Are media agencies limiting growth opportunities?

By Nadine Lerm, Media Strategist at The MediaShop

The current organisational structure of most media agencies is quite flat, and by that, I mean that there are few levels between management and staff level employees. This organisational structure offers enormous opportunities for all staff members, especially when you are in the beginning of your career.

The other advantages of a flat organisational structure are that it elevates the employees’ level of responsibility in the company. It removes excess layers of management and improves the coordination and speed of communication between employees, and fewer levels of management encourage an easier decision-making process among employees. Elevating a person’s level of responsibility is what makes this organisational structure so powerful. I remember in the early days of my career when I just started working on the MTN business as a Junior Media Strategist and being in meetings with the CMO and numerous high-level employees, being exposed to their conversations was an absolute privilege, and learning something every day is what kept me intrigued and excited. This kind of organisational structure allows you the opportunity to be involved in various projects and to really insert yourself into the organisation. Limited barriers and sharing of ideas are usually valued and encouraged.

However, on the other hand there are a few disadvantages of the flat organisational structure especially as a career advances. Two key disadvantages that I would like to touch on is that is makes employee retention difficult. Excellent employees who are looking for an improvement in their rank, aside from an increase in their salary, may find it hard to maintain job satisfaction in this kind of organizational set up. They may end up looking for a job somewhere else where they believe their efforts will be rewarded with a promotion. The second being less employee motivation. It makes it harder for ambitious workers to move up the ladder as there is very little room up there. This could easily erode motivation, giving people no reason to take the extra mile in their work.

Some media agencies have started to address the levels within their organisation and started to introduce manager, director, partner and heads of each discipline and that’s a great start. It will also start assisting in salary grading – which is a discussion all on its own. But does introducing these additional levels not just create an illusion of career growth that really only builds an ego?

I have struggled with this notion for a few years now, as to what true growth means in the media agency world and I have come to the conclusion that it all starts with the individual. The benefits of the flat organisational structure still allow you to insert yourself even in an advanced stage of your career. Focus on what you are good at and improve that skill. Don’t ever stop learning and stay ahead of the curve. By doing this you will find career satisfaction and career growth will be a by-product.

Please share your ideals and opinions on what career growth in the media agency world looks like to you.

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