Work problems can keep you awake at night. Sometimes you need another point of view

Our panel of experts is here to help

Illustrations: Vanessa Arnaud

Work problems can keep you awake at night. Sometimes you need another point of view

Daniele Fiandaca
specialises in building creative teams and businesses. He helped grow the digital-marketing start- up Profero from 22 people to a global agency of more than 300 staff; and Cheil to become London’s fastest-growing ad agency in 2013. He runs Mutant, a momentum consultancy that helps brands, agencies and small businesses to implement growth strategies, as well as Creative Social, a global club for brand and creative leaders.


Calypso Rose
set up her own giftware company, Clippy London, which saw her named ITV London’s Young Business Person of the Year and feature in The Observer’s Future 500. A London girl with a love for a pop-up in an unusual location, Calypso curates classes at the Indytute (where you can learn new skills, from meditation techniques to furniture hacks) at venues across London, including the Geffrye Museum and Shoreditch House.


Robert Dighero
is a director of White Bear Yard, a start-up hub in Clerkenwell, and a partner at Passion Capital, an investment fund he co-founded in 2011 specialising in early-stage tech businesses. He has also worked as a management consultant for Bain & Co, and as CFO for AOL UK and the online auction site Tradus. With 20 years experience in internet businesses, he’s now an active investor across Europe.

I'm the founder of a small PR company of 12 people. We've had a rash of good people leaving recently and I'm wondering how to do a better job of retaining staff. We're not a big enough outfit or growing quickly enough to move people up regularly into new roles, so although I think we're a happy company, people complain about things being too static and worrying that they're getting stuck. I know I've got to make some sort of change: I've effectively trained these people, invested in them, and then they go. Any ideas?

Daniele: The most telling comment here is: “I think we’re a happy company.” First thing I’d do would be to sit down with each of the team and find out how they truly feel. And make a habit of doing this regularly. Does the business have a clear purpose that they believe in? Do they feel you’re living your values? What can you do better, beyond providing a clear progression path? If you discover that it is simply that there is a limit to what you can give people, then unless you’re looking to expand significantly, you might simply have to accept that your team is going to be transient. I personally would prefer to have someone brilliant working for me for 2-3 years than have someone average who is happy to stay for 4-5 years.

Calypso: You don’t say what kind of PR company you are. Finance or fashion? It makes a difference. You may need to shake things up. Have you asked your staff how they see their roles growing? What team building are you engaged in? You say you “think” you are a happy company, but this takes many forms. People who go into PR and marketing need challenges. It’s not enough to punt out formulaic press releases and email friendly editors. To get the best out of people, find out what motivates each member. Offer incentives: tickets to the theatre; flexible working; monthly staff jollies. Do you trust your staff? Give them responsibility? The good ones will step up to the challenge. You need to make the work exciting again. Start to really engage.

Robert: You say you’re a happy company, but have a “rash of good people leaving” and “people complain”. It sounds like there could be more to it than simply not growing quickly enough to create career paths. The first step is to make sure you have fully understood the core reasons for the dissatisfaction. There are plenty of methodologies and tools, from anonymous surveys to more sophisticated 360-degree reviews. Have you followed up with all the leavers to get their feedback? I imagine there’s a lot to be learnt from meeting up with them for a coffee after work and digging a little deeper. It may be something as obvious as remuneration. If
it’s something more complicated, you need to understand it
sooner rather than later.

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