on my own two feet. He never gave me the answer, I had to find it myself. He certainly didn’t make it easy. He challenged me to take risks, to think bigger and to take responsibility. He asked me great questions, he praised me when I did good work. He took time to discuss with me, my career, my progress, my vision for the future. He stretched me. He gave me constructive feedback. We had an open and trusting relationship. He showed me that he cared about me. I didn’t feel like a cog in the machine. He was authentic and seemed to always have time for me. Will your people describe you, how I’ve described Jeremy?

Your people want to know that you care about them and their progress and career – as much as they do. That you see them as an individual not simply one of the team. They want you to appreciate their personal circumstances. They want you to recognise when they perform well and to receive praise from you. Are they intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? They want work that has meaning for them. They also want you to point out when they under-perform, but constructively, so they can improve going forward. Do you have informal chats about their progress or is it just in their appraisal? They want to be stretched, just enough. Do you know what matters most to your people, individually? Can you help magnify each person’s strengths – so they play to their strengths? Have you discussed their vision for their future career and future growth? They want to see you care about them as a person outside of work. How much does this cost? Nothing! It’s about your time and focus. The return on your time investment will be massive. Do your people know how much you care? Or are they expected to be a mind-reader? In conversations with them, do you actively listen to them? Or is it a one-way communication? Do you then act on those points or explain why you aren’t acting on their points?

Many agencies think their clients are Number One. Maybe an agency’s people are Number One because then they will put your clients Number One?

Do you know what aspects of your people’s job that they each really love, that they are excellent at? If those skills are valuable to the agency, can we find a way they can do more of what they love?

Especially after Covid, working from home and everything else we’ve experienced over the past nearly two years, isn’t it time to create that sense of Togetherness? Isn’t it time to demonstrate to your people just how much you care and that their development is a priority for you, not just for them?

Here’s three questions to ask your people. Do this proactively, not when they come to tell you they are planning to leave!

  • “What are you most proud of in your work here (in the past x months)?”
  • “What part of your work do you most love and you’re at your best?”
  • “What are you career goals and how do you want to grow?”

Is this a crazy idea?

Many agencies have “exit interviews” to understand the reasons behind why someone is leaving. How about also having “staying interviews” to understand why your best people want to stay?

If you’re thinking there’s a lot to do which will take up a lot of your time, it’s a lot less time than having to replace your people.

Chris Merrington runs online and live Masterclasses and Workshops with agency directors in the areas of Negotiation, Trusted Adviser Selling, Business Prospecting and ‘Pitching to Win’. Chris Merrington is a professional conference speaker and business growth consultant. He can be contacted at

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