There’s always the one crabby bastard of a colleague whose bad mood rubs off on everyone else at work. You know the kind. It’s the worst. And a few weeks ago the intolerable crabby bastard was me.
I know better. Working in a tight-knit digital agency I saw the effect it had on the people around me as the atmosphere got thicker with ‘meh’ every day. Negative group emotion is such a tangible thing in an office environment. All it takes is one insufferable fool and the whole thing goes down in flames.
At MediaVision, our company culture is mind-bendingly vital, not just for employee retention, but also for client acquisition and retention. And it doesn’t just come from having overly happy people, a Golden Retriever on the team, G&T Fridays and table tennis tournaments…although those things certainly help.
Company culture. What is it even?
A Seattle-based ad agency called Wexley School for Girls virtually dares employees to leave after three months by offering them a whopping $3,000 cheque, so convinced are they of their stellar culture, and to date it seems no one has taken them up on their offer. Staff at places like Virgin and Netflix enjoy unlimited leave and flexible working hours.
The Nerdery allows everyone to bring their dogs to work and arranges mobile groomers to come in for pamper sessions, then they do puppy Fight Club where the pups get the chance to flop around and play together in a group.
Some of the most successful agencies in the world boast similar perks and amenities for the employees. At MediaVision we’re spoiled with new activities and experiences all the time – whether we’re zip lining, river rafting, bringing our dogs to work or having beer-fuelled Xbox championships – there’s massive potential for us to grow, learn and have fun in an environment where the CEO is the first one to start prank wars (and break the air conditioner).
But that’s not all we’re made of. Our agency culture is governed by a much larger and more complex range of interactions that stem from open communication, a flat hierarchy, how we treat each other and what we do with egos…which is leave them outside in the cold.
When it comes to the pitch…
It’s not all about free snacks, head massages and gold-plated toilet seats. Although these are great additions to your staff retention strategies, an agency is only as strong as its people when the hard times hit. Perks help create an environment where people want to work for a long time, but they mean nothing without the right people supporting your pre-defined organisational culture. If the atmosphere at work is shit, a game of table tennis isn’t going to make it any less shit.
CEO of Big Spaceship, one of Brooklyn’s most successful agencies, said this in an interview with Hubspot last year:
‘An agency has no product other than the output of a group of people. There’s no assembly line. There’s no supply chain. The assets of the company all leave at the end of the day. All we have left is a big dusty room full of computers’.
Company culture really comes down to the character of the people in a business, because ultimately it’s up to them to carry the torch so passionately set aflame by their leader. In a crowded marketplace with endless choices, culture becomes one of the most important aspects of a pitch and one of the only things that truly differentiates one business from another.
It can be used as an effective tool for sales acquisition, and is the thing that some of the most successful companies in the world rely on to propel their brands, as reinforced in this article in Forbes.
What experts say about agency culture
We interviewed five experts for a blog called How Marketers & Brands Really Choose a Digital Agency and every single one of them brought culture into the equation as a high stake decision point.
State of Digital and EU Search Personality 2015 Bas van den Beld said:
“‘The internal brand culture will show you how the business will work with you. If they care about their own culture, they’ll care about the clients’ as well”
And we believe most clients think like this too.
Corporate culture helps you win (and keep) clients
Working attitudes and styles need to align for an agency to successfully win over clients and create long working relationships. When a client understands your culture they can better understand if you’ll be a good partner or not.
Look, it’s us!
Five ways to boost your agency culture
1. Get everyone on the same page
Literally. Create an employee handbook so that every member of the agency is on the same page. If your culture isn’t understood internally, there’s no way you’ll be able to coherently deliver on any of the promises you make to clients. Look at some popular handbooks in this blog about encouraging employee advocacy of a brand.
2. Evaluate & screen potential clients using your culture code of ethics
Target clients who are compatible with your agency culture so you can build a solid partnership from the start.
3. Celebrate your brand
Coming back to that whole collective emotion thing in the workplace – it’s important for everyone to feel proud about the brand and the agency because sometimes employees forget what they’re working towards or even for, and a strong foundation of culture can help keep everyone feeling warm, fuzzy and focussed. This is especially important during the rough times.
4. Build a kick ass work environment
Here’s where flexible working hours, days off for great work, chalk board walls, dog days and free beer come in handy. Happy people are more productive.
5. Collaborate and empower your staff
We’re in a highly integrated agency where strong collaboration means the difference between mediocre and great work. By celebrating the strengths of the individuals on your team and creating an atmosphere of open dialogue and honesty at work, you’ll all be able to contribute to the bigger picture.
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