This week, Lindsey Groepper of BLASTmedia joins us to discuss employee churn. What is the cost of it? More importantly, how can you decrease employee churn while increasing your staying power? Read on to find out how!
About Lindsey Groepper
As President of BLASTmedia (recently named AdAge top place to work 2022), Lindsey is responsible for overseeing the strategic direction and operations of the B2B SaaS PR agency, as well as driving client acquisition. Over the past 15 years with BLASTmedia, Lindsey has managed PR campaigns, led account teams, and brought key clients on board for the agency, ranging from well-funded SaaS start-ups to publicly-traded powerhouses.
Lindsey is both a featured speaker and regular media contributor to outlets like Forbes, Inc., and MarketingProfs. In addition to her role at BLASTmedia, Lindsey is Principal at Statwax – a digital advertising agency – and BLASTmedia Ventures, an investment company providing capital and marketing support to technology start-ups.
Prior to joining BLASTmedia, Lindsey worked at Fleishman-Hillard Chicago in the consumer marketing practice group. At F-H, she was responsible for executing national PR campaigns for global brands like Nike, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, and Abbott Labs.
An avid fitness enthusiast, Lindsey loves high-intensity, high-impact exercise, with her preferred workout right now is F45.
Points of Interest…
- What is Employee Churn? 1:50
- Preventing Employee Churn 6:38
- Developing Effective Training Plans to Prevent Churn 9:04
- Framework to Maximize Employee Retention 13:54
- Helping New Managers to Avoid Employee Churn 23:17
What is Employee Churn?
The topic of “employee churn” is prescient for those who might have experienced a lot of turnover in the last year or two – with all the turbulence that we’ve seen in the employee market with regard to COVID, recessions looming, and the boom and bust of our industry.
Firstly, I want to hear an expert’s definition of employee churn, and the prevalent symptoms folks may feel when they might be experiencing a problem around this.
“Everybody defines employee engagement differently. My take on it is how do people feel about coming to work with you every day. How do they feel on Sunday – do they have the Sunday scaries? Are they dreading speaking with their coworkers? So, for me it’s about feeling. How do you ensure that it’s a place that feels safe for people to show up as their authentic self?”
I personally love that qualification of how people feel at work. Oftentimes, we try to chalk employee churn and culture down to these very objective measures – are people working more or fewer hours than what’s in their contract? How much time do we spend in meetings versus how many foosball tournaments we have throughout the year?! However, in my experience, the context of the work outweighs the volume. You’re going to respond more effectively to work that doesn’t fill you with the perpetual ‘fear’.
This brings us to the typical employee churn indicators Lindsey has witnessed within her 17 years in BLASTmedia. What are some of the common symptoms?
“Every business will have their own telltale signs, so I will speak to ours. The first is when you see the “first day” ferver go out in a new employee… That shows up in different ways. Sometimes it’s as subtle as them not actively participating in meetings, or failing to show up for social events, and an overall work apathy. So, we’ll have a conversation and sometimes we can fix it, and sometimes we can’t.”
Why can’t it be fixed? Well, for instance, if their dissatisfaction boils down to the actual work itself, then you’re not going to change the nature of your actual business to fit their needs. If it’s a case that said person needs to be re-energized, that is an easier fix. ***Lindsey and I get into the meat of this and “Quiet Quitting” from 5:30 minutes***
Preventing Employee Churn
What are some of the measures Lindsey has found to be effective in either preventing these apathetic situations or reversing them when she clocks them?
Generally, a good starting point is realizing that the reasons your find joy in the work doesn’t equate to the reasons behind someone else’s enjoyment of the work. For instance, if what brings you joy is the people, you can’t just build a culture purely around social events because that level of socializing might not reasonate with your employees. So, how can you mitigate that?
“Before someone is even brought on board as a team member, we ask everybody to do a Culture Index Survey. It gives us an insight into what make employees tick. How are they with detail, collaboration, or working independently. Do they make decisions logically or emotionally?”
This kind of comprehension is key when it comes to employee fit and therefore satisfaction. Not only does it facilitate your understanding of your employees, but also how you can create opportunities for them accordingly – even if you’re doing PR for B2B SaaS companies instead of creating nature reserves for our dwindling whale population… In short, everyone needs to glean fulfillment in their own ways. Now, how can you create that within your organization?
“We have a number of different ways to plug into our agency, whether that is through our volunteer committee, we have a social committee and a recruiting committee – those who like to go out and recruit through discussing their experience with BLASTmedia. We’re also forming ERGs… it’s really important that we develop ways for people to fill their cups outside of just the work that they do here.”
Developing Effective Training Plans to Prevent Churn
BLASTmedia scaled exponentially between 2020 and 2021, effectively doubling their headcount from 30 to 60 in the process. What Lindsey soon realized in this abundance of new people is that they weren’t providing the required sufficient training.
