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Eight Steps To Retaining Talent


There is optimism in the agency world right now. Over 81% of respondents, in the Alliance/Fortus Commercial Pulse, felt confident that the commercial landscape will improve in the next quarter. There is, however, a challenge. Agencies are struggling to recruit the resource required to capitalise on the anticipated growth, and there is a retention issue which is exacerbating things. 

We asked Annabel Dunstan, from our strategic partners Question & Retain, to give us her thoughts on how agencies could do a better job of retaining their people. We thought there might be a clue in her company’s name. Annabel conducts the Alliance People Pulse survey so is in touch with what’s happening in independent agencies. 

Here’s what she had to say about retention;- 

Let’s assume you are already getting the basics right….. you: 

  • hire the right people 
  • have a solid on-boarding process 
  • have a focus on employee engagement 
  • celebrate wins and give shout outs to employees on a regular basis 
  • pay well and have tailored benefits packages 
  • operate a flexible/hybrid working environment 
  • do the smaller stuff such as fresh fruit in the office, birthday cake 
  • treat everyone equally 
  • conduct regular reviews and appraisals 
  • offer training on and off the job 
  • have a CSR policy – i.e. you do good stuff beyond client work 
  • are committed to having a diverse and inclusive work force 

and yet people still leave!   

There will always be some degree of churn.  People’s lives are a complex web of stuff, of which work is just one element.  Becoming a parent, getting a serious illness, meeting a new partner who lives a long way away or wanting to shift one’s life’s purpose can all be factors that drive people to hand in their P45.  But if you do want to retain your top talent there are some extra steps you can take. 

So, if you really are doing all of the above what more do you need to do to not lose people?  

At Q&R we work with organisations to measure and manage the employee experience across a range of metrics from trust, respect, learning and development to mental health and whether they would recommend their place of work.

Acronyms to summarise our recommended eight steps are not my strong point, but here goes: ALUMPARRR.  Yes ALUMPARRR. 

  Ask, Listen, Understand, Measure, Playback, Act, Report, Review, Refine 

  1. Ask good questions – face-to-face and anonymised. Try to get under the skin of what is really going on across the entire team
  2. Listen and listen well – work on your skills to become an effective listener and train the team on the same
  3. Understand what is really being said – put yourself in the others’ shoes as they speak rather than spending the time formulating your response
  4. Measure sentiment – be open to hearing the good, the bad and the ugly.  Once it is out in the open it can be understood, managed and improved
  5. Playback to ensure that is everyone’s understanding – communication takes two, one to hear and one to playback what they have heard and what the other was trying to convey
  6. Act on the data – nothing erodes trust more quickly if after you´ve conducted listening exercises nothing happens as a result
  7. Report back to the team what actions you are taking and then again on the impact of actions i.e. how the dials have turned (or not) – build on trust and you will reap the rewards of increased openness, willingness to tackle issues and ultimately loyalty
  8. Review what is working well (or not) – this is a continuous process and so take the Pulse regularly remembering less is more. No one loves a 72 question Annual Engagement Survey. I can hear the groans now.  Things change quickly and so  periodic check-ins work more effectively
  9. Refine and then back to no.1….Ask more questions. Culture does not stand still.  Nor should you. 


If you would like to have a no strings attached chat about measuring and managing employee experience then please do get in touch by email or calling Annabel Dunstan, founder and CEO Q&R on m. 07790 216 441. 

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