Negotiation Upskilling Benefits Both Agencies And Clients, Says Agency Chief

Negotiation Upskilling Benefits Both Agencies And Clients, Says Agency Chief

Agency Iceberg founder and director Anna O’Dea says agencies are seldom hesitant to put their team members forward for professional development opportunities bar two topics: job share and upskilling in negotiation, something she explores in this opinion piece.

Anna O'Dea
Posted by Anna O'Dea

Finding, attracting and retaining superstar employees is one of any business leader’s greatest challenges.

While the ANZ agencies I work with are acutely aware of what star employees are looking for these days, the conversation often abruptly stops around a few topics crucial to the continued success of their team.

Flexible working and dollars do count; but at the end of the day, workplaces whom are able to demonstrate they will nurture their people’s future careers are the ones that will secure the best people.

Many of my clients are very open to conversations around flexible working hours, bespoke salary and bonus packages and providing continued education. The conversation hovers, however, around two key areas: willingness to job share senior roles and encouraging their employees to learn how to negotiate.

While job share is quite common across the public sector (and in startup culture), many agencies find it challenging to get their head around the potential of having two employees across one role, particularly client facing ones.

When presented with two exceptional candidates who would share a senior role, many agencies struggle to make an offer, citing ‘client dissatisfaction’ as the reason.

This not only limits them from a talent pool perspective, but it effectively locks out a growing majority of senior workers (both men and women, but primarily women) who would like to stay in agencies, however are faced with a choice of work – or having a family.

In this day and age, having to make such a choice seems archaic and old fashioned. No wonder less men are taking Paternity Leave – after all, it has a significant impact on future career opportunities, studies have shown.

The second opportunity for agencies to retain incredible staff is encouraging them to become the best they can be, both from a professional and personal standpoint. (Free lunch and Friday night drinks are nice; but knowing your boss has your back from a career progression standpoint is even better.)

Specifically, one of the most challenging skills to refine (at any level), is the art of negotiation and managing upwards. Almost every employee, regardless of industry and position will find themselves in situations frequently where they will need to negotiate on behalf of their clients and team members for shared outcomes.

Given this is a highly regarded skill which can often make the difference between a client who pays the bills and a client who can contribute to the growth of the agency, it amazes me that very few agencies actually offer this very primary training as a part of their induction.

Could one of the reasons be fear? That agencies are afraid workers will use these negotiation techniques to land on a bigger salary? More fruitful package? Better outcomes for the business?

Agencies needn’t be fearful. In fact, employers have told me, multiple times, talent who display early negotiation techniques are the ones that actually capture their attention. If they can advocate on the right of themselves it displays self confidence and an authenticity around their values and their perception of market worth.

It’s a beautiful thing, watching one of my team members negotiate a great outcome for a job seeker and their prospective employee. If my people are able to advocate on the right of job seekers and their clients to land on a solution; they’re clearly empowered and have the confidence to put relationships ahead of any amount of money.

And if not, the onus is on myself as a leader to rectify this and provide educational opportunities for their continued progression.

Agencies’ thrive on their ability to sell outcomes to clients and deliver world class work. Ultimately the success of any business relies on your people’s ability to advocate on the rights of themselves, their colleagues and your clients / suppliers.

Giving your people the tactics to negotiate positive outcomes while retaining mutually beneficial relationships will only see your business grow.