How to keep your PR people loyal for longer

In PR people tend to move jobs after just a few years. However, in some organisations, people like the place so much, they stay a lot longer. We ask senior PROs what are the secrets of retaining people for the long haul.

Encouragement to find your passion

At agency Hotwire Public Relations, the average length of service in the senior team is five and a half years and the CEO has been there 12 years. Emma Hazan, deputy managing director, has stayed nine years so far, and believes there are solid reasons for people’s loyalty. And that is that they are encouraged to follow their dreams: “When we start out in PR, we’re all generalists, but at some point, it becomes clear that there are some things we’re better at than others. Creating an environment for a member of staff to focus on the things they love is vitally important. We have people who have rewritten job descriptions to prioritise things they’re passionate about and we’ve got people who have created practices or agency specialities to inject entrepreneurial spirit into their work.”

As Hazan points out, keeping people for the longer term is virtuous circle: “By staying in an agency for a longer time period, relationships strengthen, trust increases, and knowledge of what you’re good at broadens. The agency’s responsibility then is to provide the flexibility and freedom to nurture that person, and allow them to grow with support.“

Chances to progress and develop your career

Alistair Smith, director, business and retail banking at bank Barclays, says that the key to retaining people is to offer the opportunity to develop and have career progression in a communications function that is recognised as delivering value to the organisation: “We have lots of scope to improve in this, not least in terms of better co-ordination of training and talent management. I’ve been fortunate, however, to have worked in four of the bank’s divisions in the UK and overseas over 14 years. So instead of having to leave to find new opportunities and challenges, Barclays has been able to offer career development."

Although Smith recognises that large organisation such as Barclays are more able to offer career progression, there is more to keeping staff than this: “There also needs to be a culture of talent management and willingness to coach internal candidates as they enter roles which are stretching for them. This requires a concerted effort from the senior management of the communications function, but brings benefits through time.”

A culture that reflects your personal values

Agreeing with Alistair that prospects are key, Paul Sutton, head of social communications at PR agency Bottle, also adds that another vital element of keeping people is the company culture: “Employers tend to focus on salary and perks and totally misunderstand that people want to work for companies and people that reflect their personal values. People want to feel a part of something. Provide that and you’re half way there. I think we’ve currently got a great blend of all of those things: a rapidly expanding agency with defined career paths and a fantastic culture of creativity, personal responsibility, support and ambition.”

The benefits that matter to you

“The choice to stay with one organisation for a long time is entirely dependent on the individual”, points out Julia Ruane, director of agency ChiCho Marketing, "and what they want out of their working life.” Ruane says that for the ambitious, this means opportunities to advance. For those who want a good family/work life balance, then perks such as healthcare, pension and childcare assistance are more likely to keep their loyalty. But Ruane believe that too often companies are so focused on maximising profits and delivering the work that they pay scant attention to what actually motivates their employees: “The trick here too is not to give the employees what they want, but to provide the benefits that an ideal employee would want. That way you keep the people who will help you grow the business and make it great. The rest go elsewhere."