When you’re 30 people, that institutional knowledge can be transferred more effectively because your longest serving people are really still working on accounts and therefore in the weeds day-to-day. As you scale, those layers build up and what you soon realize is that inherent institutional knowledge – which makes your business successful – isn’t getting passed down. So, how did Lindsey mitigate this?
“We developed a brand new ‘Accelerator Programme’, which involved promoting a director of learning and development to run this programme and develop it for us. We basically developed cohorts of similarly titled people who had similar roles. They would undergo a nine-week cohort which involves everything from job skills training, calendar management and time blocking, how to have tough conversations.”
This type of programme can really helped you level your people up and make them feel you’re investing in them as individuals as opposed to blanket training – or no training at all.
Investing in your people is of the utmost importance. Speaking with fellow founders, I have found the vast majority don’t want to grow because they want the company to get bigger. Rather, it’s about giving your people the opportunity to have somewhere to go. ***I expand further on this and the importance of retention from 10:40 minutes***
Framework to Maximize Employee Retention
At this juncture, it’s plain to see that there’s quite the mashup between art and science when it comes people retention. The art side being able to tie people’s individual fulfillment goals, while the science part of proceedings revolve around… wait for it… PROCESS! There is a process to finding out the aforementioned goals, a process for getting them trained, another process behind identifying the quarterly assessment, and so on.
Naturally, I’m thrilled to be able to showcase another way process is key to every facet of your business. And what goes hand-in-hand with highlevel processes? Frameworks, of course. I’m therefore exceedingly keen to ask Lindsey to guide us through one of BLASTmedia’s Three Ts framework.
“So much has happened between now and March 2020; the pendulous swing of The Great Resignation, Recession, who holds the power – employee or employer? However, throughout all these changes we found the key to retention is essentially the Three Ts – those being Trust, Transparency, and Technology – have remained paramount for employee retention.”
- Trust: a pertinent example of employee trust right now is the ongoing working from home or hybrid scenario. There are days when it’s gorgeous out and you go to a park for two hours. That’s fine, because your employer should trust that you’re a high performer, getting your work done, and showing up for the people/clients that need you. Depending on the industry in which you work, employers shouldn’t have to police an employee’s time – time tracking tools can help here. ***Join me for a deep dive on ‘Trust’ from 19:54***
- Transparency: Lindsey’s experience with regards transparency comes with exposing your entire agency to the realities of the business. Now, this doesn’t mean showing the P&L and walking through that line by line, or openly discussing everyone’s salary, however, in terms of the performance of the business, you should be transparent. This is where your monthly and quarterly staff meetings are key ***Lindsey lends more insight regarding this from 17:05 minutes***
- Technology: BLASTmedia, being the size that they are, have the benefit of a decent budget in which to invest in tech. Working with B2B SaaS companies, it invests in software that really helps the teams to spend less time on mundanities thanks to tools which automate a lot of the necessary processes. Instead, they’re able to focus on work that matters. For instance, they use dashboards that clients can access in realtime.
Helping New Managers Avoid Employee Churn
In addition to the above Three T Framework, Lindsey also employs other means to equip management level with the necessary tools, such as a programme entitled Agency Math. While it doesn’t use BLASTmedia’s actual numbers, it provides pivotal insight into how the business world works especially for managers who’ve not operated in the space before.
“You think about new managers who just literally haven’t had much exposure to the business world, so that’s been really helpful to walk them through the fundamentals of revenue versus expenses in profit and margin. It gives them sort of a real world math example of how that works.”
We’ve all been there… You’re working in a big name company with 300+ employees. You get wind that there’s a client paying $10million a year, so you’re now wondering why you’re only making $34k anually. We all needed the company math explained sometimes! Walking through that with new managers so they at least can get their heads wrapped around the financials of an agency is key.
Focus on people over profit, because it doesn’t work in reverse. If what you’re worried about is profit, then everything else will suffer. In saying that, however, Lindsey also stipulates the following…
“You can’t only run your business to the people – you certainly need to be running your business to the numbers. However, focusing on your people first, opening up your ears and listening to them, providing them resources in the space for them to show up to work as them as their true selves.”
Being on the same side of the table and solving these challenges together, can be a really empowering thing. It also gives employers key insights into who are their team will run towards the proverbial fire as opposed to away from it.
See more from Lindsey…
Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! We have helpful blogs designed to bolster your agency profitability, such as How To Calculate Your Billable Employee Cost-Per-Hour.
Our next installment of #APP, on November 16th, will see Marcel chat with Corina Ludwig for our 100th edition! Our previous blog – Episode 98 with Juliana Marulanda – can be viewed here…
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