Sally Henderson
Powerful change from the inside out




My 3 top tips every creative agency needs to know to retain key talent better

I help creative organisations identify, attract and retain exceptional leadership talent. In this post, I want to talk to you about retention and teach you some fundamentals that will help you, as a creative organisation, retain exceptional leaders better.

I have seen time and time again in my 20 year career where creative agencies have thrown money, goodwill, energy and employer brand out the window through not investing in retaining their talent. Creative Agencies put investment into retaining an Executive Search partner, pay a fortune in head hunting fees. Typically, agencies then think “that's great we've got our new person and the job's done”. It's not. The real work starts when that person walks in the door and begins the job and their career with you.

There are three things I'm going to share with you that will help you get better results when you're introducing new (and diverse talent especially) to retain exceptional leaders more effectively.

Firstly, start with a job description. So many times companies, creative companies especially, don't have a job description. It's viewed as a bit of an old-fashioned HR thing. It's not. It's the heart of what makes successful leadership change work.

Without a job spec, how does new leadership talent achieve clarity around the role they've been hired, in writing, to do? How does this critical new senior talent reconnect,when they might need to, around the purpose and passion and motivation behind what made that leader take that role in the first place? How does a busy, distracted, a little bit stressed maybe, Leader keep on track and remember the job they said was the right job, maybe six months ago now is indeed the job they are now doing!

Have a job description. Have one that's motivating, purpose led, informing and very clear. I have a tool that helps achieve that because if it's one thing I know my clients always say is, we have no time. Start with the job spec. It will save you a lot of money and prevent a lot of heartache.

Secondly, invest in support. It's amazing that when a leader goes over, say a £120,000 / £150,000 it's assumed, very often, that person has no fear, no gremlins talking to them and almost by osmosis can work out exactly what a company has paid a lot of money for that leader to do in their new role. Because that's why the person has been hired right?

To come and solve a problem. When a creative organisation invests in mentoring with an expert to objectively guide all parties through change, then higher success levels are achieved faster.  

What I see happen when creative companies hire new leaders, is high assumption that everyone knows what they're doing and then people are left to get on with it. This is very risky. People find out a job isn't quite as it was sold, which is often the case. New leaders perhaps come up against problems or barriers they weren't anticipating. When senior talent goes into something new and different often there's nobody safe and neutral, informed and expert to talk to about their concerns so they can get put to bed. Little niggles take root and they become big problems and they cause disconnect, therefore disaster.

Unsuccessful leadership appointments can be avoided by having proper mentoring, proper support. Creative Organisations can insure your success by creating a roadmap, confirm key milestones, clarify what the new leader needs to learn and what they need to have in order to learn and crucially look after the emotions as the new person adapts to a new environment, people and role.

Last point for this post, consistency and commitment. I've seen clients start the recruitment and on-boarding process very well. “Yes, we're going to put a great purpose led, modern, inspiring job spec together. We're going to hire a coach and mentor to support everyone effectively. It's all going to be great!  For it actually to be lip service and it doesn't happen. Then six months later you check in and, how did that new hire work out? How did that go for you, that “suck it and see strategy”? Oh, that person's left. Ouch. It can be avoided.

If you set the intentions, keep them. Get everybody onboard with committing to making successful change work. It will transform your success rate giving higher creativity, happier people, better profit.

This is my passion. I love helping creative agencies identify, attract and particularly retain exceptional leaders. I'd love to hear from you what your challenges are, so please email me and I look forward to having a conversation with you. Lookout for my videos around identifying and attracting exceptional leadership talent.


I have been advising leading creative organisations on talent and recruitment for the past 20 years. I am on a mission to rid the market of shoddy recruitment practices, upgrade the creative industry’s approach to talent and help ambitious companies IDENTIFY, ATTRACT & RETAIN Exceptional Leaders

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sally henderson