Thursday, 31 May 2012

Make. Staff. Happier.

Make. Staff. Happier.

Happy staff make for happy clients. We all know it, right? And yet so many agencies don’t do it. As the boss is in Brussels tonight to pick up this year’s SABRE for Employee Engagement we thought we’d share some of what makes our staff happier than at other agencies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (we love saying that).

Firstly, it absolutely starts at the top in the shape of our founder and Chairman Caroline Kinsey. From the very outset she wanted an agency built on an ethos that was the polar opposite of the sweat-shop. “Some people think being renowned as a sweat-shop means being renowned for working hard,” she says, “it doesn’t, we work hard, we just treat our staff with respect as well.”

Secondly, we continuously innovate. Among our original working practices are:

- work-from-home-Fridays for all staff at account manager level and above

- directors who decide their holiday entitlement based on their work-load and nothing else - we don’t allocate, we trust

- flexible locations – we use office spaces in London and leafy Beaconsfield, allow working from home and encourage regular working from clients meaning our people don’t have to face rush-hour tubes all the time

This year we’ve begun using FaceTime on our iPads to help create face-to-face interactions when we’re in different places… it’s almost like the dream of a few years ago, where we could all work wherever we wanted, is actually beginning to come true.

Thirdly, we democratise. Not only do we believe in no-closed-doors policy, this year we’ve implemented hot-desking across the agency. This means that one day you can be sitting opposite your best friend, the next day a member of staff you might not know so well, the next day the MD.

Fourth, we help facilitate a healthy lifestyle. We realise most people lead a debit/credit approach to health, and while we have our nights out like any agency, we invest more in the credit side through subsidised fitness classes including circuit training, Zumba, half marathons and charity runs.

Lastly, we invest in continuous learning for every member of staff… in 2011 we spent an average of £20k (including time) per team member.

Does it work?

Our higher than average client and staff retention rates would suggest it does. But the real proof is in the financial pudding… and we’ve seen double-digit growth every year for more than ten years.

It may not work for everyone, some people might prefer an agency which doesn’t invest in them, where senior and junior talent don’t know each other and where technology isn’t improving working life, but hey, that’s their choice.

Friday, 25 May 2012

The death of the brainstorm?

Turner prize winning artist Jeremy Deller joining acid house and brass bands - the sprawlings of a creative brain

Brainstorms, that hoary old staple of the PR agency landscape, have been playing on my mind recently. We didn’t have one for a recent pitch we did to a major blue-chip drinks brand and now I’m wondering, should we just kill them off completely? I’ve often felt dissatisfaction from brainstorms and from talking to people across the industry I know I’m not alone.They often downplay the thoughts of the genuinely creative and overplay those who are much more narrow-minded.

There are often still the annoying/overbearing/intimidating/ noisy people and the quiet/please-contribute people. They assume people can turn their creative mind on at 10am on a wet Tuesday morning in an office. Or at the last minute because the person running the session suddenly has a spare hour.And, they assume you have creative people in the room in the first place.

In the brainstorm for the pitch mentioned above we took an ad-land approach. We paired people up and briefed them. They were given 48 hours thinking time. We encouraged them to think individually and as a duo, away from the office… on their commute, in the shower, at the gym, wherever worked for them. They relaxed. And mulled. They pondered. And reflected. And *really* considered the problem, for two days not an hour.

The concepts that were presented back to the pitching team were, frankly, brilliant. The younger duos came back with really cool stuff they were really passionate about; the digitally-minded came back with concepts which began in social spaces and the pitching team had a far greater variety than we would have had from a traditional brainstorm.

We took the thinking away from an office room to a place where most of us actually have ideas... tubes, trains, gyms, showers, loos and beds. We rid ourselves of the impact of the noisy people and got more from the quieter types. We didn’t require facilitation. People took inspiration from friends, family, situations and emotions they couldn’t access in a meeting room. Everyone, without exception, enjoyed the process more.
And the pitch result? We won.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Say it with a Card…

You’d be forgiven for thinking that with the fall of Clinton Cards and the domination of the internet, that the sending of cards had been lost to a bygone era. But thankfully, you’d be wrong. Sending a card to loved ones is a British habit of good will that is thriving – more than ever we know that saying it with a scrawl means much more than electronic well wishing.

According to the BBC, 2011 year saw a 3% rise in card sales and although Clinton Cards has floundered, other chains such as Scribbler and Paperchase have flourished.

Our fellow beings cherish a personal message no matter how illegible the writing, silly the card or cheesy the sentiment. For many, it is truly the most heart-warming way to reach out to pals and parents alike. And we are spreading the cheer by sending cards on more occasions than ever before …from Chinese New Year to Halloween, Just Because to Divorce, there is no circumstance too irrelevant.

With such a wealth of hilarious, beautiful and charming cards on offer, let’s all say it with a scribble and put a smile on someone’s face.