How to Foster a Healthy Agency Culture
Candace Bozek | November 20, 2018
Marketing agencies have historically had a bad rep for high turnover and creative burnout. Tight deadlines, long hours, and demanding work can all contribute to a dysfunctional work culture. Too many agencies have a ‘churn and burn’ mentality, working their employees until they quit or are laid off for a fresher batch of creative minds.
At Morad Media, we aim to defy the agency stereotype by fostering a healthy work culture where our employees can thrive. The ways in which we cultivate a healthy work culture is through our core values. We believe in work-life balance, competitive compensation & benefits, idea sharing, team building, mentorship and fostering long-term relationships with both our clients and our employees.
As real human beings, we understand that when your mind and body are well-rested, you can better focus on creating great work. Creative professions are particularly mentally draining and require a lot of rest to be able to come up with new and inventive ideas.
Many of our team members have young children (or puppies) at home so we understand how important free time is. Our CEO Murad has three young children so he is empathetic if an employee occasionally needs to work from home to take care of a sick kid.
Our managers believe that if employees are working late hours, then they haven't done a good job at managing client expectations. We find that our employees work harder and are more creative when their bodies and minds are well rested. Managers work diligently to manage expectations so employees and clients are both happy.
If the team has to work later one evening to finish an important project, they will be compensated with time in-lieu or overtime. By not expecting employees to work late every day, our team is more willing to put in the extra hours when required because we understand that management wouldn't ask unless it was absolutely necessary. Plus, our employees are invested in helping the company grow and keeping our clients happy.
Work-life balance is one of the most sought-after career goals and it’s also one of the reasons we've retained our senior team for the better part of a decade. Many of our team members have been here 6, 7, 10+ years, and that’s saying a lot for an agency not just in Calgary but in the broader marketing industry.
Competitive Compensation & Benefits
We’re not going to lie and say pay doesn’t play a factor in employee satisfaction because we know it does. Many agencies will snatch up young talent right out of University and load them up with huge workloads for low wages. We’re not like that at Morad Media. We still employ new grads but we pay them according to their skillset and industry benchmarks because we want them to stay with us long-term.
We regularly hold employee performance reviews to give our employees the opportunity to give feedback and discuss career advancement. Our goal is to have employees that grow with the company and take on new responsibilities as their position evolves. Many of our long-term employees started in junior roles and have moved up the ranks to more senior positions and department heads.
In addition to offering competitive salaries, Morad Media also offers a comprehensive benefits package. The health and wellness of employees are extremely important for work productivity so we cover a wide range of benefits to keep them in tip-top shape. Vacation time is based on the length of employment but we aren't one to deny a personal day here and there.
"When employees have a real part in the growth of the company they not only grow their skill set, but they are far more engaged with each other and the company's culture."
We regularly encourage team members to provide ideas on how to help Morad Media grow as a company with bi-weekly strategy meetings. As a group, we share our ideas and vote on which ones we should move forward with.
We allocate 15% of staff time to bring these ideas to reality. Team members, no matter what position, can play a significant role in the growth of the company while working on strategic tasks that are not part of their day-to-day responsibilities.
This initiative was started by our CEO as a way to get the team more involved in higher-level strategy decisions to grow the agency. "When employees have a real part in the growth of the company they not only grow their skill set, but they are far more engaged with each other and the company's culture," says Murad Bushnaq, CEO/ Founder.
Employees do their best work when they are able to work collaboratively and get along. Team building activities can do wonders for employee morale. In an agency environment, employees experience many highs and lows that come with the marketing industry. It is important to take time to celebrate the wins as they come.
We have a long-standing practice of the morning 'huddle' where every few days, the Morad team will gather around to discuss upcoming projects, industry news, and client relationships. We also have online group chats where we communicate constantly throughout the workday.
When Morad Media wins the business of a new client, we will celebrate at the end of the work week with some craft beers or go to a local establishment in Inglewood. We also have regular team building activities throughout the year such as potlucks, team lunches, Calgary Stampede outings, a Christmas party and other impromptu get-togethers.
We often invite clients to join our agency parties so that employees can put faces to names of the people with whom they speak to regularly. Morad Media’s CEO and COO, Murad and Nabil are very active in our company culture and often encourage activities to get employees excited about upcoming projects or to unwind after a stressful stretch.
One of the most significant factors in Morad Media's healthy agency culture is management's approach to leadership. Rather than the traditional manager-employee relationship, Murad and Nabil act as mentors and lead by example. Our CEO has previously worked in each role at the agency in some capacity so he understands the ins and outs of each job. Murad and Nabil often use job shadowing and personal coaching for onboarding new talent.
This mentor-mentee relationship doesn't end after the initial training. Our managers are personally invested in each employee's career development. They help us expand our roles within the agency through open communication and constructive feedback. This open communication also allows employees to constantly share feedback with managers for ways to improve the working environment and streamline operations.
At Morad Media, we don't like the term 'employee', instead, we say 'team member' because it has more positive connotations. We are all working toward the common goal of creating happy clients and growing the agency. Any win for the agency is a win for the team because we take pride in our work and are rewarded accordingly. We are often encouraged to see things from the client's perspective so that we are able to provide great customer service and continuously improve the client experience.
A true test of a healthy agency culture is the turnover ratio. If you look at the Glassdoor reviews of many agencies in Calgary, you will find that they seem to cycle through new talent every few months. At Morad Media, we have held onto our senior team for the better part of a decade and even have a few who have been with us since the very beginning.
Our CTO has been with us 12 years, Digital Director has been with us 9 years, our Senior Graphic Designer has been with us for 7 years, our Art Director has been with us for over 6.5 years, and a handful of others at the 5-year mark.
In our eyes, the benefits of having an experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable team greatly outweigh the cost savings of a burn and churn strategy. Many of our clients have been with us for 5+ years so having a team that knows their brand and website inside and out allows us to provide superior customer service to that of an agency that is constantly reassigning and training new talent.
Client turnover is equally as telling. Just like happy employees will stay put, happy clients will stay with the same agency for years if they continue to produce great results. We keep our clients happy by providing great customer service and regular meetings to make sure their needs are being met on a consistent basis.
A healthy agency culture comes from the top down. It is up to the owner and managers to set the tone for a healthy culture. Work-life balance, competitive compensation & benefits, idea sharing, team building activities, mentorship, and fostering long-term relationships all contribute to happy employees and in turn, a healthy culture. The common denominator in all of this is valuing your employees. Employees who feel valued are more likely to give their best work and stick around for the long haul.