Why digital agencies need to grow up with their staff 

Digital agencies need to reflect the needs of a diverse range of staff, not just the young, says iCrossing's Rachel Collier.

Agencies are renowned for their work hard, play hard approach, a way of working that fits well with the lifestyle of recent grads. Hardly surprising then that agencies draw in the grads with the promise of freeflowing beers in the evening, all night socials and the kudos of working for brands they know and love. Of course, there is a lot to be said for attracting fresh blood to a company – especially when you’re a digital agency. They bring vibrancy, energy, creativity and often an innate digital understanding that comes from only ever knowing a world where the internet and social media rules.

But today’s digital agencies are not all about these young grads. Digital has grown up and agencies simply cannot afford to alienate those who have years of service under their belt.

These are the people with a wealth of digital experience in business, that have a deep understanding of the industry and who have built up lasting relationships with clients. They know how to apply digital expertise in a way that will help both the agency and its clients grow their businesses. They have the life skills and experience that are invaluable for relationship building both internally and externally. And it goes without saying that they are absolutely worth holding on to.

But these are also the people who have perhaps moved into the next phase of their lives, those who have started to settle down and who now have families to look after be it young kids or elderly parents.

So while socials and Friday beers will appeal to the younger members of the team, they won’t necessarily appeal to everyone. It is therefore essential that agencies have a benefits package that offers something for everyone and that they shout just as loudly about the added extras that appeal to people who have more responsibilities outside of work.

Late starts

At iCrossing we work closely with Workingmums.co.uk and Working Families. Why? Because we see real value in regularly reflecting on whether we offer all our staff the chance to achieve a healthy work life balance. It may not be as cool to talk about the late starts mums and dads get on their kids’ birthdays as it is to Instagram team pics of the antics from an agency night out. But it may just appeal to a different crowd who is integral to the success of the agency.

What’s more, agencies have a notoriously high turnover of staff. One way we have found to overcome this is to match benefits with the changing personal needs of staff. It sounds simple, but it is something that can be easily overlooked. Don’t forget that the grads coming in will most probably also one day want a different way of life, if you can hold on to them long enough! Agencies need to grow up with their staff and reflect this in their benefits package.

At iCrossing, one in four of our staff is now a parent and the numbers continue to rise as people stay with us longer. We have gradually been introducing parent-focused benefits over the past few years. Most recently we have started a parental mentoring scheme to help ease new mums and dads back into their jobs after an extended period away, by putting them in touch with those who have already done it.

Have we seen this benefiting our company? Absolutely. We have seen staff retention improve dramatically over the past four years. While in 2010 only 50% of staff had been with us for over a year. This has now risen to 70%.

Agency life benefits from a diverse mix of people, all of whom will bring their own unique and valuable skills to the table. While you cannot stereotype your members of staff by their age and life stage, it pays to remember that the personal situations of your staff will differ and may change over time. Agencies, indeed all businesses need to realise that work is not the only demand on their time. The benefits that you offer need to reflect this and should be tailored to help everyone achieve their work life balance. This is the key to building a loyal workforce which will ultimately help build a successful business.

*Rachel Collier is Chief Talent Officer at iCrossing, which was shortlisted for Workingmums.co.uk's Top Employer Award for larger SMEs.

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