A Millennial on Work Satisfaction in a Digital Agency

The motivation for this blog post stirred from recent turnover in agencies and a growing understanding of what it means to work for a digital agency in 2016.

The renowned author Malcolm Gladwell states that complexity, autonomy and reward for effort are the pillars of job satisfaction. Gallup calls these employees “engaged“. When you are engaged, your work is meaningful and fulfills a sense of purpose – you are proud of your work.

I’m one of the lucky ones who can check mark all three of Gladwell’s requirements. I can honestly say that I am very blessed to have a boss who thinks I’m invest-worthy and promoted me 10 months into the job. Although I originally applied for my job as a digital analyst in Texas (job visa, I shall not dwell on you) and landed in London, I am fortunate to have found a role with a certain complexity and autonomy as well as a working environment that I enjoy being part of. In short, I could summarize it as the perfect first job in the wrong city. (Millennials are never satisfied, right?)

So why do employees become disengaged or leave? Do Gladwell’s findings conclude that I will quit as soon as projects either get too boring or too complex, or my boss starts micro-managing or misjudging the help I need, or simply that I’m not rewarded enough for my contribution?

In terms of reward, writers for HBS argue that employees benefit from staying with the same company for at least 10 years, but Forbes and Fast Company authors argue for switching jobs every two to three years to increase pay. So what can companies do to keep their employees satisfied, especially in digital agencies, where turnover is generally high? The obvious answer is to reward your valuable employees accordingly – for some agencies it means granting unlimited vacation.

Gladwell’s complexity is linked to continuous learning and growth opportunities, which a company needs to provide. For most employees this means managers who respect individuals, value and invest in them and provide feedback to nourish growth. For women wanting children, growth opportunities also mean company role models of mothers who have successfully re-integrated into the workforce or who hardly left due to continued project based work, reasonable working hours, and in-house childcare. Despite the long night once in a while, I’m fortunate to have a job that rarely has me stay longer than 40 hours per week, which I know to be rare in the agency world. Whether this is good enough for raising kids – I would not know. However, since agencies pride themselves on being innovative, even disruptive, I’m wondering if they can stop the cycle of turnover, and instead become the powerhouses of welcoming mothers back into the workforce. The “complexity aspect” of job satisfaction mustn’t be strictly related ones work tasks, but can – in my opinion – just as well be the complexity of balancing work and life.

The question that remains is what agencies have to gain from employees who stay five or more years.

Engagement and meaningful work, leading to pride in one’s work, is a crucial factor not just for employee retention but recruitment. After all, according to a Gallup study, 66% of engaged workers would recommend their company as a place to work to friends and family members. Moreover, if I learned anything in my marketing services class, it’s that engaged, autonomous employees lead to happy customers: when your company cares for you, you can focus even more on your clients’ needs.

Rita Koch
Rita Koch