“Ten years ago, there were 100 people in this building. Today we have 15.”
I’ve heard that theme over and over in the last several years. Not only are there fewer people in the building, but smaller teams are also being asked to create more content for more platforms than ever before. And in sales, we’re asking fewer AEs to chase an exhaustive number of priorities.
Frequently, I see people “checking boxes”. The show gets “phoned in” because there wasn’t enough time for good prep. The rotation of stories in a newscast doesn’t change much from hour to hour because there aren’t enough people to find new angles or material. The proposal gets sent to the client with no research or brand differentiation – just ratings and rates – because it was a fast turnaround and no one could help. The social post is an afterthought because a certain number was required that day. It didn’t have to be good, it just had to be done.
Sometimes a physical toll is involved. I’ve spoken with many in recent years who left (or were eliminated from) the industry. And they reported that an enormous weight was lifted from them. That their blood pressure was finally in check. That their spouses liked them again. That they lost weight. They didn’t know the toll the job was taking until they were out from underneath.
For some, they feel a soul-crushing lack of creativity. They operate primarily in reactionary mode, not with strategy or planning. There’s not a lot of time to be creative when all you’re doing is putting out fires every day.
In many cases, our people feel defeated because they WANT to do their best work, but they can’t accomplish the impossible number of tasks.
The new reality.
The truth is shrinking staff size is unlikely to change. Whether it’s because of compressed margins, economies of scale, recruitment challenges, or other factors, smaller teams are here to stay.
Many brand managers oversee dozens of markets. On-air talent may voice track for multiple stations. News directors have seen hours of newscasts added over the years (and in truth, most news is now 24/7/365 with digital and OTT). Many companies have absorbed digital and promotions into on-air and programming. Many markets have combined Market Manager/Director of Sales roles. Smaller sales staffs are responsible for more revenue and revenue streams. It’s the new reality.
How can we manage the workload?
Commission or conduct an efficiency audit. You may be surprised to find that multiple people are doing the same or similar tasks. Especially if your company has multiple markets, you will likely find duplication of effort in many areas. My clients report as much as 40% of activities that are being duplicated. Streamline those efforts and you’ll return valuable time to your people.
Use AI and other technology to complete manual tasks that don’t engage your team’s talent and creativity. There are repetitive tasks like podcast distribution, social media scheduling, website content from national sources, production elements, internal delivery of content, and more that AI and technology can absorb to free up valuable time. Eliminate (or reduce) the busy work so your teams can get to the important items.
Use technology to bridge personnel gaps. There are many systems that provide content curation or content distribution or video production or research or proposal generation, and so on, that can take some pressure off your teams.
Listen. Whether you’re a Market Manager of a single station/cluster or you’re the CEO of a large organization, ask your people where they need help. I hear from media professionals daily that they want to do their best work. And that they’re drowning in a workload that is preventing them from bringing their “A” game every day. Your very best people will help you figure out where the gaps are if they are asked. AND if they feel like they have a safe forum.
In this new reality of smaller staffs, we MUST maximize the time of the precious few who remain. They’re on the front lines doing the heavy lifting and giving everything they have to complete often impossible workloads. When we adjust to support our small but mighty teams, we’ll unleash greater creativity and create better job satisfaction. And that’s a new reality I think we ALL want to embrace.
Erin Callaghan is the Director – Enterprise Partnerships at Futuri Media.