Communication Tips to Keep Staff Churn at Bay

Julie Batliner
Julie Batliner

You’ve probably heard that the average time spent in a job is 4.4 years. It’s even fewer years for younger professionals working in the marketing-agency world. As senior PR managers, we have to constantly plan to replace 25 percent of our workforce every year. Those are the facts, but the real bummer comes when someone with potential to become a PR star decides to leave. As communication leaders it’s easy to rationalize their leaving, thinking that people who have left lack the professional maturity to know that the grass is not always greener or that a departure provides an opportunity to hire a replacement who is even better.

At the same time, we have to think about the real implications of staff turnover. We all know that it costs more to recruit, replace and retrain people, and that we should have kept that person from bolting in the first place. So what are some talent-retention strategies that may get your stars to stay?

Conduct active ‘career-pathing.’ Leadership and direct supervisors need to work together to proactively career-sculpt for everyone—especially potential stars. In basketball, even though everyone’s job is to make a basket, you wouldn’t motivate a center the same way you would a power forward.

Make sure all team members understand the big picture and their part in it—now as well as for the future. Don’t just rely on annual reviews, but get a running start on employee feedback, listening and talking about what’s in the pipeline.

Figure out what drives a person’s career. It’s usually one of three things: money, recognition or type of work. PR supervisors should know what motivates their team members and create opportunities so staff can play to their individual strengths and succeed.

Offer the raise before they take the other job. Start by bringing in staff at a market-competitive rate and offer opportunities along the way for growth, with more responsibility. Reward that additional responsibility and solid business results with monetary compensation.

Guide the supervisors. One of the top complaints among people who claim low job satisfaction is having a poor direct manager. It’s important to continue to provide guidance to the guiders as a check and balance, and make sure team members at all levels are getting what they need.

If you think someone is interviewing for a new gig, it’s okay to talk to him or her about it. Sometimes we speculate about someone wearing something too nice for work that day or taking off for a ‘doctor appointment.’ Water cooler rumors fly that he/she might be interviewing, but no one asks. Now is the time to ask that person how he/she is doing. If the rumors are true, see if there is something that you can do now before the employee gets too far down the road. It doesn’t always work. But if it’s something fixable, it’s worth a try.

On the flip side, in talking with some of my senior colleagues, I have compiled a list that expresses the wishes of senior leaders regarding their star team members.

If you’re thinking of leaving, before you interview, sit down and talk with me about what’s making you want to leave. Give me a chance to change things. If it’s an opportunity to be on another account, ask for it. If it’s more help, ask for it. If it’s different work, ask for it.

You don’t have to leave because you don’t like your supervisor. Don’t be afraid to ask for a new person to learn from. It’s a good thing to learn different styles and new things from new people.

Be open to waiting for the right timing. The answer might not be no, it might just be not now. If you’re driving toward something and it hasn’t happened yet, you will be rewarded for waiting.

In an age when the four-year career is a reality and the talent war is becoming more acute, staff retention is a constant effort.

When you foster an environment where people feel they can express themselves openly it gives you the chance to have good discussions with great people before they quit.

If it still doesn’t work and a good employee departs, then at least you hope your paths will cross at another time.


Julie Batliner is managing director at Spong. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the February 23, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.