What Are Indian Digital Agencies Doing To Retain Talent

Along with money, Indian digital agencies are investing in training, providing ample scope for growth, rewarding and recognizing their employees to help retain them


“Backbone of all services businesses is the team. And in a people driven business like ours, HR & Training is a support function in many organisations, increment is considered as the retention tool, attrition rate across the industry is constant at about 17% since 2009. For a startup like ours, the challenge is multifold and the strategy had to be simple, meaningful & real-time,” informed Ritesh Singh, CEO, ARM Digital.

Last week LI covered how digital agencies are recruiting millennials (Find Out How These 10 Indian Digital Agencies Are Recruiting Millennials). If recruitment is a challenge then retaining talent is no lesser challenge. “The digital industry is perpetually under-supplied against the demand for the right kind of talent. While the industry is growing rapidly yet, the talent-pool remains limited mainly because agencies tend to poach people from each other. We at Interactive Avenues have faced the brunt of this as we are the favourite poaching ground for other agencies, publishers as well as advertisers,” Amardeep Singh, Co-Founder & CEO, Interactive Avenues said.

Some of the common ways to retain staff is providing them rewards & recognition, including them into the bigger picture and providing them their space to excel. Training plays an important role in developing the right skills of the employees. “If I were to pin point one thing, that is more important for 2016, than just learning about these trends and predictions, it is how well we ‘Train our Workforce’ to derive business results,” Srinivas Kulkarni, Head – L&D and Analytics at Social Kinnect had shared in a guest post with LI, earlier this year.

“The evolving industry and a vast demand for digital in India have already created a serious influx of workforce. One that is eager to understand the ways of the marketing world from scratch, in digital specifically! Today, imparting these learning’s has become a key responsibility for all of us early adopters and leaders across agencies.”

A recent survey by Mercer stated that 29% of employees plan to leave their organisations this year, even if they are satisfied, primarily due to lack of career progression opportunities, Amardeep shared. “Hence, it is crucial for an organisation to keep the learning ongoing, not letting the process become stale and that is where the training programs play a major role.”

As most of us think that retaining is just about giving them perks. Perks are required but it is also about helping people to see the purpose or the larger vision of achieving the company objectives, shared Bansi Raja, HR Manager, Gozoop. “At Gozoop, we focus on motivating & creating belongingness rather than worrying about retention.”

Digging a little deeper into the various ways Indian digital agencies are retaining talent, LI spoke to a few of them and here is what they have to say (with slight modifications to match with the flow of the article)

Amardeep Singh, Co-Founder & CEO, Interactive Avenues

We, as an organization, believe in nurturing talent & creating skilled digital professionals through on job-training and are a ‘beginners-friendly’ organisation. At IA, nurturing goes beyond training one at his/her existing area of function only. We believe in identifying one’s true skills and placing the candidate into their area of interest and skills. We have seen a media person transforming into a Creative resource, a Search expert becoming a business head, an intern growing into a senior resource in Media and many other similar sector switch, when provided with relevant guidance and opportunities. And that is our key – not just to retain but to help our people grow and in turn grow ourselves.

Also, starting this year, we are going to be more strategic in our training modules which are focused on developing the right skill sets. Our approach will be to keep the workforce engaged & interested while helping them evolve in their area of work via a 3 tier process: (i) Functional & Soft Skills Training, (ii)  Rewards & Recognition, and (iii) Cross-service internship and placement.

Sumanta Ganguly, EVP, MullenLowe Lintas Group

Lintas has always been a place people love to make a home.  It’s not just the money, also learning and the opportunity to get a crack at solving real business problems of top 100 brands in India.  The problem of retention happens when you don’t hire the right people, we take great effort in bringing in the most suitable talent, train them and place them where they are able to build a career and not just do their jobs.

Chetan Asher, Founder & CEO, Tonic Media

Retaining and managing talent is probably the most important aspect for agencies. At Tonic we have created a culture that has eliminated silos, is entrepreneurial and encourages our teams to participate in cross function projects if they like. We are also incubating ideas and initiatives that tonickers want to pursue. Our culture is our biggest strength binding everyone.

Angad Singh Manchanda, Co-Founder, Chimp&z Inc

Employee retention is all about how well do you understand their needs and work towards fulfilling them. The golden rules we follow are adopting employees’ personal goals into companies’ goals and giving them a playground to be themselves. We always ask people what they want to achieve in their professional and personal goals and then make it a point for the company to adopt that dream as their goal. For instance one of the talented writers at our agency wanted to write a feature film, we now are working towards that goal on our own.

