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The pillars of a thriving agency culture

Written 23 August, 2018, 3 minutes to read

Agency culture can be hard to define. If you ask ten different people what it means you’ll probably get ten different answers – but what most will agree on is that a good culture is essential for success. It can make the difference between progression and regression, engagement and disillusionment. But what are the most important aspects of a thriving agency culture?

Open discussions

Like “culture” itself, “transparency” is another buzzword when it comes to business success. But what does it really mean? Simply put, transparency means “honesty” – something that’s essential for effective communication. Discussions should be open, and managers must speak frankly with team members. Sometimes that may mean having difficult conversations, but in the long run this courage is rewarded.

To achieve openness, advice and constructive criticism must go both ways. Team members should be asked for their input, and their feedback should be respected. Employees need to feel secure; that their contributions are valued, that they can ask questions without judgment. A flat organizational structure is great for this. If you have fewer levels of management, the decision-making process becomes easier, and collaboration and communication are improved.

Trust

Trust is an central pillar for every thriving agency culture. It advances employee satisfaction and motivates people to go the extra mile. Employees feel safe taking risks and exploring new ideas, confident in the knowledge that management will support them if the client disagrees. Trust ultimately goes hand in hand with nurturing, allowing employees to achieve individual fulfillment while still contributing to the greater goal.

You can show trust in the creative freedom you give your employees. You are essentially placing faith in their abilities and respecting them as masters of their craft. And it’s what you hired them to do, after all. But trust is also communicated in the tools and management approaches you use. Take the agency staple of time tracking, for example – you have to do it to bill clients for your work, but employees can resent the feeling of being watched.

So choose tools that employees actually feel safe using. Automatic time tracking apps like Timely keep each employee’s data completely private until they choose to share it. Don’t ever go in for creepy screenshots or mouse tracking – invest in technology that actually respects your employees as agents of their own time.

Representation

To truly thrive, agency culture requires a wide talent pool. Few people are attracted to agencies where important decisions are exclusively made by old white men, or where those who shout the loudest are the ones promoted. To ensure your company is accessible to the very best talent, you need to build a diverse team with an inclusive culture.

In terms of productivity, companies with a healthy mix of men and women are 15% more likely to outdo their competitors – while agencies with ethnically diverse employees are 35% more likely. Once you can unite natural diversity – be it gender, race, age or ability – with acquired knowledge, like cultural sensitivity or a flair for languages, then you’re winning!

Top businesses like tech giant Cisco attribute their ongoing success to their diverse agency culture: for them, it isn’t just a way to attract new talent; it’s a way to forge a future. If you can respect and appreciate the key differences within your team, you can start utilizing those different outlooks, lifestyles and backgrounds to drive creativity and success.

Employee value

A great agency culture recognizes the importance of employee value. Seize opportunities to help team members whenever you can, and try to lift them beyond their potential. By embracing their pesonal development you’re offering them the chance to learn new skills – and improve existing ones.

Get to know your team members as people rather than employees. Where do they hope to be in five years – and how can you help them achieve these goals? If their goals aren’t related to work that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be supportive. As long as they’re still working for you they’ll be dedicated, loyal and grateful for your backing.

Remember that employees aren’t working solely for the money; they’re working for recognition too. This is a form of compensation that doesn’t cost a cent, so don’t be too sparing with praise. Be grateful to those you work with and reward behavior you want repeated. Often it’s the smallest things that have the biggest effect. Most employees are diligent and motivated – so let them know that you value them.

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