The vision of an agency is powered by the energy of its people. Marrying the passion and talent of employees with the goals of the agency as a whole is the role of its culture.
Your culture is part of who you are and how you present yourself to the world. It’s your heart and it’s your vibe. As part of what drives people to do great work, a culture is both descriptive and prescriptive — defining where you are now and where you want to be. Leadership leads the culture not by dictating it but by living it. A healthy culture develops organically from within, but that does not mean that it should grow unattended. It needs to be carefully cultivated and nurtured. Everyone needs to be on the same page, working toward the same goal, or segments of the agency will start to grow in divergent directions.
Since the idea of culture is based on nebulous concepts like feelings and motivations, it may seem hard to nail down, especially if you are used to working with more concrete ideas like profit margins and other analytics that fit neatly into a spreadsheet. Agency culture includes the values, beliefs and behaviors that shape our relationships (internal and external), our work (type, quality and process) and our environment (physical and psychological). Values are at the core. They are what your organization considers most important. The values are reinforced by the agency environment. Anyone should begin to understand your culture the moment they walk in the door because the office reflects it and the people embody it.
Do the work; reap the benefits. Agencies with strong cultures:
Attract the right talent.
People understand their value and want to work at a place that will nurture their talents and allow them to express themselves creatively. Good people want to be at a place that takes care of them and that aligns with their own ideals and goals. You want to hire talented and insightful people who will help your business grow and these employees will be attracted to a place with a strong personality. They can’t know if they are going to fit in with your culture if you haven’t worked to define what that culture is. You will expect more of them but they will also expect more from you.
Partner with the right clients.
Culture is also part of what we are selling to a client. A brand will want to work with an agency where people are invested in doing a great job. Because the relationship between an agency and a client is a partnership, it is important to have a strong culture in place to ensure that an agency/client match is a good one. When an agency is upfront and communicates clearly about the type of work that they do and the culture that is in place to support that work, it helps establish from the beginning what clients will work well with the agency and makes for a more stable relationship.
Stand out in the crowd.
Culture helps an agency make its mark on the world. Many companies have similar capabilities, so culture can help you stand apart and give you something to be known for to attract future clients. A competitor may have the same products, services or processes, but they can’t duplicate your personality. Are you all about ROI or do you want to be known for innovative, out-of-the-box thinking? Your agency culture should reflect the answer to these types of questions and give you an edge.
Not only does your culture help to set expectations for how people are going to work together, it also gives your team members a sense of working toward a common purpose. In order for a team to function properly, there has to be an element of bonding that happens between its members so that they come to trust each other. To be a real “team” and not just a bunch of people working in a group, team members must feel comfortable sharing skills, knowledge, ideas and projects and be secure in the knowledge that everyone is working toward the same vision built on a foundation of shared values and positive relationships.
Encourage creativity and innovation.
If employees are happy to be a part of your culture and are motivated by its values, they will feel freer to express themselves creatively and to take creative risks. Creating an intellectual and emotional environment that nurtures individuality and unique perspectives will help move your business forward, while an agency that doesn’t take the time to ensure their culture is one of trust and teamwork risks breeding complacency and a toxic devotion to the status quo. In this scenario, people may believe they don’t have a voice or that they may face consequences for dissent. Or they could simply be afraid to shake things up. This is a deadly environment for an agency where innovation and keeping up with a changing world are the keys to doing successful, impactful work.
Innovation is change and sometimes change is messy, so it is also essential to create an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing doubt, are empowered to ask questions and are willing to make mistakes. Passionate people have a need to satisfy their curiosity and a desire to learn and improve. Promoting this type of culture is a benefit to everyone and helps the company grow.
A strong culture is a wise investment. Not only does it provide many rewards, it is also becoming a “must-have” in the eyes of the emerging workforce.