The strategic view: Flexibility isn't about WFH

Deanne Constantine
By Deanne Constantine | 18 May 2023
Deanne Constantine.

It’s becoming a common point of conversation within the advertising industry in all corners of the world – people reminiscing about the good old days of being employed in an advertising agency. A time where people felt free to create, were rewarded for their efforts and, in some instances, almost part of an elite group for pursuing a career in advertising.

There’s no doubt that there have been many positive, desperately needed and welcomed changes implemented in recent years since that time, like an increased focus on diversity in the workplace, better pathways for people of all ages and life stages to join agency life and a recognition that work life balance has many benefits.

But there are also other less than positive experiences over several years that have had a very direct and brutal impact on our most important asset, our talent. These include agencies being told how to operate by investors, shareholders or other financial interests. Finance and Procurement being elevated to a position where they could influence very important creative decisions like hiring and promotion, and (some) agencies consolidating production without the involvement of creative. Set rules of engagement for external partners being established that wiped out very important creative relationships in the marketplace. And agency consolidation became a regular occurrence, with agency brands and cultures slapped together with little to no merger management.

The result? We’ve seen valuable talent leave our industry in droves because the grass started to feel greener elsewhere.

But there’s hope. Following a decade-long digital industry transformation and working through a global pandemic, flexibility is now the number one way to attract, keep and perhaps even lure back our most valuable talent.

And it’s not just about working from home, or having a structure of two days in the office. That’s not flexible – that’s a rule. The "new" flexibility is a mindset; a progressive way to think about business, to build a culture, a movement, an army of people who want to trust and build your legacy with you. It’s recognising that the flexibility talent wants and needs now goes well beyond when and how much time they spend at the office. It’s about ideating outdoors, or in cafes; being free and trusted to take time away and return hours later with "the" idea. Taking lunches on a Friday to build a creative network to leverage and grow. Taking time to nurture a creative outlet that in turns, builds better solutions for clients.

Agencies with this flexible mindset that have built fully remote teams are the offices that are full everyday, because they’ve given back what the workforce has been searching for; flexibility and trust, the two most valued elements in the magic of the ‘good old days’.

It is true that as an industry we are better together. Producing outstanding work is a collaborative effort that operates very much on instinct and human touch.

However, flexibility is the connection point that will tie this all together, ensure the grass stays green this side of the fence, and keep our industry filled with the most talented people around.

Deanne Constantine is the founder of  Blue Bateau

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