Q&A iknowho: Why is People & Culture so important to agencies?

By AdNews | Sponsored

Last year AdNews introduced the People & Culture Award. Recruitment specialist iknowho came on board as the founding sponsor of the category.

A year on, we sit down with iknowho director Dene Gambotto to find out just why it's so important in the industry.

Why did you decide to work with AdNews to establish the People & Culture Award?
Back in 2016 we were keen to raise the level of discussion around People & Culture in the industry and although there was some level of recognition of culture within various Agency of the Year awards we felt it wasn’t prominent enough. A focused award to promote those doing more than the essentials would help to raise the bar. It would increase the understanding of what a great culture looks and feels like. As well as acknowledging those who have been working hard in this space for some time, as a culture is not made overnight.

Why is it important for iknowho to be closely connected to the People & Culture movement in the Marketing Industry?
The foundation of iknowho is to match great talent with the best working environment for them to achieve their career and life goals. Knowing the cultural movements within the industry helps us ensure we are creating matches that will stick. It’s also critically important for us to support our clients and work with them to ensure their budgets are spent in the areas that appeal most to candidates.
 

 

What has been the biggest change that you have seen within the agency landscape, regarding People & Culture over the past three years?

Agencies have been investing in this space for as long as I can remember, though the last three or four we’ve seen a growth in more sophisticated people programs. Four years ago, the number one thing our candidate surveys showed was that agency talent wanted career progression opportunities – whereas today their focus is on work life balance and company culture.

Talent is now looking for a more – customised experience, being treated as an individual with options that may include; a health plan including the support for their mental health, flexible work options, parental support, career planning, education, opportunities to show their strengths and develop themselves. Open and honest communication from management is also high on the list, talent wants to know what is going on with the business they are contributing to. It’s no longer a one way working relationship. Of course, don’t forget the fun stuff like team events, a supportive culture and camaraderie.

Why do you think these changes are occurring and how important is it?
Change is inevitable. We’ve seen cultural changes across businesses for generations and we are feeling the impact of a different generation entering the work force. They have different life experiences when they reach the work force which forms different expectations. Compounding this we have seen shifts in the type of businesses that are attractive to job seekers. The day of agencies being the coolest place to work has changed as many candidates are drawn to the offerings of corporates, creating a talent exodus and therefore the need for agencies to look to offering similar cultures and benefits.

What role do awards like these play in the recruitment/attraction of talent?
When marketers are considering a new role they’ll ask colleagues, mentors and trusted recruiters for advice but they’ll also do their own research reading up on the prospective manager, team and company.

Awards play a part in this research – they act as proof of concept. So, if the agency says they are highly creative yet have no awards one would wonder if they are indeed creative at all? It’s a fact that companies who regularly win or are named finalists in employee focused awards attract greater quantity and quality of proactive candidates. Driving a strong employer brand from the inside out is exactly what these awards recognise, you can’t build it in a week while you complete the entry – the business must have been focusing on driving positive culture, consistently for some time. Which is why metrics are becoming so important in all award entries.
 
What are Marketing talent looking for from an employer?
iknowho has been conducting a candidate survey since 2014 – asking candidates how they approach their job search and what factors they consider when looking at prospective opportunities.

When we look at the responses year-on-year to “When choosing a new employer, what is most important to you?”

Culture is the number one and has been for the last three years – though back in 2014 the number one was career development, then brands, work life balance with culture not coming in until fourth.

In 2017 culture was number one and rounding out the top five are career development, work life balance, the work and remuneration. Interestingly enough, perks are listed last.

Have there been any true disruptors you have seen over the past few years when it comes to People & Culture in the Marketing industry?
Absolutely! Companies are really starting to work with their talent to find out what they want, rather than guess and provide outdated or irrelevant benefits.

One of the finalists from last year’s AdNews People & Culture Award, creative agency The Works, has a Family First initiative. Providing return to work bonuses to assist with childcare cost, paid parental leave and flexible working hours. For those not having kids there are experiences and prizes revolving around spending time with family and friends. We love that we are seeing initiatives like this popping up in other agencies now – showing the ripple effect across the industry.

Another finalist, CHE Proximity, is heavily focused on training and development and look to offer their talent engagement through ensuring they are constantly challenging themselves.

From my 20 years recruiting talent for this industry I know the reason we lose talent to other industries has been our inability to offer true flexible work options. The Royals, another finalist, offers part time options for staff who are looking for something else in their life. For some that could be family for others further study or time to pursue a scriptwriting career.
 
What does diversity mean in recruitment?
Diversity means variety. Variety of age, race, gender and education – to have this means removing bias and expectations. We offer blind CVs to clients who are truly ready to embrace a diverse approach to recruitment. We also have an online quiz to help firms check if they have an unconscious bias when it comes to recruitment. 

We measure our success in this space – last year we placed candidates from 14 nationalities and of our senior marketing appointments 72% were female. Our aim for the next two months is to ensure shortlists offer clients diversity as we help them to remove their own biases through interview training.

Why do you believe it is such a hot topic?
Because it matters! Firstly, there’s a strong ethical piece in making the world more inclusive, but there is also an argument that diverse workplaces are more successful.

Last year we held a breakfast event, and our speaker, Dr Adam Fraser, said: “Diversity makes organisations better, you put a group of men in the room and try and solve a problem, you add a woman you make the group smarter, you add another woman you make the group smarter, until it tips the other way. 
 
"Diversity it not just the right thing to do it makes business better, not only do you want diversity around gender and we want diversity around race but we also want diversity around type of thinking. We want people that annoy us, that challenge us, that upset us because it makes us think differently.”

iknowho was the founding sponsor for the AdNews People & Culture Award, what was the biggest learning or greatest surprise from the entries?

The sheer volume of entries was a huge surprise, but this backed up our thinking that there was a need in the market for recognition in this space. We were also pleased that our expectation that People & Culture has really evolved from the softer staff benefits to workplaces improving their environments as well as the life of their talent.

We were pleasantly surprised that size really has no bearing on what you can provide your team or the People & Culture performance – the finalists ranged from local to global.
 
You spoke with many of the finalists from last year’s awards, what were they most proud of?
It was common ground that all the finalists we spoke with were proud of what they were able to offer their team and the success of their programs. The recognition allowed them to articulate their programs to the industry as well as reflect on their growth and successes in the space. It also inspired them to keep improving and innovating.
 
If iknowho had one piece of advice for companies who wanted to improve their culture what would that be?
Listen to your team – they know what’s important and what works for them. Act upon their feedback and continue to listen regularly.

iknowho is the sponsor of the AdNews People & Culture Award.

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