Creating lasting change

All the employee benefits in the world won’t be of use if you don’t have a vision to bind it all together, says Louie St Claire

Finding and keeping top talent is arguably the most important function in any agency. As true people businesses we all expend huge efforts finding innovative ways to attract staff and keep them on board and engaged once they have joined.

Like most agencies, Harvard offers a wealth of workplace benefits and programmes, which roughly fits into three categories. First, there are the benefits and initiatives that help wellbeing and bring people together like yoga, foreign trips and free food and drink. Second, there’s formal training – both role and personal growth-specific – that get people to where they need to be career-wise. Last, and most importantly, we have culturally-led programmes, this is where our approach to agile working, diversity and inclusion and mental health all sit.

This is all very well, but none of this works if there isn’t a binding thought that drives the business forward. At Harvard, we articulate this through our vision around creating lasting change. As an integrated agency that serves the technology industry, this is something that resonates with clients.

For our people, it has also become very powerful. If agencies can align individual ambition and potential with the vision and direction of the business, amazing things happen. People join and stick around for the right reasons. It is how we have been able to authentically activate our vision.

From our experience, there are certain things that need to be in place that facilitate this:

  1. Put diversity and inclusion at the heart of your approach and treat it as a journey not a destination. Make time to talk about issues and bring the discussion into the open. Companies that people want to work in and stay at are safe, nurturing and tolerant places, where everyone is welcome and encouraged to be themselves.

  2. Be open and transparent. If you want to align people with a long term-vision or strategy, then everyone needs to know what that vision actually is. Run courses on how you make your money, have a proper measurable plan for the business that you regularly update on. Ask people for input, and make it everyone’s plan.

  3. Spend lots and lots of time one-on-one. To find out people’s motivations, hopes, dreams and personal challenges you need to spend time with them, not in formal review situations but in informal ways. My team know I like breakfasts! Our staff retention rate of 92% last year is in no small part to the senior team spending lots of time understanding what drives the individuals that make up our team.

  4. Show people their upward route. Most agency people are looking to get somewhere. It’s incumbent on agency bosses to show them how. There is a combination of factors here, but be willing to break your own structure for people or make life harder for yourself to bring someone on and don’t keep people down because it suits the agency (it never works in the long-run). We promoted 27 people this year, that’s because everyone knows what they need to do to grow and succeed as an agency.

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