How to build a cohesive team within an agency and get the most out of it

26 Nov 2022

According to a recent study by the University of Warwick (London), employees who feel happy at work are up to 12% more productive, and this has a direct impact on the company’s development and results.

On the other hand, according to another study by Harvard University, an unhappy or unmotivated employee can have a critical influence on team dynamics, with devastating consequences for the company.

Now let’s imagine that we transfer this scenario to the complex and ultra-competitive world of agencies, even if they are focused on advertising, communications or marketing, and extract that this is one of the sectors with the highest staff turnover rate. The result? Keeping a team cohesive and motivated (in short, something relatively close to happiness) is one of the greatest challenges for the leaders of any agency today.


The starting point: Why have agencies always had such a high turnover of staff?

Traditionally, agency work has been identified with dynamic and exciting environments, associated with big, reputable brands that posed ambitious challenges. If you’re a fan of the series Mad Men, which depicts the day-to-day life of a New York advertising agency in the 1960s, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

But, while the time passes, that halo can fade, especially when certain factors come into play. Stress is the main one, with job profiles related to the world of public relations, marketing or advertising in the Top 10 of the ranking  of most stressful jobs. Exhaustion due to long working hours and unrealistic deadlines, or the feeling of deserving better pay or a better quality of life are other determining factors.

Obviously, not all agencies are the same and much will depend on their culture, as well as the fact of belonging to a holding company, being an independent agency, having a start-up structure or being a member of a group or association of interdependent agencies… Moreover, within the sectors mentioned, the advertising industry is the most affected by high staff turnover, with an increase of 10% in recent years compared to other related industries (according to a joint report prepared by and LinkedIn).

As for the reasons for this phenomenon (apart from the salary received, especially at the most junior levels, or the lack of motivation and attractiveness of the projects developed by agencies), the lack of opportunities to grow professionally within the company itself stands out above all others. And this perfectly explains why 49% of agency staff between the ages of 18 and 24 are considering leaving their current position in search of better opportunities, as indicated by the II study of the advertising industry in Spain. Speaking in general terms, here are some interesting facts from the and LinkedIn report:

  • 54% of employees cited lack of opportunity for advancement as the main reason for resignation at their former agency.
  • 50% were looking for a more challenging job.
  • 46% were dissatisfied with the type of leadership offered by the management team.
  • 45% were dissatisfied with the rewards and recognition received for their contributions.


The way: The formula to provide motivation, confidence and greater wellbeing for your team

There is no magic formula for retaining talent, but you can plan and work on a series of guidelines and initiatives so that most of the team is more motivated, aligned with common objectives with the company and, in short, feels as comfortable as possible working in the agency.

  • Long live diversity!

Beyond the archetypal and ancestral division between juniors and seniors or creatives and account executives, we are facing a generational conglomerate never seen before, where millenials or “Y”, baby boomers, generation “Z”, generation “X”… Just as each of them has different needs and interests, they can also contribute very different creative points of view. If you know how to take advantage of this richness, you will be on the right track.

  • We work for money (but it’s not everything):

Getting a salary at the end of the month is what you work for and it must be competitive. If you can’t be competitive, you will have to be more creative and compromise on other aspects to meet the needs of the workforce as much as possible, and no, we don’t mean putting a ping pong table in the middle of the hallway.

  • Continuous training:

Worry about your team not only keeping up with industry trends, but also keeping their appetite for learning alive – keep hungry, keep foolish!

  • Career development and promotions:

Career plans are an excellent option to help your team grow, whether inside or outside the company. Designing realistic plans based on reviewable objectives and milestones will keep your team optimally oriented and working towards specific goals.

  • Telecommuting is here to stay:

According to a recent LinkedIn study, telecommuting and the ability to flex have caught up to salary as the main incentives to change jobs. According to another Polycom study, 1 in 3 employees would even accept a pay cut in exchange for maintaining the telework conditions inherited during the Covid-19 era.

  • Mental health and values, more at the center than ever before

Unfortunately, a few years ago we were facing a taboo subject when we put mental health on the table, not only at work, but in any sociological field. Active listening is very important, especially when it comes to analyzing workloads among different team members, but it doesn’t end there. As much as possible, we should try to understand their strengths, weaknesses and interests and adapt them to the current client portfolio. It’s a match!


Destination: The 4 advantages of a motivated and cohesive team

The road is not easy, but if we manage to keep the team at the center of the agency’s priorities, we will optimize the operation of the accounts, encourage the arrival of new clients and provide a better catalog of products and services to current and potential clients. At this point, we can get a very clear idea of the benefits that having a cohesive and stimulated team can bring to an agency or any company:

  • Stronger commitment to the company’s objectives: A committed team is a guarantee of better results for the company in both the short and long term.
  • Greater resilience to turnover: Changes, although sometimes necessary, are always associated with uncertainty, tensions and do not contribute to maintaining an ideal status quo for the company’s internal mechanism. Having a low staff turnover is an invaluable competitive advantage.
  • Cohesion generates trust and makes each of the links in the work chain stronger. The capabilities of each member of the staff are individually enhanced, also contributing to a better working environment.
  • Minimization of changes in account management: peace of mind is a highly valued element for clients, especially when they are already used to a certain methodology and well-defined workflows.

In short, in a world that is more digital than ever, we cannot underestimate the human side as a differential factor and hence the importance of having a strong and committed team is an advantage that we cannot ignore in an increasingly competitive environment.  There is an old Ethiopian proverb that says that when spiders weave together, they can bind a lion.

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