As in other industries, local media companies are making key adjustments to retain employees, but are not typically going so far as to add certain benefits, often associated with tech companies, like unlimited PTO.

In February 2022, Local Media Association surveyed media members, industry professionals, and R&D companies about their experiences with “The Great Resignation” — with a goal to provide insight about what’s working to keep employees engaged, productive, and employed with their current companies.

Overall, respondents noted that salary, changes to culture including remote-work flexibility, and some adjustments to paid time off were the most effective tools to keep employees.

Survey response highlights

  • 32% of respondents said their companies had made significant changes to culture and operational procedures to allow more work-life balance.
  • 51% of respondents said their companies had made no changes to PTO.
  • Recruitment was also a key issue, with 89% of respondents noting it as a significant challenge.
  • In open-ended responses and follow-up conversations, a majority of people talked about resignations being more on the journalism side, and general industry burnout. Some were struggling to recruit for entry-level roles.

Details from the survey

How big a challenge is employee retention? On a scale from one (not an issue) to 10 (a big problem), nearly three-quarters of respondents ranked at least a seven. On a scale from one (not an issue) to 10 (a big problem), 89% said the challenge of recruiting new employees ranked at least a seven. 

PTO: just over half of respondents said no changes had been made to PTO, with about 20% noting many or significant changes have been made. 

Salary: most respondents (68.5%) said few, some or many changes had been made to compensation plans. 18.5% said no changes were made, while 13% said significant changes were made. 

Culture and operations: About a third (32.1%) of respondents said their companies significantly changed culture and operations procedures to allow more work-life balance. Nearly 36% said no or very few changes were made, while about 32% said some or many changes were made. 

Perks: More than half of respondents (52.8%) said their companies made no or very few changes to other perks.

What has been the most effective tool at increasing retention? Ideas from respondents:

  • Flexible work arrangements and flexible remote work location (most write-in responses).
  • Increasing compensation, adding to benefits (second most write-in responses).
  • Identify people who could potentially leave and focus on their individual compensation.
  • Instituting a formal employee development process, providing a path for growth or advancement internally.
  • More time spent on engaging with employees to make sure they are aligned with the company mission.
  • Using TeamTrait to understand and coach the mindset of all employees.
  • Hosting a monthly virtual lunch with no required discussion about work.
  • Launching an employee newsletter to recognize employee work.
  • Adding more detail in exit interviews about why people are leaving.

Comments from the survey: What has been the most effective tool at increasing retention?

“Clear strategic vision coupled with communication, taking a break from furloughs and benefit freezes, hiring some key top tier talent from outside to get folks excited, embracing and following through on efforts related to cultural diversity and inclusion, HR partnership assessing flight risk and targeted comp adjustments.”

“We have permitted full work from home, a 401(k) match, greater employee health program matches, introduced fringe benefits such as car allowances, cell reimbursement, etc.”

“Making employees feel welcome. Ensuring that the hiring process is seamless and clear as far as salary, PTO, health insurance, and 401(k) participation. Ensuring that they have all the proper tools (computers, cameras, etc.) proper server permissions, and software. Letting them know that there is cohesion between our newspaper and our corporate office. Responding to their needs quickly is important, as are occasional pats on the back for jobs well done, either verbally, in a card, gift cards, or taking them out to lunch.”

“I did an analysis of the resignations we had between April and October, and the top three reasons for employees leaving were, in order, lack of flexible work arrangements, compensation and benefits. … The only thing of these three I have any control over is compensation. We have paid pretty well anyway, but I’ve made some changes to compensation (basically paying more) in some cases to get ahead of churn, and also to attract new talent. But, I believe ‘compensation’ is somewhat of a red herring. I think if we had flexible work arrangements and better benefits, we wouldn’t have lost a lot of the folks we did. When they started looking around for companies who were offering more/better in those areas, they likely also found higher compensation. But, had they not been looking for those two things, I think most folks would have said they were happy with their compensation …”

About the survey results

  • The survey was shared across LMA social media channels, newsletter subscribers and on the web, targeted at people in local media, technology, and adjacent industries.
  • A majority, 54 respondents, were in the newspaper business (44%); followed by TV (22%); other (15% identifying as magazine, tech and public media); digital-only (9%), radio (7%) and R&D companies (2%).
  • Responses were collected for three weeks in February 2022.