I grew up in the Old Normal working at agencies like JWT. When I was transferred from JWT Toronto to Chicago 700 people worked there. It was hard to find me when I first arrived. JWT Chicago was founded in 1891 and went away in the New Normal. Lehman Brothers was founded in 1850 and they melted in 2008 creating the New Normal.
Although the advertising business has changed dramatically since I entered the game there is no doubt that the best people want to work at the best places. Definitely creative people do. But in the New Normal creative people can come from the big idea space and also the big technology idea space. The latter could be in charge in the next New Normal.
So how do you create an agency culture in the New Normal? How do you achieve it in an environment where employees can sit right next to each other with their ear buds providing their invisible cubes? Their separation and privacy while working in close physical intimacy.
First you have to understand Millenials. They like your money but they don’t belong to you. They want stability with agility. They want direction and at the same time they want participation.
Many agencies try to create a culture with free food, allowing pets in the office experience, free massages, etc. The stuff that gets them articles on being the best places to work when many often aren’t close to that.
Sure free food is nice but it is about capturing your employee’s personal passions and using that fuel to create a unique agency dynamic and experience.
Youth hasn’t changed in the Old and the New Leader. They want to be led by a leader. Being a leader is hard. You have to inspire and inspiration is a true gift.
Agency principals don’t go out much. Few are the face of their agency’s brand. Attend industry events. Attend Ad2 events where the entry-level people can talk to you. Agency principals you need to set the example. Dynamic agencies that attract good people are easy to find because they are out there.
The key with youth is to harness their talents. They are the slash generation. You know what their job description is. You know where they went to school. Now capture the / that follows that. Their slash talents are their passions.
Create a culture by filling your agency with those voices. They may have been interested in heavy metal, mountain biking, music, animation, blogging, photography, Pinterest, Tumbler, Q, speak three languages, cooking or whatever. In the agency world passion can lead to New Business.
Nurture them. Agency principals often rule by two different philosophies. Carrot or the stick. Incentive or fear. Although we live in the New Normal with lots of fear after the Great Recession the stick strategy neuters culture. The carrot strategy is the only one that will succeed.
Be a rewarder. Surprise your chosen ones. These are the few that truly get it. They are intuitive. They were born to be in the game. They know they are good but they are like thoroughbreds. They need to be nurtured and supported. They respond to little perks; praise for sure and an occasion serendipity acknowledgement. A weekend at a hotel or a gift card or a gift for the significant other if you’ve kept their partner on the road too long. Valuable employees love when you invest in them. It affirms their sense of self-worth.
Teach your employees well. Create a monthly agency forum where you invite unique and different talent to speak to them at a company meeting. Create your own TED. Have a monthly networking mixer with significant others some months and internally on alternate months.
Be an innovator. Ideate. How do you create an environment where everyone will be encouraged to generate ideas? Involve them in your New Business brainstorming.
Be Honest. Make them marketable. Teach your employees well. Advertising is an industry with ups and downs. Client wins and losses. In advertising to cut costs you can’t close a plant, you have to fire people. It is as simple as that. That is the nature of the business today and in the past. So make them marketable if things change. Train them on LinkedIn and how to network. One day you may have to launch them on a new path but they may want them back.
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