Keeping talent remains one of the biggest challenges facing media agencies, and along with procurement and the race to the bottom, is one of the issues keeping GroupM boss John Steedman up at night.
Latest industry data suggests a rising media agency churn rate. While the The Media Federation of Australia does not publish the full data, its Census and Salary Survey showed the churn rate across media agencies in 2013 was 33.5%, up from 30.4% in 2012, 34.1% in 2011 and 33.2% in 2010. Employees with five to 10 years had the highest churn levels.
The MFA is trying to address the problem with training programmes and regular forums. But Steedman said agencies have ultimate responsibility for keeping their staff, likening the MFA to the school teachers and the agencies as the parents.
Inside GroupM, attrition levels "tend to be at their highest at the mid-to lower levels" and that defining career paths and keeping staff motivated were ongoing challenges.
While other agency bosses have sparked below the-line-ire after suggesting that the ad industry should stop apologising for long hours, particularly the workload often placed on junior staff, Steedman acknowledged the issue.
"There are long hours in every industry but there does need to be a balance. If you always work long hours you will be less productive" and the impact will be detrimental "regardless of how old you are."
Steedman said the talent crunch was most acute within digital and search disciplines. Given the increasing demand for those skills from a growing number of sectors, he said the industry "has got to continue to sell the benefits [of working in media] to people coming into our business".
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