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M&C Saatchi adopts ‘stay interviews’ to tackle talent crunch

M&C Saatchi and IPA’s initiative has already led to policy changes at the agency

In a bid to improve retention, M&C Saatchi has begun conducting ‘stay interviews’ and urges other agencies to do the same.

Rather than waiting for employees to resign and have an exit interview, M&C Saatchi has sat down with its staff to identify areas of improvement for the business, persuading would-be leavers to stick around. The initiative has already led to policy changes at the agency.

Launched against the backdrop of the talent crunch, M&C Saatchi’s managing partner Annabel Mackie says the interviews aim to “get under the skin of how staff are feeling and better understand what’s important to them in their roles before they have a chance to become dissatisfied.”

The initiative was co-developed by Mackie and the IPA, and first tabled in the trade body’s A Future of Fairness report in March.

Mackie recommends that other agencies set up a similar process, but advises: “The key thing is to really dig into what people are thinking and then, most importantly, to take the learnings from the conversations and use them to make positive change.”

M&C Saatchi chief exec Camilla Kemp adds: “If you collect that information and do nothing with the data it can be damaging because you’ve asked people’s opinions and ignored them.”

The first round of stay interviews revealed M&C Saatchi employees wanted more variety in their roles and additional learning. As a result, the agency has introduced the Connected Talent initiative allowing staff to apply for jobs across the group.

For the first time, M&C Saatchi will advertise its jobs internally and give all employees the opportunity to go for the roles.

“It might not sound like a radical idea, but it is,” says Kemp. “Agencies always want to hold on to talent and not let them go, but now we’ve realized if we let them move around the group it’s better to keep that talent in the business.”

Along with variety, Kemp says balance, recognition and progression also emerged as key themes.

In a year that has seen a record number of staff resigning or considering resigning, she says the interviews have given the first real “indication of more broadly why people are leaving the industry.”

Mackie and Kemp tease that further cultural changes are coming down the line as a result of the first set of interview results.

“Conducting these interviews has allowed us to really focus our thinking, energies and resources, which has been hugely beneficial. It makes us much more strategic in our approach to change,” Mackie adds.

M&C Saatchi and IPA’s top tips

  • There should be a degree of separation between the employee and the person conducting the interview. Avoid line managers or colleagues from the same department – HR, in-house recruitment or mental health first aiders are recommended.

  • Interviews should be conducted at regular intervals throughout the year. Ideally, at least 70% of the agency should be interviewed within a 12-month period.

  • Interviews should be 15-20 mins in length.

  • Some sample questions include: Do you feel you get enough recognition? Do you feel positively challenged by the work? Do you have enough work? Are you supported to thrive?

  • Once the data has been analyzed management might review policy; implement manager training; review and amend resourcing approach; and review and update reward strategy.

  • Management should communicate any changes made from the interviews with the agency.

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