Scratching The 10 Year Itch


Turnover is at an all-time high. Recent studies have identified the vulnerability of professionals at the 10 year mark to leave the industry – often permanently. This departure comes at significant cost, as the accumulated training and experience of these professionals is lost just at the point they are becoming most valuable in terms of their ability to drive client solutions and lead teams.

As the MFA 5+ programme rolls out, it is worth pondering how we can protect the long term engagement and passion of our ‘10 year’ talent pool.

At OMD, we are fortunate to have a significant cohort of employees with 10+ years of tenure, with another sizeable group with 8-10 years’ experience who are closing this landmark down. Looking at factors that have helped us retain these people can provide a roadmap of best practice for achieving long term staff retention:

  1. Making the Future Visible

Mentoring & development plans are a must. At the heart of retention, is a clear development plan with an understanding how the delivery of key KPIs and the demonstration of specific skills can aid progression over what timeframe. It is always easier to see where you have been than what is round the corner, and so mentoring programmes can also help team members visualise the longer path.

  1. Living the Future Today

Helping plan the future is key, but in our competitive industry, a level of visible success is needed to retain great talent for the long haul. It’s no surprise that our 10+ veterans have enjoyed some success within the company and have a good record of promotions and advancement. Helping great talent hit the advancement goals they have identified with appropriate training & development on the way help dreams become reality. The elevation of your veterans into senior positions also helps foster a consistent culture as the organisation continues to grow.

  1. Lifestage flexibility

In particular, helping part-time mothers and other key employees who either need to build in a break or move to part-time roles to balance other life factors. We employ a large number of part-time mothers in the agency – an invaluable, resource of expertise and experience that we would hate to lose. Providing flexibility and identifying achievable roles that can help staff navigate these major life changes is crucial. Part-time roles also need to be tailored so that they still play to an individual’s strengths and address client needs.

  1. Leveraging your global network

The wanderlust is often a reason young professionals depart. Rather than dreading the day a star performer resigns to travel with immediate effect, we encourage longer term conversations about travel. That way, we can build it into longer term development plans and help our staff with network moves (both international & interstate) if this is a key career goal. Within the Melbourne office alone, we have facilitated 3 overseas transfers so far this year to London & LA and welcomed 2 interstate arrivals from our Sydney & Brisbane offices.

  1. Leave the door open for returns

It remains a small industry, so when you lose a star employee, it pays to keep the door open. Whether people leave for unavoidable life reasons or there is a work reason that has compelled them to take a job elsewhere, situations change – your exit interviews will help you understand why. So monitor the talent you didn’t want to lose. It’s not only nice to stay in touch but smart to keep good people in your talent pool for if and when circumstances change in the future. We have a lot of returners at OMD, and they have all made a great contribution once back in the fold.

Beyond all the theory, people need to be continually challenged in our fast changing world. John Vellis, OMD’s longest server, puts his tenure down to feeling he has never stopped learning and therefore a consistent level of stimulation & inspiration keeps his feet from itching. I will leave the last word to JV, “There ain’t nothing in this world that’s deeper than loyalty & love.”


This article was first published in B&T:

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