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The Key to Retaining Agency Talent? Letting Them Leave

Agencies can invest in future relationships by respecting an employee’s decision to explore

One in four people who quit their job regret their decision, according to a report from employment search platform Joblist. Colin Anderson Productions pty ltd

January 5, 2023 | By Emmy Liederman | Adweek

Deutsch LA has always been hard for Karen Costello to part with. Costello was its eighth hire when it was founded in 1997, and the agency has since grown to staff 388 people. The creative chair, who has left and returned twice in her career, points to the people at Deutsch LA who unconditionally encouraged her professional growth.

“When you say, ‘Hey, I’ll support you, even if that means you have to go somewhere else,’ those people often come back,” said Costello, who made stops at Secret Weapon Marketing and The Martin Agency between roles at Deutsch LA. “That was certainly true with me and Deutsch.”

As of December, 40 of Deutsch LA’s staff members are boomerangs—hires that left the company and returned. More than one in four people who quit their job regret their decision and 42% who quit said the new job didn’t live up to their expectations, according to a 2022 report from employment search platform Joblist. The most popular reason for regret among employees is that they quit without having a new job lined up, according to the study.

After a period of prolonged resignation across corporate America, employees are realizing that with the right amount of self-advocacy, starting a new job is not the only way to foster professional growth. Today’s workforce is addicted to impulsion, which is only heightened at a time when quitting your job is among the trendiest things to do. Additionally, the remote work environment dilutes the tension traditionally accompanied with resignation, as you no longer have to physically step foot into your boss’ office to deliver the bad news. The natural curiosity to see what else is out there, coupled with a war for talent that leaves candidates with competitive offers, have helped employees justify the jump.

To survive in an economy defined by instant gratification, employers must maintain a rapport with alumni while emphasizing that the responsibility shift or professional growth they’re looking for can exist within the company. When employees want to reverse their decisions and agencies welcome them back, they come with new skills and a greater appreciation for the company, also serving as success stories for future hires.

“Who wants to go back for a repeat?,” said Aisea Laungaue, partner and chief strategy officer at Anomaly LA, who worked at Creative Artist Agency for three years before going back to the agency. “People are too ambitious for that. You have to go back for something that feels like a challenge with the added familiarity with the culture and the people.”

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