The Jefferson Group have teamed up with Fiona Wilson to look at health and happiness in the marketing industry. We’re running a series of workshops to discuss mental health and wellbeing. You can find details of these workshops on our website and social media channels. Or just get in touch via LinkedIn.

Alongside these workshops, we’ll explore the good, bad and ugly of company culture. Crucially, we’ll understand how culture affects your business, people and client relationships.

This first piece takes a broad look at company culture and attempts to define what it is.

So, what is it?

I did a lot of digging for this post and discovered countless definitions of company culture. It’s tempting to churn out an exhaustive list of the various versions. But that’s not going to interest anyone, is it.

Equally tempting is the snappy one liner. Something that captures company culture in a single sentence. That’s easier said than done, although it didn’t stop me trying.

What’s clear is that company culture comprises every bit of your business. That’s the reality – it all counts.

It’s how a business defines itself and how, in turn, that definition defines the environment and the behaviour of the business. It’s how your company acts when the leadership team aren’t watching. And how you treat your partners, suppliers and clients.

Words, perk and drinks

You know your beautifully crafted vision and mission statement? Company culture needs more than them. The table tennis you play in your canteen and the cocktails you drink at the end of the week? They count, to an extent. But company culture is more important than words, perks and drinks.

Good company culture is about the environment you create and the way you treat people. It’s also how well you develop them into ninjas or rockstars or whatever you want them to be. It’s about being good with feedback. That doesn’t mean passing clients’ comments onto your creatives. It means having proper, open conversations. This includes management listening to what everyone else says, then acting on it. Even if it’s not what they want to hear.

An agency should be supportive and encourage a healthy work-life balance. Your people shouldn’t be burnt out by Wednesday. They shouldn’t be burnt out at all, to be honest. And Friday drinks should be a reward, rather than a coping mechanism. If you have a killer mission statement and table tennis, then all the better. But looking after your people is the top priority. Their mental health and their loyalty depend on it.

The Big Bang

There was a spark that lit a fuse that caused an explosion that brought your agency to life. Maybe that spark was little more than an idea, an insight or a creative niche. But from it came the nucleus of your agency. And with that came the basis of your culture. As your business evolved, so did its personality. It might be collaborative, performance-driven, entrepreneurial. Whatever suited you and your industry.

As far as that personality goes, there’s no right or wrong. It’s definitely not for anyone else to decide – it’s your agency and your way of doing things. But that doesn’t mean it’s set it stone. It certainly doesn’t mean you should kick back and not worry about it. Your agency’s culture doesn’t stop evolving. And if you don’t keep an eye on it, it could become something very different.

Recruit right

Above all, it’s the people in the agency that define its personality. It’s not uncommon for an agency to grow at pace. In fact, job ads often boast about quick growth to attract talent. But it can be a poisoned chalice if it’s not handled well. Maintaining your personality depends so much on who you add to your agency.

It’s important to think about how you approach recruitment. And it’s essential to work with recruiters that know your business. A recruiter that understands your culture will find candidates that fit. What’s more, a good recruiter can help plan your mid- to long-term recruitment strategy. This means you’re able to employ the right people at the right time, with minimal impact. Effective on-boarding is a key part of this process. Quickly integrating new starters limits disruption. It allows you to focus on future recruitment, while they get on with doing their job.

Everyone has a role to play

Sure, it’s the leadership team that steers the ship. They shine the light, so everyone else can follow. But culture is a collective responsibility. Everyone plays a role in keeping the ship on course. Providing a platform for feedback will empower people to contribute to the culture. This, in turn, helps you keep a positive atmosphere and ensures you’re producing your best work. And that means happy clients.

What to know more?

We’re keen to share our thoughts on company culture and good mental health in the workplace. Either contact us directly or keep an eye out for future posts in this series.

If you’re interested in attending any of our workshops, please get in touch for more information.

You can find out more about Fiona and her work with businesses and sports professionals, here.

What’s next

Next up we’ll look at what makes a good or bad culture. We’ll also discuss the factors that can cause a culture to turn toxic.

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