New words and phrases have entered our vocabulary: Quarantine. Social Distancing. WFH. And most recently, the Great Resignation—aka the Big Quit. People are leaving jobs in droves. In March, Microsoft's Work Trend Index report found nearly half the global workforce is considering quitting. Spending 18 or so months working from home left many people alone with their thoughts and feelings. Some examined what’s important to them and sought jobs with more flexibility.
PR is feeling the Great Resignation too. For example, a recent survey revealed that 63 percent of freelance marketers are planning a job change this year. And many are considering an in-house gig.
In the past, PR could offer perks and desirable office locations to compensate for long hours and demanding work. Today, many hire work-from-anywhere positions and offer performance-plus-stock compensation. This arrangement includes clearly defined working hours. In today’s environment, it translates into an extensive job exodus.
Avoiding a rush to the exits means PR needs to do several things:
Even pre-pandemic, some PR teams struggled with change management. In large groups, the thought of updating technology across multiple regions or thousands of employees seems daunting.
In a PR team of any size you must vet software vendors, find a team to run point on implementation, and—most difficult—train employees.
When the world, seemingly overnight, went virtual, PR teams that once rejected tech transformation were left unprepared.
Without workflow management software, reporting platforms or objectives/key results dashboards, team members felt trapped in silos, work went sideways, productivity slowed and tempers flared.
On the other hand, technology-first PR teams pivoted relatively quickly to a remote environment. They found it easier to hold team members accountable and maintain meaningful connections with those they represent and internally, with team members.
As the future remains uncertain, an ability to adapt through technology will remain vital.
Removing the literal water cooler left some PR pros in the dark about how the pandemic affected their companies. This prompted questions around stability. And when PR leaders bury financials, team members are unable to answer those questions.
One result is that staff begin to feel the ‘We’re all in it together’ talk track is BS. So, some of them bail.
In contrast, open, transparent communication about financial health forms tighter bonds. In addition, it can create a sense of personal responsibility to fight for the team’s survival.
Be open about the company’s situation. At agencies, be clear about clients coming and going. Sharing this, and information around margin, helps team members develop a personal connection to the business. When the company feels more like family, it can be a lot tougher to bail.
We recently had a team member return after joining another PR outfit. That company was pumped to hire her, as she had experience in and enthusiasm for media relations.
However, once hired, she was assigned media relations for just one client. And she was made a non-speaking team member on the account.
The agency lacked the staff, processes or technology to properly onboard this PR pro or make assignments. Instead of thriving, she faded into the background. Underutilized and frustrated, she felt the new employer didn’t trust her to work on a full account load or speak to clients.
Remote recruiting and hiring are difficult, no doubt. As a result, PR leaders must work harder than previously to instill trust in new employees with us as employers. In addition, PR teams must make sure new communicators feel confident they’ve been hired to add value, regardless of title.
The employee-servant model is ending, says Jessie Kernan, head of product and strategy at We Are Rosie, a freelance marketing site. There’s more power now in employees’ hands and it requires drastic change on the employer side. Happy people yield happy results and revenue follows. Which model will you choose?
Lindsey Groepper is president, BLASTmedia, which claims a 94% retention rate