The Agency Employer of Choice

Anyone who has ever worked in the agency world knows that it can be hard work and stressful. How many times have you heard folks lament that they’ve put their heart and soul into the work and the company they work for, but in the end, it’s churn and burn, churn and burn on repeat mode? And when they are burnt out eventually (no guesses there), it is “next please” for the employer. Who benefits? Absolutely no one.

People are essential

Finding the right people for an organisation is always a challenge. To hire people with the right temperament, right attitude and relevant skill-sets to form a high performing A-team takes time, ingenuity and acumen. In the war for talent in Singapore and the world around, there are numerous ways to attract and retain top talent in the agency world. “Pay top dollars and you’ll attract top dogs” is a common way to boot. But is that the only way to becoming an employer brand of choice? What exactly do top talents seek and value when they are looking for the employer of choice?

Talents are always looking for ways to grow and challenge themselves. And the more empowerment and freedom they are given, the better they perform at the workplace and the more they contribute and give back. 

I believe any employee would agree with me that adding value means the following, but not limited to: autonomy, recognition, appreciation, reward, training, good energy, and giving them good people to work with. While tangible rewards like promotions, spot or performance bonuses, career advancements or having a stake in the business are the obvious value options to dish out, it is the intangible employee benefits that can elevate people’s work and spirits on a daily basis that are often neglected and overlooked.

The power to change

In business, we often talk about adding value and giving value to our clients. But what about the value we give to ourselves, to our people and our talents? Yes, people are hired to add value to the company but by the same token, people also consciously assess and “hire” the employer who offers better value to its people.

When people are valued and feel empowered, they are more likely to go the extra mile for their employers, weigh in on ideas, lend a helping hand to colleague, and generally strive to do better for the company. 

Create a joyful and collaborative work environment

Work, if it’s something that you love and are passionate about, shouldn’t feel laborious. But how many of us truly live through that every single day? Sometimes the days get tough, and there will be challenging ones, so why create and encourage a stressful space to be in? That would be suicidal or masochistic at worse.

Who is the company? Who sets the agency culture? Is it the CEO/ Owner/ Founder? And is it just the CEO/ Owner/ Founder? I believe it lies in the sum of all of its parts – the collective power of change agents.

How does an employer foster a culture of collaboration and innovation, and not a war zone of competing individuals? One that encourages personal development, collective growth and team success that continues to build upon one another? I believe in the power of good energy and developing a symbiotic relationship: the interdependence, the coming-together, the sum of its parts. Each bringing something good and valuable to the table, to cross pollinate, to jam together, to have friction and create sparks of brilliance and disruption. Having a balance of energy and focusing on one common goal towards striving to become faster, stronger and better than before. Not better than someone, but better than our previous selves.

A safe environment to play, test, fail and learn

Numerous studies have shown that babies and young children develop into healthier and happier individuals when they are allowed to play and explore in a safe and nurturing environment. So why shouldn’t adults continue to do the same at the work place?

I find perfection overrated. Precision is important. And precision is not perfection. We should take a lesson or two from the tech guys in Silicon Valley who believe in “fail and fail faster”. Mistakes need not be a “be all end all”. Instead of an indelible black mark, a ‘mistake’ is an oversight, a miscalculation, a wrong decision, an honest mistake. Wouldn’t be it more astute to see mistakes as iterations of an ongoing process, an infinite loop, if you will, to constantly improve, add on, subtract, tinker, break apart, refresh and rebuild? Like Lego blocks, you build, develop, demolish and start over.

Employees need to feel safe that they can take risks and not be afraid of making mistakes. To be open to questioning and going beyond what is being asked. If I may say for myself, I want to be part of a company that accepts and celebrates mistakes, and I have been fortunate to meet likeminded individuals at Acoustic. Yes, we all make mistakes. That’s a given. What’s more critical and valuable is what can we learn and distill from it. Because it is never about the problem itself: the problem is not the problem; it is HOW you resolve the problem that matters. The intention here is not to focus on what has gone wrong or who is to blame, but to find out how greater performance can be achieved, moving forward.

To be in good company, and be in a company of good people

As agents of change and choice in the 21st century to build sustainable growth, we need to stop viewing people as means to an end – dispensable, forgettable and negligible.

There is no perfect formula in formulating the A-team, but with the right vision, care and leadership from the management to its people, companies can harness and promote its employer brand effectively to win the war for talent. By becoming epicentres of change, disruption and a source of inspiration for its people as well as their clients to learn, grow and prosper together.

Do you agree with what I’ve said above? Chime in below, and let’s generate a healthy discussion.

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Hoong Wei Ling is a Senior Account Manager @AcousticAgency. You can find her @desertflood on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

[Main photo by Brian Rinker, under CC]

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