Have ad agencies abandoned their role in talent management? Unfortunately it appears that the promise of training and growth opportunities exist only on paper, and not in practice.

The subject has been covered recently as Fast Company published an article stating that “Ad Agencies Neglect Their Brightest Prospects.” And earlier this year AdWeek ran an article entitled “Why the Average Barista Gets More Training Than Most Agency Staffers.”

I never expected that a Starbucks barista would have a more complete growth plan and training opportunities than I would. Is talent management so severely lacking in the advertising community? I am happily employed at Laughlin Constable, but my past experiences haven’t been so positive.

Nearly two years ago I wrote that ad agencies should consider adding an integration officer. Looking back my beliefs haven’t changed much, I still believe that it is difficult for employees to keep pace with the changing trends across multiple practices and channels.

However, additional training opportunities may actually improve employee understanding of business objectives which in turn would help them better focus on the key trends in the market.

If ad agencies would invest in training I believe employees would become better leaders, better understand the industry, as well as their business. In my past I have truly found that attending conferences, mentoring and training never materialized across the agency.

Perhaps a few high-level employees were able to attend a conference, but very seldom was that shared with their co-workers to disseminate what they learned across their practice or the agency itself.

Personally I find it incredibly difficult to slow down enough to enjoy my personal life. We live in a world where digital technologies and channels are invented every day and staying ahead of the curve requires dedication beyond the average 9-5 hours. And during work hours we are all faced with a mountain of e-mail requests, phone calls, instant messages and client requests.

It is very easy to get lost in the every day noise and speed in which we do business.

While the lack of growth may be on of the largest threats to ad agencies, another threat may actually be employees that value their own brand more than the agency’s. We no longer live in the 1950’s where hard work was rewarded with a modest raise and a promotion. It’s no longer work hard and be rewarded, but work hard and be happy you have a job. The current job market has bred employees that believe they need to protect and insulate themselves because loyalty is non-existent.

Employees now find challenges by jumping from job to job to better their skills. With a lack of investment in talent management, employees have focused on their personal brand to insulate themselves. They are now prepared to consult instead of finding a permanent position.

To be fair, the business world has changed. Our clients are no longer looking for the big idea. They now look for a group of many small, but successful, ideas. Project management is no longer about just finishing a project but by finishing sprints and being agile.

Agencies that invest in their employees will be more successful than their counterparts. We all benefit from career-long mentoring. Agencies can rebuild loyalty, better prepare their employees for the future, prepare all employees to better understand how marketing compliments business objectives, and help their employees find a healthy work-life balance. Something I see as severely lacking in the advertising community.

So how should ad agencies attack the problem and improve their talent management? Do you see a need for more training and mentoring in your career? Do you work at an ad agency that has done a great job in educating their employees? Share your thoughts or advice below.