AbelsonTaylor's Jay Carter on the key to retaining top talent

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Asked for a big-picture assessment of the current hiring/retention climate in healthcare marketing, AbelsonTaylor's Jay Carter says it is more or less the same as it's been for the past decade or three. “Finding, developing, and retaining high-quality staff remains one of the principal challenges we have,” he says. “The old adage that our assets go up and down the elevator each day remains true.”

At the same time, Carter — and his peers — understands the industry's most able performers are in high demand. For one, the consumer world has taken note of AbelsonTaylor's successes with consumer-side brands and clients. “If you'd told me 10 years ago we'd find ourselves being poached by the Leo Burnetts and Edelmans of the world, I'd have been shocked,” he notes.

Similarly, now that dominant tech behemoths such as Facebook, Apple, and Google have set their sights on healthcare, agencies find themselves under pressure from yet another flank. What can agencies do to keep their best people and continue to attract other desirable employees?

See also: Pharma marketing salaries reach new heights, up 12.7% in 2017

For Carter and AbelsonTaylor, more and better training has become one of the best hedges against talent raids. “We've learned a lot about what our employees want to know, and we've formalized the education into a modular program that is designed to teach them how to make things happen within our system,” he explains. 

Carter adds that training isn't just for low- or mid-level employees hoping to add a few useful skills. “We embrace ongoing training for more senior staff, whether it be learning about new innovations at SXSW or taking advantage of excellent development programs put on by the Coalition For Healthcare Communications and the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame.”

To facilitate this intensified approach to in-house education, AbelsonTaylor has hired a full-timer to manage training-related issues. The company has also increased the depth of training it gives to recently onboarded employees. “I don't think anybody has it perfect, but as we strive to be more competent, we find ourselves focusing on the people who are striving themselves and looking for more avenues through which to develop themselves further,” he says.

Carter is enthused by the feedback he's receiving from current staffers about AbelsonTaylor's enhanced training regimen. “The most common questions we hear from our current employees are exactly the right ones: ‘How are we doing financially?' ‘What does that mean for future growth?'” he notes.

See also: Healthcare agencies re-evaluate tactics to retain talent

Carter is similarly encouraged by conversations with would-be employees, especially as they pertain to AbelsonTaylor's “efforts toward social responsibility, and how we work to give back to the community.” He's glad to hear such concerns voiced by oft-maligned millennials.

“I love having a millennial workforce,” he stresses. “One of the reasons that most of our employees choose the medical advertising industry is because they can work on products that do good for people.”

Besides, Carter adds, in AbelsonTaylor's experience millennial staffers have tended to be extremely team-oriented. “Advertising is not an individual effort; it's a team sport,” he continues. “It feels like this group of employees truly embraces that.”

AbelsonTaylor is the sponsor of the 2017 MM&M Career and Salary Survey. 

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