We also focus on hiring the right candidate for the job and only hire those who get the vision of the company and make sure that they dream the dream that we do. The agency also believes in principle of open communication and we swear by it.

Additionally, small perks make a big difference. We take fun really seriously; making sure fun is at the center of everything that we do so it never really seems like a job. Making sure the people always have something to look forward to everyday in the morning. The Friday beers and the Birthday parties, the director’s talks, the Chimp of the month, the open sessions with the senior management, open appreciation for good work and close conversations for issues make sure people understand their importance here.

Bansi Raja, HR Manager, Gozoop

The desire to do something because you find it satisfying & personally challenging brings out the highest levels of creativity. Once you get that right, you have the tailwind with you.

We’ve come to realise that salary alone cannot hold back an individual to the company. The most important reasons for someone to continue working with a company are: 1) bigger challenges that stimulate the brain, 2) a manager that leads you with integrity, 3) a larger vision that helps you understand how important your contribution of work is, & 4) a sense of accomplishment, achievement & appreciation.

At Gozoop, we do our best to balance these well because we love to see our guys grow old with the company.

Carlton D’Silva, CEO & COO, Hungama Digital Services

In Hungama Digital Services (HDS) we have had the good fortune to have a lot of our talent (especially the core team) be with us for 5-10 years (and sometimes more). I believe there are 3 important elements that need to be present for retaining your talent (apart from the obvious one of a good salary).

The first is the culture of the company. One must create a culture that is conducive for the growth of your talent and I have most often noticed a relaxed and free spirited one gives the right kind of space for talent to nurture and eventually blossom in the form of great ideas.

The second is talent itself. If one is surrounded by the best in class talent it enables him or her to learn constantly and in the much evolving space that we are in, learning remains a key part of our job.

Lastly, and most importantly, it’s the work. We are in the business of ideas and if you are not constantly innovating and coming up with fresh, new, exciting and most importantly award-winning ideas, your talent will move on to greener pastures.

It’s the combination of these 3 elements with a healthy dose of fun (considering you are spending at least 70% of your day at the office, it is important that you are having fun while doing so) that keeps your talent grounded and away from that nasty itch to move.

Ritesh Singh, CEO, ARM Digital

We believe in HR & Training, it is not a support function and we had set up the function at an early stage of our business. To ensure that the employees see growth within the organisation various training programs are conducted such as  “Tinder Tuesdays” where an industry veteran & partners share wisdom, certifications through partners – Google, Twitter, etc, and an ace program “Intrepreneurship” for the selected few (1st phase), transforming them into Intrepreneurs.

We are moving to Reward & Recognition 2.0 this year, bringing autonomy to the entire process, HR team as the facilitator. This is apart from the recognition we give on work anniversaries, upgrading to a Mac on completing 2.

Besides as a part of our vision statement we have already started sharing wealth by rolling out ESOP’s to the ones qualified for it and our endeavor is to help team members earn it.

Palin Ningthoujam, Head Digital, Avian Media

We, at Avian’s digital team, are trying to create an A-team of sorts that will have multi-taskers and specialists. To retain them here are three areas, we, as employers strive to provide to all our team members:

Great opportunities: What an ambitious young professional looks for in a job is opportunity to do some great work and learn. We involve even our interns straightaway to new business pitches and they are soon presenting to VPs and CEOs at client offices. They are part of every client meetings. In a year’s time, they would have done two dozen different things, spanning across participating in award winning campaigns, learning the art of social media engagement, client servicing, vendor management, budgeting, and team work.

Great environment: The environment we seek to provide is that of a fun, cool and very friendly structure where a close-knit lean team can thrive. Everybody is expected to discipline themselves rather than being disciplined by somebody senior. Our team lunches, movie trips, weekly beer sessions, cricket matches, and outdoor activities sort of all help boost the team to bond better.

Great recognition: We want people to grow fast and earn a lot. We understand this because we want that for ourselves too. Our salary structure is one of the best in the industry. Constant feedback and recognition is shared to team members. Every good work done is noticed by everyone.

Is your digital agency retaining staff in interesting ways that we should know about, then do share them in the below comments space.