By Mark Phooi
Retaining talent is a problem in every industry especially in a small country like Singapore but retaining creative talents in that bubbling cauldron of industries that encompasses design, marketing,advertising, and PR seems to be particularly difficult or so I hear from other CEOs. Thankfully it has never been a big problem for me.
Don’t get me wrong, with over 20 years’ experience of running successful design agencies I have seen my fair share of staff come and go due to jumping ship or being pushed overboard but I have usually managed to retain the valuable ones. How? By using job rotation and job enlargement to keep my staff engaged and offer them room to grow.
Job rotation is exactly what it sounds like, you let people gain experience by trying their hands at other jobs and learning new skills. Job rotation offers multiple benefits, especially for small to medium sized agencies.
It prevents staff from becoming bored by offering them new challenges and opportunities to learn new skills. It improves communication and understanding of each other’s roles within the team. And importantly for a small business it means if someone is ill, out of the office or even quits unexpectedly there is someone on hand that can take up the strain, at least temporarily.
The other important benefit of job rotation is it prepares people for job enlargement. Studies have shown that job enlargement, which is defined as a horizontal expansion of job duties, can lead to increased motivation, job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Used properly the job enlargement approach allows you to groom the talent you need to expand your business while keeping them motivated and fulfilled.
What job enlarge does not mean is just piling more and more of the same drudge work on people until they can’t take anymore. Job enlargement means giving people greater job scope, not just more work. And crucially it also means giving people more responsibility and freedom to make decision.
In other words you assign tasks and allow them to decide how to complete them using all the experience they have gained via job rotation. Sometimes you might have to give people room to make a few mistakes along the way but as long as they are learning from those mistakes and improving it is worthwhile trade for both the company and the employee.
The next job enlargement step for your more promising talents is to let them head a small team and give them a small project to run rather than just single tasks within someone else’s project. Once again they can build on the understanding of the different team member’s roles that they gained from earlier job rotations, and the experienced gained managing their own task such as time management and resource allocation.
Not everyone will rise to the challenge. Some will find they are better in support roles or purely creative roles. Some will decide – or perhaps you will have to decide for them- that they are not cut out for agency life. But the good ones, the ones with talent and potential, will relish every challenge and look for more.
And the beauty of the job enlargement approach is you can always give them more; whether it is a bigger project or a chance to try their hand at the business development and account management side of a project. Until eventually they are leading an autonomous team finding their own client’s and projects.
At that point you might want to try another tactic that has served me well and set them up in a smaller agency and offer them the opportunity to work independently in the new entity as your partner rather than your employee before they think of doing it for themselves.
In 1997 I set up First Media Pte Ltd (FM) as a holding company for smaller agencies that I would give start-up funding and then hand over to my employees-turned-partners to run. With the opportunity of essentially becoming their own bosses, these hand-picked individuals then had the chance to test their metal and determine if they had what it takes to succeed on their own.
Although running a business comes with a whole new set of challenges, those who are able to excel in their new roles will likely be able to push their potential even more than they could have in their previous jobs and help your company grow at the same time.
The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect this publication’s view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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