Combating churn and burn: tips to building a great office culture

Whether you're an established global with a local office or a hungry independent, long hours, lots of pressure and churn are an industry-wide issue. Jenna Orme offers her tips to keeping good staff longer.

I think it’s fair to say that in this game we’re in, all too often awards and announcements pale in importance when compared with employee satisfaction and culture.

In a workplace environment that sees a lot of churn and burn – with almost half of candidates in the communications industry considering to leave their job in the next six months* – PR agencies should best focus inward to ensure people are happy and challenged to produce best quality work.

Orme promoted to general manager

We’ve had some big changes in the past 12 months. It’s more than just almost doubling in size (with further roles yet to fill). We’ve become a fully functioning part of Whybin\TBWA. New management, new digs, new website, great new clients. We’ve welcomed new faces to the Fleishman family, promoted from within and celebrated 70 years in the business.

Whenever an agency goes through such rapid and significant change there’s sure to be a few raised eyebrows. We learned some things the hard way (no-one’s perfect), but for the most part we listened to our people and acted fast.

It’s our best year yet – not because of the numbers – but because the team is stronger than ever. Clichéd? Yes. But as we all know in agency-land, our people define who we are and what they do…and they’re only as good as the culture that surrounds them.

So, in no particular order, here’s what we’ve learnt from an epic 12 months of change to create a strong workplace culture (and a couple of quick hacks to try it yourself if you aren’t already).

Millennial mindset
Ambitious, entitled, fickle – just a few of the negative connotations associated with millennial workers. But any employer who dismisses the needs and working styles of millennials won’t be in business for long. For an agency culture to thrive, business needs to celebrate the millennial mindset and use it to their advantage.

Embrace challenge and change and allow millennials to participate in the day-to-day running of the business. This not only offers a new perspective, but will keep millennials feeling driven and empowered in their roles.

Our workplace culture hack: Let go of the reins. People, particularly millennials, will rise to the challenge. Get them involved in the business by giving them parts of the day-to-day operation to run. Things like consolidation of weekly timesheets and forecasting. Or planning the next social outing. When the business feels like their own, they’re more likely to give it their all.

London, UK.

More than just a pay cheque
With a workplace dominated by millennials comes a greater need to focus on rewards and incentives beyond monthly pay. I’ve heard senior management ask why employees aren’t motivated or learning news skills when the agency has no formal training programs on offer. Beyond the bottom line, millennials look at how a job can grow their career – what they can learn that will help them stand out from the competition.

Employers need to ask, “how am I contributing to my employees’ career-growth?” Clear career development plans, external training opportunities, daily access to senior management teams and access to wider agency talent (like ad creative, digital and strategy teams) are things beyond money that help employees grow, and help businesses retain the best talent.

Our workplace culture hack: Empower your people. Motivate and inspire through the power of knowledge and sharing. In the fast-paced environment in which we operate, knowledge can easily get lost. Don’t forget to share your insights, learnings and experience with the whole team. People can learn at every level – junior or senior. The day your staff stop learning is the day you lose them.

Symbol of scales is made of stones on the boulder

Work–life balance
There are times where PR and the words ‘work–life balance’ seem like two ends of the same magnet – destined never to meet. But to appeal to millennials (and all workers for that matter) agencies need to work harder to ensure their staff are feeling challenged in their role while allowing time for a social life outside of work.

Policies such as flexible working hours or the ability to work from home one day a week, for example, help empower employees to complete work on their own time (while still meeting client deadlines).

Our workplace culture hack: Appreciation is key. Your team needs to be thanked and feel valued for the hard work and the long hours they invest. The small things count. Be it daily office breakfasts, champagne Fridays or a monthly culture club.

Make sure you take the time to get to know your team outside of the office – find out what makes them tick, what irritates them, what they want to see more of. Use this knowledge wisely and provide opportunities for your team to flourish.

We pride ourselves on relationships – start from your core and the rest should follow easily.

In our line of work, it’s all too easy to get lost in the day-to-day demands of what we do. Take a step back and assess your agency’s landscape. Make sure you practise what you preach otherwise your people will lose faith. Celebrate your wins, share your visions and show your endless support when times get tough. Your team is everything – never lose sight of that.

Jenna Orme is general manager of Fleishman Hillard.


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