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News 22 Jun 2022 - 5 min read

Industry churn at record 41% but peak may have passed; more days in office means happier workers – Media i survey

By Sam Buckingham-Jones - Deputy Editor
Media i survey 2022

“There is no doubt the tight labour market has increased churn… [but] churn isn’t a bad thing because it keeps companies fresh and brings new ideas," Chris Winterburn, Media i Australia's Managing Director, says.

Some numbers are unsurprising: There has been a lot of turnover in agencies over the past year – 41 per cent of those surveyed in Media i’s latest survey have been in their role for less than 12 months, almost double the level 12 months ago. But there are other numbers that aren’t apparent: Those that spend five days a week in the office are significantly happier than those that don’t, and the younger cohort don't value freedom and flex anywhere near as much as the veterans. 

What you need to know

  • Media i has released its biannual industry survey of 4,400 media owner and media agencies staff, revealing record numbers of people in their role for less than 12 months. 
  • 41 per cent of agency staff and 29 per cent of media owner staff moved in the past year, a near doubling of both numbers in the past year. 
  • But just 20 per cent of agency staff say they'll actively look for a new role in the next six months. 
  • The survey found people are more happy the more days they spend in the office. Those in the office five days were happiest, those in the office no days were least happy. 

Churn doubles

Churn in Australia’s media agencies and media owners has nearly doubled over the past year to record levels, as the industry grapples with a shortage of talent - and offers too good to refuse. 

In May last year, just 23 per cent of agency staff and 15 per cent of media owner employees had been in their role less than 12 months. Now, those figures are 41 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively. 

The figures come from Media i’s biannual industry survey – Media i and Mi3 are part of the same group. It is the largest survey of its kind in Australia, speaking to 4,480 people – around 80 per cent – of the media agency and media owner industries. And it provides crucial insight into the thoughts and priorities of thousands of people in the industry, especially as wages surge by 20 per cent and agencies boost their lists of extras, perks and benefits to attract and retain talent

“There is no doubt the tight labour market has increased churn. But this is not unique to the Australian media industry – it is a global talent issue," Chris Winterburn, Media i Australia's Managing Director, said.

"Churn isn’t a bad thing because it keeps companies fresh and brings new ideas. If you look beyond the headline figure of 41 per cent, what is most interesting is that those actively looking for a job is the lowest our survey has recorded (20 per cent)." 

PwC’s Future of Work report, released earlier this year, predicted that 38 per cent of workers - across all industries - would leave their current employer during the next year. “Australian organisations are about to see people walking out the door. And it’s adding to the impression that the balance of power is shifting from the employer to the employee,” PwC wrote. “Because in the war for talent, it’s the worker who has the better bargaining position.” Current concerns over contracting economic conditions, however, may shift the dynamics.   

Media i survey 2022

A graph showing the rise in turnover in agencies and media owners.

The latest survey reveals other emerging trends. For one, happiness increases the more days an employee spends in the office, running counter to some prominent conversations promoting flexible working. Industry veterans prize flexibility and freedom while early career talent want relationship and career progression, according to the survey. The priorities are somewhat at odds with each other. 

Actively looking

But despite the high churn over the past year, and despite worker’s better bargaining power, there are green shoots among agencies. 

There’s a marked boost in how people are feeling about their work – more people than ever (84 per cent) say their agency “recognises and rewards my efforts”, while 92 per cent say their workplace has clear values that are shared by staff.

Just 20 per cent of media agency people say they are “actively looking for a job” in the next six months - though the same proportion said the same thing six months ago. That suggests that, if 41 per cent of agency staff have moved in the past year, 21 per cent of the industry has been made an offer that tempted them to move out of a workplace they liked. 

Among media owners, 23 per cent will be actively looking for a new role in the next six months - up from 20 per cent six months ago. Again, a record number say they’re well recognised and rewarded (83 per cent), and their workplace is committed to developing its talent (86 per cent). 

Office = happier

The survey looked at how many people were returning to the office. Only four per cent didn’t go in at all, and 55 per cent were in the office at least three days a week. The majority (66 per cent) were in between two and three days a week.

But interestingly, the survey reveals the more time a person spends in the office, the happier they feel. 

While 68 per cent of fully remote people were “happy”, meaning they answered seven or above on a scale of one to 10 about their happiness, that increases to 81 per cent happiness for those working five days a week in the office. All other days were somewhere in between. 

“Wellbeing has been an important issue during the past two years, and many people have spoken about the isolation of being at home for too long," Winterburn said. 

"The numbers show spending more time in the office, surrounded by your colleagues, delivers incremental happiness at work. Humans need humans, none more so than in the communication industry, and the data proves this.” 

Media i survey 2022

The more time a person spends in the office, the happier they reported being.

10+ want freedom, flex; juniors seek relationships

The biggest winners out of the remote working, flexibility drive are those with 10 years or more in the industry value, the survey suggests. Those with 10+ years of experience put 'Responsibility and Freedom' as the most important aspect of work contributing to job satisfaction (43 per cent), compared to the less than two years cohort (20 per cent). Inversely, those with less than two years' experience prize their Relationships with Peers and Colleagues (43 per cent), while 10+ years people value that less (36 per cent). 

Winterburn says the responsibility lies on current leaders not to neglect the experiences and relationships of junior staff. 

“The hybrid wants of those who have established their careers are different to those at the beginning," he said.

"But we must remember today’s juniors are tomorrow's leaders, and it is up to everyone to ensure we are not abrogating our responsibilities to the next generation of media professionals. In a thriving, creative, social industry, face to face interaction, together with real world office learning and soft skills development, are the things which make the leaders of tomorrow.”

It's a similar story with Career Progression. Those with little experience value it highly (43 per cent), those who've been in the industry 10 years put very low (19 per cent). 

DOOH, BVOD, audio see programmatic rise

The Media i survey also asked media agency teams which channels they felt would benefit the most from programmatic investment in the next 12 months, with Digital Out of Home (DOOH), Broadcast Video on Demand (BVOD) and audio the main bets. 

At the top, 52 per cent of the 935 people surveyed believed DOOH would rise the most, followed by 48 per cent with BVOD and 36 per cent with Audio. 

Breaking that out by age, however, it's apparent the more senior industry professionals, in particular, are backing those three. 

In the 10+ years experience cohort, 61 per cent backed DOOH, 54 per cent backed BVOD and 45 per cent backed Audio. 

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