How to Manage Shortage of Skilled Workers With Collaborative Client-agency Relationships

Nadine Dusberger

Nadine Dusberger

The shortage of skilled workers, which seems to be particularly prevalent in agencies, has been on everyone’s minds since the GWA study was published. In the comments sections, the agency clichés are happily swinging upwards. Some say it’s “their own fault”, while others blame the clients.






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The shortage of skilled workers affects the entire industry – including companies

The study suggests that a shortage of skilled workers is purely an agency problem. My daily reality shows: That’s not true. The shortage of skilled workers in communications & marketing is a general problem that affects companies and agencies in at least equal measure. In some companies, which have not become accustomed to flexible, hybrid, location-independent working as quickly as agencies, the problem is disproportionately greater.

We have rarely worked with so many permanent freelancers or interim managers on the corporate side. Rarely before have positions on the corporate side been unfilled for so long. And rarely have there been so few active applications for open positions as there are today – across all industries, not just healthcare.

We focus on customer relationships based on partnership instead of employer branding campaigns

So before we start calling for the next #comeintoagency campaign in which we try to authentically convey the versatility and undeniable benefits of agency life, let’s be clear: We will only manage this inadequately. Because we simply have to experience for ourselves that many agency clichés fall into the realm of myths – and companies, moreover, are also stepping up their employer branding activities in return. Instead, we should focus on what can alleviate the shortage of skilled workers in the short term and perhaps even remedy it in the long term: customer-agency relationships based on partnership that deserve the word “relationship” in the best sense.

What constitutes partnership-based customer-agency relationships and how they contribute to the enthusiasm of skilled employees

What constitutes partnership-based customer-agency relationships and how they contribute to the enthusiasm of skilled employees

Customer-agency relationships based on partnership thrive on eye level and open communication. Transparency, dialog, and respect for each other’s work and working hours. They thrive on standing up for each other and being there for each other. Even in the evening, if a situation or deadline absolutely demands it. But then as a justified exception – not as a rule.

I can remember countless situations in which we ensured that (very) spontaneous projects were realized, capacities were expanded or spontaneously (for reasons) very short deadlines were met. Conversely, I can also recall many situations in which customers made quick feedback or releases possible in record time because an unplanned bottleneck had arisen on our side.

We have already trained some customers on their indications and products because they were new to the company and we simply had more experience in this than their colleagues. In the same way, customers have also brought our new team members on board and made their familiarization process much easier.

In our day-to-day work, we experience how project management that is regularly checked for its optimization potential creates resources that we can invest in exciting projects together with our customers.

Since we live co-creation whenever it’s possible in the client-agency relationship, we save a lot of time for (re)briefings and provide a noticeable relief. Simply because we use the time we spend together to think ahead and develop solutions that don’t need a correction loop. Because we understand each other immediately without friction losses. Because we bring together the internal and external perspectives in a team that immediately pulls together.

The examples could be continued at will – but the quintessence remains: Partnership-based customer-agency relationships not only lead to appreciative work experiences that can retain existing professionals and temporarily bridge personnel bottlenecks. They also lead to a certain culture and results that get around and inspire new professionals to join our profession. Because as communicators, we all live by the motto “If you’re happy, tell your friends.”


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