The new year is upon us, January is almost over, and chances are you’ve been spending the past few weeks thinking about the next steps in your career. Or perhaps you would like to know how to make your business the best out there for employee retention. Either way, you’re probably wondering: what makes a great employer? What can I learn about the best place to work for? Whether you are a rising professional or an industry leader, this piece below is for you.
We are but humble connectors in the creative industry, so we thought to get in touch with someone who could be a bit more familiar with the topic. We reached out to Annual 2020 Best Agency to Work For Momentum Worldwide and to our 2020 Agency of the Year AKQA, asking about what makes a successful and healthy workplace and what developing businesses can do to improve their own.
Let’s hear it from Luke D'Arcy, UK President of Momentum Worldwide, and from Gemma Redgrave, Talent Partnership Manager at AKQA.
Image credit: AKQA
How to plan your next career move: what is the best agency to work for in 2021?
Amidst the many things that the 2020 Covid crisis has taught us, adaptability and humanity are but a few. Employers have learned plenty about team dynamics and how to keep motivation high from remote, and this has influenced the creative industry on several levels.
Here are a few tips to recognise the best place for your next career move.
Seek a great company culture
Arguably, you can recognise the best company to work for by taking a look at their employer brand. Company culture matters and it matters to see what kind of environment you are going to be injected in. You are looking for something that motivates you and pushes you forward, something that energises you and is perfectly in line with who you are.
Plus, never before has it been so important to look for a family-oriented feel in your employer. As we all learned to connect from remote in 2020, that familiarity and that bond with your coworkers/leaders matters more than ever.
Luke from Momentum certainly knows a thing or two about that: “For a global agency, Momentum Worldwide manages to feel boutique and family-run. Walking into any of our offices around the world feels like meeting up with old friends – I think that’s pretty unique.”
You're looking for appetite for innovation, a family-oriented feel and a desire to make a difference
It’s not a coincidence, I believe, that AKQA works the same way: “Everyone at AKQA has the freedom to be entrepreneurial and inventive with each brief and deliver genre defining work. The trust to deliver your best work, as part of one family is a really liberating place to be,” Gemma says.
It is that appetite for innovation, that energy and desire to improve lives, the one thing that keeps pushing both teams forward. As global advertising agencies, Momentum and AKQA can count on thousands of employees across the world – keeping that feeling consistent across the entire network can sound like a nearly impossible task. And yet, both cases show that it can be done.
And that’s the kind of attitude you should look for in an employer.
Image credit: AKQA
Aim to join, build and cultivate a healthy workplace
Still, an inspiring and pioneering company culture won’t get you far if the environment isn’t healthy and does not compare. An employer should always put their actions where their mouth is. If you feel a disconnect between the company culture and how the company is run, certainly it will take just a little more pressure for that workplace to crack under its own weight.
As a creative professional, working for great clients certainly helps with keeping you motivated. Often, the size of an agency can be an indicator of that factor. But you’re also looking for the quality of leadership and how managers interact with the rest of the team. You’re looking for sincere care and understanding of the team’s lives even outside of work, which is more important than ever now that some may be stuck with homeschooling.
The leaders at Momentum keep their team motivated “by having a healthy appreciation of the factors that impact the team outside of work. From child management to caring for elderly parents, combating loneliness to a new puppy eating your Wi-Fi hub… During COVID, as we have worked remotely, this appreciation has been more important than ever,” Luke says.
In other words, perks are nice – but what happens when employees go the extra mile and get no recognition? The best employers always strive to go beyond company perks. As a very much future-oriented agency, AKQA aims for motivation from the onset. Gemma adds: “It is about having a sense of purpose and satisfaction to what we create and being recognised and acknowledged for what you do. Perks can only go so far, it can be draining thinking about deadlines, and too easy to just do another hour without anyone acknowledging the labour of love we put into everything we produce.”
The best employers always strive to go beyond company perks
Of course you are looking for diversity and inclusion policies as well. It is no longer acceptable in this age to not have policies in place to ensure diversity of talent, and all the best agencies out there are working towards that. But this kind of push should not come from management alone – it should be encouraged at all levels. According to Luke, Momentum encourages diversity and inclusion “by making it everyone’s responsibility. From finding solutions to improve our diversity, equity & inclusion, to helping lead the transformation of our business, our product and our society. We call it Active Citizenship.”
On the other hand, AKQA employees “experience AKQA as a place of creativity that enables trust and defines their career. We are proud of our diverse teams and celebrate individuality and uniqueness.” In both cases leaders take care of their team at all times and they go beyond simple promises – they make the workplace a healthy and beautiful place for everyone involved.
An amazing artwork by motion designer Anton Seleznov
Look for what’s missing in other employers
Surely the best agencies out there are working towards diversity, but there is still a long road ahead and not everyone in the industry is making the same efforts. Luke from Momentum believes that the industry needs more diversity of talent, but also more inroads into schools, tapping into diverse and young talent to spearhead innovation.
Interestingly, Luke believes this problem exists at the two far ends of the spectrum. Momentum is also working to target career switchers and mature talent in order to attract people from even outside the industry. More on that later.
It is clear though that we need more collaboration in the industry. Covid has set us apart, but it’s taught us important lessons on how to connect even while not sharing the same space. From living rooms to kitchen counters, from back yards to cranky bedrooms, we’ve seen it all in the past 10 months and we’ll keep seeing even more. The industries is obviously still lacking a truly hybrid model for remote collaboration, a progressive way to make a global workforce more connected. Gemma from AKQA says: “last year we saw more global collaboration than ever before, such as launching the Netflix One Story Away campaign, a nine-studio effort. There is no doubt this collaboration was accelerated by a different working model and that can only be a good thing for our clients and teams. We used to say we had 30 studios globally with 2,200 people; now we are 2,200 studios globally, thanks to everyone being able to work from home.”
Artwork credit: Steve Hagon
Fall in love with the most interesting quirks
What makes an employer unique? I could spend another 3,000 words trying to answer that question, but I think you must have a pretty good idea by now. It is perfectly okay and in fact commendable for an employer to seek and develop their own identity. Look for interesting quirks that can make a workplace truly special.
Luke from Momentum, for example, would love to “hire some ridiculous talent from outside the industry” – an astronaut, a Nobel Prize, or a gaggle of Pixar animators. What better way, after all, to bring along some diversity of talent and transform the industry from within? It is that kind of attitude that makes a workplace feel special – and an employer feel like they truly care about leaving a positive, long-lasting mark on the industry.
Both Momentum and AKQA wove ambition into their largest and most visible flag. Where one aspires to deliver amazing Creative World Firsts, the other is future-oriented and strives to create a better world through advertising. But where they both excel is by working relentlessly and tirelessly to create a respectful, meritocratic and employee-centred environment where everyone can be happy for their job. A place where everyone can start and end their work day with a big smile on their face.