Design Industry Voices Survey 2009 reveals 38% are planning exit when market picks up.

Industry employees voice dissatisfaction in their agency’s performance in the areas that matter most to them.

In late October 2009 we asked people who work within UK design and digital agencies to anonymously share their views on how it feels to work within their agency right now. The first Design Industry Voices Survey 2009 by Fairley & Associates, Gabriele Skelton and On Pointe Marketing was published in December 2009. Here are the headlines.

Day-to-day client satisfaction at risk

38% of employees responsible for day-to-day client satisfaction are planning their exit when the recession ends, with almost three quarters intending to stay in the industry.

36% of directors, 53% of managers and 47% of coordinators and assistants intend to change employer, compared to only 19% of the executive team. We found that strategists are least likely to change employer (21%) whereas designers (43%), account managers (44%) and those working in other roles in the agency (36%) are most likely to leave.

A substantial change in those responsible for the day-to-day client satisfaction and delivery may have an impact on the agency’s ability to service and farm existing clients. There is also a risk of losing knowledge and experience. Agencies are likely to face the need for financial and time investment in the recruitment and training of new talent, which they can ill afford.

Stef Brown, Managing Director of On Pointe Marketing, says: “Agencies are all about people. Building relationships and satisfying existing clients is one of the best ways to weather any downturn. If agencies start losing the key staff that deliver the work, they risk damaging those relationships to the point where clients may decide to look elsewhere. They also risk being so stretched that they’re unable to seize new opportunities as the market begins to pick up.” 

Perceived agency delivery gap is major factor in deciding whether to stay or go

We asked respondents to tell us how important a series of agency attributes were to them personally and how well their agency is currently performing against those attributes.

Across the industry, people agree on what makes a good agency.

We then measured the difference between importance and performance, which we call the delivery gap. We found that employees who intend to change job perceive bigger agency delivery gaps than those who wish to stay. The median gap is just 13% for those intending to stay and 36% for those intending to leave.

The five attributes in which there is the greatest difference of opinion between those intending to leave and those intending to stay are: ‘rewards people for going the extra mile’ (39% difference); ‘has a management team that demonstrates strong leadership skills’ (35%); ‘helps employees to manage stress’ (33%); ‘supports professional development and growth’ (32%); and ‘is quick to change in reaction to new situations’ (29%).

Rachel Fairley, Managing Director of Fairley & Associates, believes: “Employees agree on what makes a good agency and on how their agencies are letting them down. For two-fifths, enough is enough. It isn’t about money; everyone knows money is tight. It is about respect and appreciation. Agencies must empower their managers to lead, coach and nurture their teams so employees are involved in ensuring their agency’s and their personal success.”

Crucial deficits in agency performance in the psychosocial work environment

For those intending to leave, the greatest delivery gaps are in the psychosocial work environment such as job demands, job control and workplace support/training.

The perceived delivery gap for those intending to leave is significant: ‘rewards people for going the extra mile’ (64%); ‘supports professional development and growth’ (60%); ‘provides training’ (55%); ‘helps employees to manage stress’ (55%); ‘appropriate workload for staffing levels’ (53%).

Jobs with high demands and high control are generally considered the most rewarding whereas jobs with high demands, low control and poor workplace support are worst for mental and physical health. To retain talent, agencies need to nurture their employees. This may also improve their perception of the leadership skills of their management team.

Karina Beasley, Managing Director of Gabriele Skelton, says: “As a recruiter, of course we are reliant on people moving from one agency to another. However, we also want our agency clients to thrive, and from the results of our research, many are risking their future success by not paying attention to nurturing, and therefore, retaining their employees. Bearing in mind the level of redundancies in the first half of 2009, many agencies are now down to teams comprised entirely of their key people – the very people they can least afford to lose when the upturn comes. It is vital that they look at how to reward and recognise their people – something which doesn’t have to cost a fortune.”

Download the full report and press release

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