The concern over losing marketing staff is one of the topics I hear most often from chairmen and their CMOs. Regardless of how satisfied they are with their marketing departments, there is an undercurrent: With such high turnover in the field, will organizations be able to retain talent when there is fierce competition nipping at their heels to hire their marketers away to greener pastures?

While many legal marketers were delighted when they read that the average tenure of the law firm CMO has stretched to more than five years, the question remains: Is this due to a few outliers who have worked through several leadership changes, or have things substantially improved? Whatever the situation regarding compensation and benefits, it’s important to remember six critical steps when operating a marketing department in which longevity is a concern.

1. Train.

We are now working with several generations that want more from their jobs than a biweekly paycheck. Today’s workforce wants to have a sense of purpose in their roles and to know that they are mastering new skills. Training has at least two benefits: the actual skills obtained and the demonstration that an employer cares enough to spend time and resources on training. Training does not have to be a significant expense and it can take many forms. Think creatively. Sessions can even be facilitated by other employees or by asking your vendors for ideas.

2. Organize.

People no longer join an employer and stay for decades. Marketers want to grow and learn. Putting job ladders into place, where a staff person can have goals for real growth both in title and responsibility, is essential. Ensure that there are enough steps in your ladder to give employees a place to go within the organization.

3. Communicate.

Marketers need to know more than just the tactics they are being asked to implement. In order to operate effectively, they need to be a part of crafting strategy or at a minimum understand the decisions behind that strategy. The best organizations have leaders who communicate their messages to the entire team, not just a select group of deputies.

4. Respect.

Marketing department staffers are often contacted by other employees when those employees are experiencing their most stressful pain points. They have an upcoming sales pitch or a press call they may be uncomfortable answering. Note to those callers: Building a reputation always starts with how you operate within a company, not just how you appear to the outside world. Regardless of how you feel, be respectful to the marketer on the other end of the phone. It will go a long way.

5. Assess.

Take time, at least annually, to look at the marketing department’s organizational chart and ensure that the right positions are in place. Think about what the organization’s needs are today and what they might be a year from now. Only once that has taken place can you decide if you have the right people in those spots.

6. Support.

Invest in your staff’s future by paying for attendance at conferences and memberships. Allow them to play a role in organizations such as the Legal Marketing Association, for the legal marketing industry, the 4As for the advertising industry and PRSA for the public relations industry. Not only will your staff members learn something new, they’ll appreciate you for making an investment in their future.

There are things that you can do to mitigate turnover — but the most important thing is to pay close attention to the issue before it’s too late.


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