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Best Places To Work – Perception of the Organisation and Job Satisfaction.

By The Drum | Administrator

May 14, 2002 | 9 min read

1. Perception of the Organisation

Largely speaking, the employees at the top agencies in The Drum’s Best Places to Work survey love coming to work on Mondays. Why? Because they believe in their organisation’s goals, they have supportive bosses, receive recognition for their hard work and have a great time whilst doing it.

Of the three-hundred-odd (and believe me some of them were very odd) questionnaires returned by staff throughout Scotland’s buzzing marketing community, a common theme was concluded: staff, in general, are committed to the organisations that they work for.

No shock there, you may think. But, just consider the gruelling deadlines, the late nights, the office politics and the continual stamping of clients’ feet, and this might be slightly more surprising.

But just how valued do people feel by their agencies? Are they fairly rewarded? Do company directors really care? And is there a future for you? Well, here is just what a few of you said:

“It is a joy to come to work first thing every morning. I doubt that many people can claim this.” Anon, Keywest.

“I don’t know how we do it. We work long hours, but all the staff keep coming back for more.” Anon, KLP Euro RSCG.

“We work in an environment where, due to hot-desking, every day is different – the room, the people, the music (don’t ever sit in a room with Kenneth Fowler or Mark Gorman!) – so you get to know everyone. OK, so not everyone will be the best of friends but I reckon none of us would mind being stranded on a desert island with anyone else who works here.” Anon, 1576.

“It’s a great place to work – we have an agony aunt receptionist, the MD’s door is always open for a chat (about anything) and the creatives aren’t prima donnas. They’ll actually acknowledge a good idea – wherever it comes from.” Anon, The Leith Agency.

“Imagine that most capitalistic of beasts – the ad agency – built on socialist principles, where you can really join as a receptionist and become a board director. Quite a few staff haven’t worked anywhere else. They think it’s like this at every agency. If only they knew.” Anon, CitigateSMARTS.

“Everyone is treated well and has a say in how the company is run and in its future. We are all working towards the same goal – success.” Anon, Real PR.

“Everyone believes in what we are doing. This is reflected in our creativity and the work that we produce. We don’t necessarily all agree on work matters or decisions that are made. But once they are made, collectively we get on with it.” Anon, Pointsize.

“The people here, from management down, are passionate about what they do. You can feel it and you can see it. Sometimes at 9 pm on a Monday night you don’t want to see it, but it’s there.” Anon, Frame Cunningham.

2. Job Satisfaction

Many staff find it difficult to maintain a balance between their private life and work life. So, are agencies in Scotland working their staff too hard? Or is it just one of the job’s many ‘perks’?

Will Atkinson, managing director of McCann-Erickson Scotland, doesn’t think so: “Staff in Scotland aren’t working harder than elsewhere in the UK. But creative people do tend to work longer hours. You tend to find they choose to. Don’t get me wrong, they all fill out their time sheets, but good ideas don’t have a certain time to arrive.

“Sometimes people feel that they must be seen as the last one out of the office. But this, as a habit, isn’t healthy. People must maintain a work–life balance. If you see someone continually last to leave, you should sit them down and make sure that it is at least for the right reasons.

“We do work to tight deadlines. This is not helped when people make promises that can’t be kept. Due to new technology and speed of turnaround, account handlers will often promise a client something that the creative department cannot deliver. It is, of course, true in reverse too.”

Bryan Hook, director of Hookson, agrees: “Problems arise when employers don’t recognise the extra time that people are having to work. If staff are continually working weekends or evenings and time is not given back to them, in lieu or as extra cash, then people can feel undervalued. Management has to know when to reward staff for working over and above the call of duty.

“If staff are working late, why not make sure that they get home safely – organise a taxi for them. Or even make sure that they are fed and watered; order a pizza. If people do not feel that they are being used they will be a lot more satisfied in their job.

“Design is not a nine-to-five occupation but, still, it cannot be taken for granted that staff will always go that extra mile.”

Nora Farrell, MD of Weber Shandwick, also believes that many people find it difficult to maintain a balance between their private life and work life. But she believes that this is not a problem common only to the marketing and media industry. It is an attribute of the modern-day working ethos: “We try to keep an eye on people that are continually working late and arriving early. As we are a client-serving organisation there are bound to be peaks and troughs, but it is unhealthy to be stuck in a trough.

“We have a mentoring scheme in place, where mentors, both internal and external, will take a personal and professional interest in the staff’s well-being, be it in problems at work or a problem at home that is leading to large amounts of time being spent at work over and above the call of duty.”

Despite long hours spent at work, there are a number of schemes that can help the hardworking environment. One such initiative is Investors in People (IiP). Raymond MacHugh, MD at Keywest, says IiP has completely changed the culture of his agency: “It has literally rewritten our business plan. If you don’t know what is happening, how can you feel any ownership? You just come in from nine till five. When everyone is kept involved and up to date it gives them a sense of purpose to come to work, from the receptionist right up to the top. Staff have said to me that this is the most professional agency that they have ever worked at. They wouldn’t have said that two years ago.”

However, training presents a problem for many agencies. Many just don’t have the time or the money to invest and this has been noticed by many staff in Scotland’s agencies. And often agencies are left paying nothing more than lip service to it.

Not a problem faced by Rob Morrice, MD of CitigateSMARTS. He says: “The whole process of IiP means you have to have a very tight, very formal, laid-down way of assessing all staff, and vice versa. Everyone has a very well defined job description that covers all of the duties on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. No skirting around fuzzy boundaries.

“Every six months, specifically referring to these job descriptions, we will ask all our staff to fill in forms to judge how well they feel they have performed, how their aspirations are being met, to comment on any training they require and, critically, how they assess the management.

“We’ll sit them down, having filled in similar forms ourselves, exchange them and discuss them. That is standard. But we also have our Smart Objectives, objectives outwith the job description to achieve over the next six months. These objectives are suggested and agreed by the staff, and if any extra training is needed that too is agreed and it is all signed off.

“It is crucial to have a means of evaluation, but overall it comes down to basic human values. We couldn’t do this objectively if the staff saw the management as draconian figures. It wouldn’t work. If we had a dictatorial way of working, no matter how many forms were filled in, it wouldn’t work. The staff would be too scared, too circumspect, to speak the truth.

“We want the staff to look forward to work. Shouting, screaming and humiliating, on its own, just doesn’t work,” jokes Morris.

“We are currently developing our training and people development programme with an external specialist,” says Alan Frame, MD of Frame Cunningham. “We are probably, per head, the greatest attendees of IPA seminars. And we bring in industry specialists regularly to talk within the agency and to introduce best practice across the disciplines. For the last six months we have really been concentrating on the people, not just the business.”

MacHugh adds: “We are still progressing and still investing in our training schemes, be it internally or externally. A consultant comes in one day a month to help in our progress.

“Recently we sent two of our girls on an assertion course. We might not be doing that again though; as soon as they got back they were demanding double salary.

“But you have to invest in staff. No one can expect or guarantee a job for life any more. If you invest in your staff then they will invest in you. They will benefit and you will get even more from them in return.

“Employers don’t own people. If a member of staff leaves after they have had their training because they think they will enjoy or benefit from work elsewhere, then good luck to them. It is natural. That is how I started Keywest.”

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