A Work/Life Balance vs. a 24-Hour News Cycle; Staff Retention Poses a Challenge for All

“On one hand, we’ve got a generation of staff who want more from a work-life balance and on the other hand we’ve got an audience that are demanding 24-hour news coverage. It’s like, how do you solve that one?” That quote came across the pond from News UK’s head of early talent Mark Hudson during a session late last year on retaining young talent, as part of an equality, diversity and inclusion conference.

“It’s a massive part of our job to try and make sure that our talent stays and doesn’t run away screaming—and also stays within our industry,” News UK’s Hudson said in a Press Gazette story. (Do we have heads of early talent?)

One CEO told me recently that “there’s been a lot of turnover and staff movement in [my] newsroom over the past 1-2 years, so training is top of mind.” An editor told me today to perhaps focus a webinar on “editorial morale.” In the interviews I’ve conducted this year, young people have seemed pretty content with working remotely. One is an SIIA award winner who told me, on Zoom from his living room, how happy he was there and he could never fully go back.

“The shift to remote work gave employees a lot more power and control,” Terri Travis, vice president of human resources for Industry Dive, told us. “If companies do not provide flexible workplace environments, they will not be competitive in the market and will suffer from a retention perspective. We have already seen this on the front half with our recruiting efforts.”

In a recent poll of organizations conducted by ASAE and Avenue M in late March, 35% shared that they experienced 11-20% in staff turnover in 2022, 12% percent experienced 21-30% and 6% had higher than 30% turnover.

What can we do?

Emphasize wellness. An article in Associations Now yesterday had this headline: “Experts: To Reduce Employee Turnover, Start a Wellness Conversation.” “Moving forward, I also anticipate an increased focus—and resource allocation—on mental health and wellness,” Travis told us. “What was once considered a perk will now be an expectation, either through benefit coverage, mental health days, work-life balance and paid time off.”

Conduct stay interviews. From that article, supervisors should conduct “stay” interviews with key workers, said Amanda Haddaway, managing director of HR Culturebox. As opposed to the exit interview, stay interviews can surface real concerns with time to act on them. “You’ll ask them things like, ‘What’s going well for you? What challenges are you experiencing that I can help you with as your manager?’” she said. “If you’re feeling really brave, you can ask, ‘What would prompt you to leave the [organization]?’” Added Travis: “We routinely ask our team what’s important to them to get a sense of where things stand. We ask, how do we meet them where they want to be? Are there specific times, events, trainings and other things that would maintain the level of culture and cohesiveness they’re looking for?”

The “upskilling” of managers. “I’m having so many pastoral care discussions, and my team members come to me about their mental health, which is great,” said ITN head of diversity and inclusion Lucile Kamar (pictured). “But do our managers have the right skills to respond to that?” Managers need more training, she says, as they take on increasing responsibility for employees’ wellbeing as well as their careers. “Employers are increasingly managing the whole person,” Haddaway said. “They’re concerned about an employee’s mental health and well-being and their psychological safety. They’re finally realizing that employees have whole other lives outside the workplace. We are whole humans, and need to be managed as such.”

Talk more positively. “We also have, as part of the conversation of our industry, phrases like ‘the death of print’ and ‘fake news’ and stuff like that,” Hudson said. “And that doesn’t send out messages of confidence, particularly to our young talent, that this is an industry for me for the long term and as a result we are hemorrhaging some of the brightest brains in this industry.”

4-step retention strategy. This was mentioned in a few places. 1) Build better bosses—investing in leadership development is the first step. 2) Get explicit about career paths—company leaders confessed they were not direct enough about communicating all the opportunities for professional growth within their companies. 3) Create an inclusive culture – people are more inclined to stay when they feel valued and have a sense of belonging. 4) Implement creative and flexible reward packages – a comp strategy designed specifically for younger generation.

Create virtual “connection points” for employees. “Is there a platform in which employees are encouraged to chat with each other?” Washington Post columnist Danielle Abril asked recently. “Are there regular calls? Are there opportunities to team up with employees from different teams for something that might resemble a virtual water cooler?” Adds Tsedal Neeley, a Harvard Business School professor and author of Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere: Perhaps “starting every meeting with some personal connection time, versus jumping right into the subject matter at hand.” He suggested that 10-15% of meeting time could be allowed for the group to chat freely. “Starting in a personal way increases group cohesion and group performance. You have to build in the informal to get to know one another.”

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