6 Steps to Keep Your Agency Recruitment Pipeline Full with Amazing Talent

By Jason Swenk on August 17, 2022

Are you having a hard time finding the right candidates to fill roles on your team? Does your hiring process take culture fit into account? A solid hiring process is key to agency growth. Today’s guest has worn many hats in her career in the agency world and has learned to always keep the recruitment pipeline full at all times. How can you manage to do this? It’s a combination of various steps.

Amy Pyles is the president of Saxum, an integrated digital agency that works with brands balancing purpose with profit. In her role overseeing the inner workings of the agency, Amy relies on her leadership team to create the type of culture where they set up people for success and keep the agency steering towards its goals.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Building agency culture and constantly recruiting.
  • Keep your recruitment pipeline full at all times.
  • How to grow your agency team talent.

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today’s episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.


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Cultivating an Agency President from Within

Amy is not the owner of Saxum but does operate the business. Her agency career started right after finishing her master’s degree. She started as employee number 25 at an agency that was just starting its growth journey. It was 2008 and Twitter had just come out, Apple was about to launch the new iPod, Facebook was just opening up to work as a marketing platform for brands, and everybody was building custom websites and apps. With so much happening, it was definitively the right place and right time to enter the digital marketing space. She left the agency 8 years later as a business with 250 employees, offices across the country, and working with brands like Walmart.

She started working with Saxum right away to lead their digital practice. Over the years, she led some departments, was promoted to Chief Operating Officer, and now has the role of President.

Creating Agency Culture That Supports Constant Recruiting

Many agencies have a hard time bringing in talent and building up the team to keep up with demand. Amy finds one of the most important elements when recruiting is having a clear purpose for your agency. Being able to connect with purpose on the talent side has been an important piece of how they recruit. Her team leverages culture as a key operational element in growing the agency. Thanks to their culture partner, Giant Worldwide, they also have a framework to manage culture and talent development. And, they take several steps to ensure their talent pipeline is always full.

Remember: You should always be hiring! Sometimes agency owners will say they’re having a hard time finding talent but if you go to their website there’s for recruiting. This should be clear as soon as a user enters your website that you are hiring. Set up the right systems to create your recruitment pipeline and be consistent in keeping it active.

At Amy’s agency, everyone knows that “what gets measured, gets managed”. As you focus on operations, think about what you’re measuring (and don’t measure too much!). That’s what will get managed. It’s been pivotal in the way her team builds competency and builds the discipline needed in operations.

6 Steps to Keep Your Recruitment Pipeline Full at All Times

At her agency, senior leaders are responsible for filling the pipeline for their departments. Basically, they should always have in mind at least two positions they should fill next and ensure these steps are covered:

  1. Developing relationships: Each team leader should think about where they could be developing relationships with possible recruits. This could mean keeping an eye on other agencies in case they want to “poach”.
  2. LinkedIn: Their LinkedIn is always running and Amy says they get great input from there.
  3. Paid ads: A part of any serious recruiting effort.
  4. Referrals: This is a piece people tend to lose sight of. However, the best source of freelance talent and full-time talent is from existing employees. So they try to incentivize that and hire from within their network.
  5. Internship program: They have a robust intern program that has worked great for them. Ideally, they’ll have up to ten interns to grads working at the agency at any given time. Keep in mind that bringing in interns to your agency won’t save you any time. In fact, it is a long-term strategy and requires a lot of time and planning to do it well.
  6. Quarterly meeting: Finally, they have a quarterly meeting where every department head goes through the pipeline.

As to the question of hiring junior or more experienced staff, her agency does prefer to hire junior staff and train them. Of course, you will need to hire more experienced talent sooner or later. Keep in mind this will be the most difficult task when it comes to recruiting and integrating them, but it is a necessary step.

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A System to Improve Interactions as an Agency Leader

Working with Giant Worldwide, Amy’s agency has learned to work with its Five Voices Framework to build liberated leaders. This framework helps employees understand themselves better, understand others, and identify their blind spots. As a leader, it helps figure out how to better communicate with others and greatly improve interactions.

At Amy’s agency, the conversation about voice starts in the interview process. This way, interviewees understand how they will fit into a role and how they would interact within the team dynamics.

Investing in Development and Promoting Your Agency Team

Amy’s team implements all the typical tools and growth guides managers use to encourage growth among employees. They are also big believers in real-time feedback and maintain that 1,000 small conversations lead to more growth than one big conversation. As a strategy to help people set goals and keep an eye on skill gaps, employees get an annual stipend to spend on personal development. Of course, the agency also offers training for the team.

When it comes to promoting people to team leaders, Amy doesn’t believe tenure necessarily dictates capability. For her, it’s more about having had the right exposure to perform at the next level. It also depends on what each employee wants. Not everyone is interested in managing people. There’s a place and a need in every agency for managers that lead people and for experts that make sure to deliver a great service.

Transitioning Roles from Agency COO to Agency President

Amy has worn several hats at Saxum, including leading their digital department, COO and more recently as the company’s President. As COO, she oversaw HR admin operations, project management, and she retained the leadership of their digital practice. Most of her time was spent on project management and workflow to get all of those pieces to work together and produce for the agency.

Now as President, she also oversees the creative department and client service. All services now report to her from a quality perspective and she relies heavily on each of those department leaders. Amy has worked in different roles in her past agency experiences, leading client service, project management, digital strategy, etc., and she realizes now the importance it all had to prepare her for the role of COO.

It’s difficult to hire someone outside who starts working as the agency COO. If you’re looking to fill the position of COO, you want someone who understands the different nuances of working in your agency while bringing a systemized approach in efficiency and effectiveness.

Jason has coached agency owner clients who bring in a COO from the outside by first bringing them in as a consultant. They try this for a few months until they understand how the agency operates. It’s a low-commitment way of testing things out before making it official. He feels Bringing someone new in with a heavy title before they get to know and earn the trust of the team is setting them up for failure.

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