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The Great Resignation: How to reduce marketing staff churn and future-proof your team for 2022

Lucy Gillman, junior copywriter at B2B Marketing, sat down with Maria Jennings, director of marketing and brand at PwC UK. Maria explores this year’s hot topic: the Great Resignation and what it means for marketing.

LG: As an introductory question, why do you think there’s such a spate of resignations in the marketing world right now?

There are resignations in many places, not just in marketing. It’s the world we’ve been living in. It felt like we were all on hold for quite some time and the future was hazy. People wanted stability so they stayed in roles that they might otherwise have left sooner. Once the world opened up a little, it was inevitable people would feel braver about next steps in their career; to some that felt like ‘everyone is leaving’ when in reality I’m not sure that’s the case. It hasn’t surprised me that we’ve seen a spike, but I would say that things will level off at some point. Organisations are investing and that means hiring talent and new skills. The market is hot right now. The real topic of discussion for me is recognising that this also brings opportunity both for existing employees and for those people looking for something new. 

LG: It goes without saying that you don’t want that wealth of knowledge to go out the door. How can you retain your current staff other than the obvious financial incentives?

I have always been of the view that people take different career paths, and some may move around to do that. It happens and certainly I did the same in the early years of my career. Some of the moves people make are absolutely the right choice for them whether that be working in a different industry or for a different brand – it will happen, and as a leader of a large team I accept that. Providing people with flexibility will absolutely help. They will feel trusted to work in a way that empowers them. I’m also passionate about growing talent from within – and this year I am proud to have seen many of my team go through successful promotions. Learning and development investment makes a huge difference to how valued people feel. Of course, all organisations need to continuously assess the financial element but making sure your teams know that their hard work is seen and makes a difference really helps. A regular show of gratitude and a thank you goes a long way and all of that combined shows we are invested in them as individuals and in their respective career paths. 

LG: On the flipside, for every action there’s a reaction: this influx in resignations brings with it an influx in people wanting to fill those vacancies. How do you manage to deal with that mass of people looking for new opportunities? What sets out a ‘good’ candidate from a ‘bad’ one?

This is a great question because it absolutely means the pool of talent looking for new roles and wanting to do something new is huge. We ensure we don’t approach recruitment as simply ‘filling roles’ – for me it is about specialist skills and talent, and making sure we are open minded and don’t just hire more of the same each time. This brings fresh ideas and perspectives into the team. I’m always keen to add to the diversity and rich tapestry we are looking to create, and we always look for great people from different backgrounds. Hiring new team members should be creative and exciting.

LG: During the pandemic, I think it’s fair to say that marketers have had to quickly learn a lot of new skills (virtual events software, more focus on digital channels, etc). When old staff leave, in some cases they’re leaving a behind role that in a way became tailored to them as everyone became hands on deck during Covid. With that in mind, do you think it’s harder to find marketers that are qualified for these newly emerging roles? How do you deal with this?

It’s interesting because mid pandemic we had a lot of rolled up sleeves in our team and we all mucked in to deal with the situation at hand. However, as a marketing team we have a diverse mix of talent and a real focus on technical skills. Having a superpower is important, so when people leave it can be tough when you’re looking for real specialists.

Equally it’s exciting to find something new. It helps us ensure our model remains agile. Sometimes we see candidates that we weren’t expecting, and we would look at tailoring our model to include a new set of skills. Our team has deep technical knowledge in multiple capabilities, which includes strategy – there is a role for all those skills and so when looking to hire, we tend to be clear on what the requirement is.

LG: As a follow up question, in a post-pandemic world, we’re relying more and more on digital technologies and strategies. Entering 2022, what skills and competencies will marketers need to build on? Has the pandemic brought a new checklist to the foreground?

Digital skills aren’t just for digital marketers anymore – digital needs to be on the agenda for every marketer. The depth of expertise is what differs on a team-by-team basis. A basic level of understanding and knowledge is required in order to stay ahead of change or at least try to keep up with that change. Equally I believe that strategy is absolutely key – strategic marketing is the ‘what’ we do and our technical marketing capabilities, such as digital, content, campaign and brand management are just some of the ‘how’ we do it.

I’m not sure the pandemic has given us all a new checklist, but it has certainly been a catalyst for what’s next. The way in which we use the right skills to deliver on the strategy and achieve growth is essential. ‘One-size-fits-all’ is not an appropriate approach anymore. Being client first in your marketing strategy is absolutely critical and as such marketers need to have client centricity at the heart of what they do. 

LG: Looking further afield, do you think the Great Resignation will continue into 2022? When do you see things calming down or do you think this is becoming increasingly normal?

I genuinely think it will depend on what sort of world we are living in next year – the last two years have thrown all plans out of the window. While the market is particularly hot right now, I do think it will calm down in 2022. However, appreciating the value your employees deliver, trusting them to do great work and empowering them to do that in a way that works for them personally and gives them balance, is paramount to retaining talent. All of that will be important in a market that continues to thrive.

LG: What do you think some of the core lessons marketers will need to learn to hold onto staff in a dynamic market?

I would say that leaders need to remain open about what is possible when it comes to retaining talent. Being authentic as a leader is important to me and being open and honest with my team is something I always aim for. Really getting to know your people and what drives them is so crucial. It isn’t always about money. Building trust matters. We need to remember that. It’s the experience and career development, it’s the entire package – helping individuals to forge their career and showing them that you’re invested in them personally will go a long way. 

Want to learn more on how the B2B market is changing? 

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