Perspectives - Michael Rebelo at Publicis Groupe - Craving a sense of social cohesion

By AdNews | 13 December 2021
Michael Rebelo.

AdNews is following the WFH Diaries with a series of Perspectives, asking two questions: What did you learn in 2021 and what are you looking forward to in 2022? We've also encouraged the industry to glam, dress for the best, and face next year with optimism.

This article first appeared in the November-December 2021 AdNews magazine.

Michael Rebelo, CEO, Publicis Groupe ANZ:

In 2022, I believe everyone will want to work from ‘home’. Having a strong connection to your agency home will be more important than ever. More important than the number of days you spend in the office versus working remotely. And more than the size of your pay cheque alone.

As Peter Drucker has so aptly coined, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Agency culture will be the defining, magnetic force for our people. When I look back at the time I spent at Saatchi & Saatchi working around the world throughout my 20s and 30s, I remember it as one of the most exciting periods of my life. It felt as though we were delivering some of the best work of our careers; focused on a true north that everyone subscribed to. Together, we shared the highest of highs, and of course some lows. There was a sense of energy, craziness and a camaraderie with my team that in some cases have since turned into life-long friendships. My colleagues became my family, and Saatchi is my home. That is the power of culture.

After almost two years of intense and often unsettling change to the way we work, and more broadly, how we view what matters most in our lives, we are reaching a climactic moment in time.

In a major study released by Leo Burnett, it found that after so much time apart, next year Australians will be driven by a need to reconnect with loved ones and recommit to their wellbeing, while reinjecting the fun back into their lives.

People are craving a sense of social cohesion. They are increasingly turning to their local communities, and to businesses and brands they trust. People are also seeking an aligned sense of purpose with the organisations they choose to grow their careers with.

In the same Leo Burnett study, when Australians were asked what they valued more, 72% chose “People working together” over “People looking after themselves” (28%). Meanwhile, the importance of “Job flexibility” (52%) was on par with “Job security” (48%).

What all these findings are signalling for employers is the shift we must start making from creating a great employee experience, to a great life experience.

At our organisation, our people philosophy is guided by how we can create “Growth”, “Magic” and “Connection”, both in and beyond work. Our growth initiatives acknowledge that every individual’s needs and wants, including how they want to work, are unique to them. Magic is made up of experiences and interactions that sparks creativity, proactivity and happiness. Connection is ensuring people feel a sense of belonging in their ‘home’; and that they feel safe and trust the people they work with.

Along with our flexible working framework Publicis Liberté, our diversity and inclusion strategy, and initiatives to support the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of our people — we are constantly looking at how we can further align with their diverse lived experiences.

More recently, this has included creating new time in lieu guidelines. Progressing our leave policies to include paid gender affirmation leave, miscarriage leave, fertility treatment leave, domestic family violence leave, wellbeing leave and an increase in the number of compassionate leave days.

For those who have been unable to see their immediate families living overseas or interstate during these extended lockdowns, we believe they should be able to work remotely and reunite with them for a period.

I remain cognisant of the fact that creating a work environment that people feel is magnetic, inspiring and progressive is an ongoing pursuit. We will always have more work to do.

But in spite of the challenges the last two years have delivered, I believe organisations truly focused on creating experiences that are more meaningful to people’s lives as a whole and not just their employment experience; their people will look back at this stage in history as a legacy period in their careers. And that is what working from ‘home’ will really mean to them.

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