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Why creatives really quit their jobs

3 min read
Product Marketer at Hike

When quitting a job, workers in creative industries are heavily influenced by toxic environments

Creative industries are as popular as ever – an estimated 29.5 million people work at creative agencies worldwide, with the UK employing more than 2 million creative workers and adding an estimated £100 billion to the global creative economy. In addition to growth and popularity, creative jobs are attractive because the work is meaningful and less likely to be replaced by automation, when compared with other sectors.

But despite the seemingly perfect veneer of these positions, a lot of creative workers aren’t happy pursuing their passions. Instead, they’re quitting their jobs.

Why do workers leave creative jobs?

Across all industries, workers are most likely to leave a job for higher pay or to do more meaningful work. Creative agency employees align with these reasons somewhat, but their decisions to quit their jobs boil down to one thing – company culture.

A 2018 Design Week report revealed some troubling survey results – 96% of creatives leave their jobs after 5 years. Though their reasons for leaving vary, they all link to unhealthy workplace practices. Those surveyed said they worked longer hours than what was agreed to in their contracts. Because of this, they felt they weren’t able to balance work with family duties. On top of this, they felt there was a lack of career progression, both in pay and level of responsibility, and they received recognition from leadership infrequently.

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Another survey, from Fishbowl, revealed that advertising agency employees were often subject to toxic work environments. Several respondents said they’d been discriminated against because of their gender, race, or age. Some had experienced harassment while others worried about how their workplace affected their mental health.

In some cases, these workers go on to find positions at other companies; in other instances, they become freelancers and set up their own businesses. Regardless of the road they take, one thing is clear – they’re looking for a more welcoming, supportive, and respectful culture.

An employer’s perspective

Another aspect that contributes to a negative workplace experience is instability. Prior to the economic fallout from COVID-19, agencies were already enduring rounds of layoffs as companies like Apple doubled down on in-house operations and cut ties with third-party vendors. Developments like these served as a painful reminder that, at creative companies, work isn’t always consistent and jobs aren’t always guaranteed.

This left many creative workers feeling fragile, worried that work could dry up and they could be eliminated at any moment to protect the agency’s bottom line. From the employer’s perspective, they have to protect the business, which doesn’t always allow for protecting the employee. But this creates stressful conditions to work under.

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How can creative industry leaders make this better?

There are some key steps that leaders can take to retain creative workers and create a more encouraging culture:

  • Designate clear paths for advancement – give employees clear action steps to move up the ladder.
  • Provide purposeful work – give assignments that align with employees’ passions and clearly connect to the agency’s mission.
  • Fill openings proactively – don’t force existing talent to bear the brunt of unfilled roles.
  • Be open to new ideas – make sure all voices are heard and taken seriously.
  • Create a safe environment – encourage feedback from employees through surveys, coffee chats, and out of work lunches and take action to improve satisfaction.
  • Be transparent – be honest with the team about the state of the business and the rationale behind big decisions.

By improving company culture, each employee can focus on executing each project flawlessly – instead of quitting their job.

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