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Losing a great employee is never fun. Company culture takes a hit. Clients get grumpy. Senior and junior talent surrounding that person get on edge, and wonder if they should also be leaving. It causes upset all around.

While some people will move on despite your very best efforts because they’ve reached the end of their life cycle with you, some jump prematurely. It’s those people that we want to focus on today and what, if anything, can we do to keep them engaged and inspired longer?

1. It’s Christmas. Again. It’s Summer. Again. It’s Back to School. Again.

Creative people get bored. Big surprise. But not only do they get bored working on the same piece of business, they get bored working on the same projects on the same piece of business. So the next time it’s time to do the Christmas ads, it gets harder for them to get excited. And excited is what a creative person wants to be. Excited is also what you want your best creative people to be, because excited creative people are more creative.

One could make an argument for the fact that working through the boredom and being able to is what separates the true professional creative person from the rest of us. Yes. There are benefits to digging in and persevering. But most people aren’t made that way. They get bored. They sniff around. They leave. Even if it’s to write Christmas ads for a new client. Sometimes that’s enough.

Maybe some pre-emptive shuffling of accounts would prevent an exodus?

2. We have no money. Here are some photos of me with my family at our private ski club.

Someone needs some sensitivity lessons. True story. After announcing no raises due to financial constraints, the CEO announced that he had just joined one of the most expensive and exclusive ski clubs in the area.

We know that ski club memberships for CEO’s aren’t the same as budget and salary cuts or freezes at the corporate level. We know. But maybe it might be a good idea to just keep your excitement to yourself for a little while. At least until this salary freeze stuff blows over. And it will.

Salary freezes are one thing. Insensitivity to what the majority of creative people might be feeling in light of that news are another altogether.

3. You don’t make a lot of stuff.

The truly ambitious creative people measure their career in terms of quarters: What did I add to my portfolio in the last quarter. They joined you because they believed they would be adding a lot of stuff to their book. As someone who I was coaching said to me about a job he is considering today, “They make a lot of stuff.” Making a lot of stuff is good. Making a lot of good stuff is better. Manage expectations in the interview process. Talk about the realities of what the agency produces. How much of what and how often.

Know the stats.

4. You didn’t hire me that partner yet and it’s been six months.

A creative person adrift without a partner is not a happy creative person. A creative person who doesn’t have a partner isn’t getting a lot of assignments (see #3 above) so they aren’t making, they aren’t being recognized and they are working in a vacuum. Which is not fun. When you hire creative person A (let’s call it the writer) don’t hire that person until you have found their partner. Let them start on the same day. Let A wait until B has been found. It’s better for everyone, gives them both a better start and it’s better for the department – and everyone in general.

5. No Face Time

No matter how big your department is Creative Leader, you need to give everyone some face time regularly. One of the main reasons they joined your agency is because of you. Give them some of you. Talk to them. Schedule it in. And don’t push them aside for something else. The only thing worse than not getting any time with the boss is being constantly bumped. That hurts.

Of course there are many other reasons that your best creative people will leave but these are certainly the ones I hear most often. I’d love to know your reasons for leaving previous positions and what, if anything, your company could have done to prevent it.

Sometimes a company can prevent a departure and I think both company and employee would prefer that outcome.

Like I said, losing a great creative person is never fun.

But then, neither is leaving a company you really do love for something that was so easily fixable.

~ heidi