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5 ways to keep marketers from jumping ship

5 ways to keep marketers from jumping ship Joe Staples

Employee turnover is a major challenge for every organization. While no one is irreplaceable, anytime a team member walks out the door, he or she takes with them valuable knowledge that could put your company at competitive risk. Not to mention that filling vacancies can be extremely difficult in today's job market where talent is at a premium, and the cost of the recruiting and hiring process itself can be a drain on financial resources. In the meantime, the void puts an added burden on the remaining employees who must pick up the slack until a replacement is found, a process that could take weeks or months.

In the marketing business, the problem is often amplified because creative work is a very personal and individual process. Unlike accounting and HR, which have fairly standard procedures, processes, and guidelines, marketing is much more subjective. When a key creative leaves the company, the lack of continuity in messaging, design, branding, and strategy creates ripples that can undermine the company's image, strategic outreach, sales, customer relations, investor relations, and more.

A different breed

Complicating matters, it can be difficult to find the right kind of person with a creative approach who fits your company's personality and culture. Creative types are simply cut from a different cloth than their left-brain counterparts. Creative passion runs deep, and they have an intrinsic desire to see their work come to fruition. They aren't just employees; they're artists whose personalities are tied directly to their work.

Adding to the complexity, marketers crave challenge and are often more motivated by an interesting job than salary or bonus compared to any other professional groups. In fact, marketers change jobs more often than any other profession, with 57 percent believing that changing employers at least every three years is necessary in order to progress their careers. Keeping things interesting can be a bit of an issue when the work is always done for the same company.

Tipping point

The tendency toward turnover should be very alarming for companies that rely on creative talent as a major contributor to business success. And keeping creatives happy, engaged, and motivated must be a top priority. Let's start by answering the primary question -- what causes marketers to move on? There are two main culprits:

  • Busy work. This is a primary creativity killer for marketers. Creatives want to create, not sit in staff meetings, chase down documents, or email proofs. When inefficient processes, ineffective organization, and wasted time get in the way of creating, creatives get antsy. In one instance, I worked with a gentleman in a marketing capacity whose greatest frustration was the chore of gathering data needed by either a peer or a superior. While some of that work is acceptable and legitimate, if the bulk of the job becomes serving as an information channel because someone else doesn't have the visibility they need, the marketer becomes the conduit, not the creator.

  • Miscommunication and conflicts between stakeholders. Nothing frustrates a designer, copywriter, or creative director more than getting mixed messages, opposing direction, and conflicting feedback on projects and proofs. First, she is told one thing, so she devotes time and creative energy to move forward in that direction. Then, another stakeholder comes along and pulls the rug out from under the entire effort, leaving her stuck in the middle, and sometimes sending her back to the drawing board to start all over again. I've seen designers' faces turn vivid red as their blood pressure shot up 10 points over conflicting feedback from stakeholders.

When these problems plague a company and its marketing staff, burnout, frustration, and disengagement quickly set in. Overall morale suffers, along with the quality of work. Soon, they're looking for the exit, and not long after, you're on the hunt for replacement talent.

Turnover Rx

Rather than just planning for attrition and rolling with the punches, it's much more effective and efficient to make a conscious effort to prevent it in the first place. Here's how:

Let them create
These very talented individuals chose the marketing field because they're passionate about it, studied hard to reach the professional level, and learned to perfect their craft. Give them the opportunity and creative space to do what they've trained to do, which includes providing ample time to devise more than one mock-up or to propose ideas to solve business challenges with their creative expertise.

Keep it fresh
We already know that marketers love a challenging environment, and executing the same projects year after year can be monotonous and boring. Plus, creative progress is important for your organization's image and business growth. Give creatives the freedom to explore new opportunities and concepts, media, and emerging technology. It will keep them engaged and ensure your company stays on the cutting edge of marketing strategy and technology.

Avoid overload
Here's the thing about creativity: sometimes it just can't be rushed. Some people work great under pressure and can crank out outstanding creative work quickly. Others need more time to brainstorm and conceptualize. It's not a failure of their work ethic, nor an indication of their skill level; it's just a difference in the way people work. When you ask creatives to shoulder too much work at once, it can cripple their creativity, cause them to feel overwhelmed and bring productivity to a halt. Assess current capacity before taking on and assigning new work to keep from overloading your team and pushing them to the breaking point.

Automate processes
While you certainly can't automate the creative process, you can automate the business processes involved to make things run more smoothly. Streamline assignment tracking by creating a centralized system for requisitioning new projects. Require that stakeholders submit work requests through this system, along with a formal creative brief through an automated form, ensuring that the creative team has everything they need to perform the work up front. Fast-track the proofing/approval process with an electronic system that automatically alerts stakeholders when proofs are ready for their review. By automating where you can, it eliminates the burden and frees up more time to dedicate toward areas where you can't.

Stop turnover in its tracks
Even if turnover isn't yet a problem in your organization, burdening creatives with busy work and burdensome processes will send morale plummeting. They'll soon be miserable and frustrated, which will be reflected in the campaigns they create. When creative quality suffers, it drags down the entire organization and hinders business growth.

Keeping creatives energized, engaged, and doing their best work is about more than just stepping off the turnover treadmill and the headaches that go along with it. It's about ensuring your company is putting its best face forward in all marketing efforts by keeping your marketing team happy and doing what they love.

Joe Staples is CMO at Workfront.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

As Chief Marketing Officer for Workfront (formerly AtTask), Joe leads a best-in-class marketing organization focused on building the Workfront brand and driving awareness, thought-leadership, and demand generation. ...

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