Creating a dynamic workplace culture is a lot more complex than hiring a bunch of Gen Ys and buying an office foosball table.
At WME we operate in an industry with a churn rate that the Media Federation of Australia put at an alarming 33.2 per cent in 2014. It’s the proof we all need that workplace culture is an issue we’ve all got to take seriously.
My motivation to focus on culture also came from a poor experience as an employee for a recruiting company. Management seemed to have an unwritten closed-door policy that slowly polluted and eventually killed staff morale. We’d all have such great ideas, but they were never given oxygen.
So, when I started my own digital marketing company, I was determined to do the complete opposite. I didn’t just leave the door open – I removed the walls. We’re not a big fan of hierarchy, so you won’t find management sitting in glassed cubicles at WME – we’re all out on the floor and as a result, we’ve got a much closer working relationship with our staff. We also have a far better understanding of project issues as they arise and have direct input in our client’s accounts.
Of course, removing hierarchy and office walls is only the first step. As we’ve morphed from an SEO business into the largest digital marketing company in Australia, we’ve implemented a number of other elements to lay the foundations for a solid workplace culture.
It’s been a constant process of tweaking and adjusting our protocols as we pay careful consideration to the culture we’re creating, and now we can say that the parameters are right.
You’ve got to be prepared to throw a little cash around to create an culture to emulate our workplace culture, but it’s not about being flamboyant. It’s about being straight up and encouraging people to be who they are in their real life in their day job. About bringing out the best in them. It’s about more than just telling them they matter to you. It’s about showing them.
It’s been a delicate balancing act. We’re a high energy company – an office of 180 people working across six floors. While our staff is mostly Gen Y, we’ve got all different personalities and all come from different backgrounds and cultures. We’ve got sales teams, digital heroes, accounting folks and tech heads. But we’ve managed to lay down very deliberate foundations to create a culture that’s going to actually kick goals for our clients.
In a sense, wokrplace culture is as simple as making sure your workplace is somewhere people want to come and spend their week. About putting the support systems in place to ensure our team becomes friends, and that they’re able to take a team approach to their individual roles. Admittedly, it’s a challenge given the constant pressures and deadlines faced by our staff.
Our newly implemented social club has effectively become the fun brigade around here. With the help of management, we’ve introduced a number of workplace perks after a series of discussions with other team members to give staff access to things that mean the most to them, and will have the biggest impact on their lives in a holistic sense – not just their working lives.
As such, we’ve introduced gym memberships and various other fitness packages including yoga, boxing and circuit training. We celebrate every birthday – that’s a birthday cupcake with balloon practically every second day given the size of our team. We run company trivia for staff at a nearby function centre some Friday afternoons. A parma night, and movie nights at nearby cinemas.
Culture is also about introducing an element of fun. Surprise Easter Egg hunts, Red Bull girls handing out free drinks in the office, and celebrating our agency’s birthday. It’s about celebrating the little wins we’ve had each week.
The emphasis we’ve placed on refining our workplace culture has been hugely worthwhile. We’ve significantly increased team loyalty, which has translated into improved retention rates, not to mention productivity levels. So now, we’ve got a company filled with far happier and more appreciated staff.
And we’ve got a steady flow of talent knocking down our door in the hope they can land a role on our team. That’s a lot of talent, given that those churn rates mentioned earlier show that 33.2 per cent of staff are looking for a new job right now.
About the author:
Nick Bell is the founder & managing director of WME, Australia’s leading digital marketing company.