Local TV Faces ‘The Great Resignation’
A very talented, up-and-coming TV station executive producer cried during a recent phone interview I had with her.
She realized, in our call, that she had hit the end of her career trajectory. Those in the industry know the chess moves it typically takes to receive a promotion, and this EP saw her options had foreclosed. She wasn’t willing to relocate away from family and friends for only a moderate — if any — pay increase, all the while signing a long-term contract and a noncompete clause. She was facing less vacation to boot, on top of a strained work/life balance. Over her past three weeks, she worked every shift to cover missing employees to keep a news product on air. She was spent.
Her story was painful for me to hear, and it should be eye-opening for our industry.
Recruiting is the canary in the coal mine for local broadcasting, and that canary is dizzy from the carbon dioxide today. An alarming number of candidates tell me regularly that they are getting out of the business. As they fly away, I wonder whether we are weeding out the bad or losing our best?
I’d posit it’s mostly the latter. The Great Resignation is real, and it’s gaining momentum.
Why? There’s a laundry list of reasons for today’s candidates: pay; feeling underappreciated; acquisition fatigue; the increasing difficulty of a work/life balance; relentlessly needing to cover others’ shifts; a news workflow design that badly needs an upgrade. The list goes on.
Where are these candidates going? They’re shifting into public relations, communications, academia, nonprofits — almost anyplace else where they can use their skills. In those fields, they’re finding more money, remote work possibilities and better benefits. Amid these competitors for talent, local broadcast is slow to react and is quickly becoming uncompetitive. TV’s medium is no longer a draw in and of itself.
Let me zero in on a couple of key problems. One of them is noncompetes and suffocating contracts. These may initially have been implemented on a premise of corporate distrust. They’re now simply counterproductive to positive employee culture, and they are forcing people out of the industry. A new recruit faces a three-year contract and a noncompete that would require a relocation to continue in the industry. They’re not having it.
Another problem: Due to recruiting challenges, station management may be more apt to keep poor-performing employees. They can put someone on a performance improvement plan, manage them out and perhaps have an empty seat for months. Or they keep the problem in the seat and receive at least marginal output. There are serious ramifications on the latter for product and station culture. As a result, underappreciated, productive employees are fleeing.
Meanwhile, the global pandemic is simply accelerating the Great Resignation.
Local television does not often evolve and adapt until it faces no other choice. Will it take just one station to fail to put a newscast on air for just one shift for the warning bell to become a harsh reality? This happened recently with a station conducting “stress management” training.
Many broadcast groups have cut to the quick, conglomerating into mega-group size to effectively build empires. Now it is time to make employees benefit from this scale, rather than find it working at their expense. Employees need market value pay and benefits with the input of station-level professionals, immediately.
The industry’s exodus is real, and local TV group executives need to recognize this. The canaries in the coal mine are alighting for other skies. Once gone, they won’t be back.
Ty Carver is the founder and CEO of Carver Talent.