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Best Places To Work – Recognition & Rewards

By The Drum | Administrator

May 14, 2002 | 6 min read

Staff at CitigateSMARTS obviously feel the receptionist has the most rewarding job in the agency – well, they all seem to want to sit at her desk.

4. Recognition and Rewards

You don’t need a company car, cash incentives, days off on your birthday and bottles of champagne to make you feel valued at work. But it sure helps. Incentives, both wild and wacky as well as good old hard cash, may be commonplace, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, what do the staff really want? Is a firm pat on the back not good enough any more, with staff accustomed to the more elaborate perks of the job?

Keywest runs an Employee of the Year scheme. This is voted for in two sections, first by the staff as a peer poll and then by the bosses – Employers’ Employee of the Year. Every quarter this poll is repeated and the winner scoops a bottle of bubbly. Once a year the winners of both polls each jet off to Dublin for an all-inclusive break with a partner.

But a clap on the back isn’t good enough; a company needs to invest in its people, says Raymond MacHugh: “We work on an appraisal ladder. We are a small company and a promotional opportunity comes once in a blue moon so there is rarely a different position, but often there is a different salary involved. The appraisals are done on a quarterly basis, which is a fairer ground for assessment.”

CitigateSMARTS is another agency that has adopted a strict appraisal scheme, says MD Flora Martin: “When you are working in such a large organisation the best way, and perhaps the only way, to assess staff is through a formal appraisal system. Staff have to know how they are being assessed as well as how well they are doing. But still, Rob and myself operate a very open-door policy. We like to hope that we are accessible.

“When a company gets bigger you really need to track your assessment system. But at smaller organisations, although a lot of communication can be a lot less formal and more personal, often there is not enough of it. Often companies are too busy. But it is a people business so communication should be at the heart of everything that you do. It isn’t uncommon for staff to believe that the rewards of their job are not enough. But I run a business. If everyone was paid what they thought they were worth I wouldn’t have a business to run.”

However, the formal appraisal system is backed up by a few wee perks – evidently, looking at the polls, enough to keep the staff happy.

“We offer our staff gym membership at Next Generation sports clubs,” adds Martin. “They get good holiday entitlements, their mobile phones are provided and client-facing staff get their choice of company car – within reason. Just recently we had a wine tasting evening at the office and at the end of every month we like to have wind-downs where staff can ‘show and tell’ – displaying to the rest of us what they have been doing. In a big organisation things can be forgotten.”

Martin’s joint MD, Rob Morrice, adds: “Who would agree that they get paid enough? I don’t. We all work hard and we are all in the same boat. Wages are the single biggest overhead in any service industry. But so long as the staff have a means to approach the management to ask for more, and the working environment is good, problems can be avoided.”

Alan Frame, MD of Frame Cunningham, is another believer in putting the staff first: “We are on a mission, one that is firmly committed to creating an extraordinary communications business that rewards its people well, creates effective work for our clients and is the envy of our competitors. We are already attracting good people from across the UK. Why? Because we believe in our people and putting them first. Our reward structure is varied. Through basic salary, company contributing pension schemes, Christmas bonus and an annual bonus based on a percentage of salary, this year we will pay a minimum of five per cent to everyone. On top of that we offer monthly holiday vouchers related to turnover and new business commissions for everyone, and next month sees a financial reward being introduced for key creative awards. Annual increases are linked to company and personal performance and the appraisal scheme and throughout the year the company invests in social functions and trips. So, the journey has started”

True. Frame Cunningham will pay out up to £40,000 in staff bonuses this year. Not bad, considering it employs 29 staff.

Weber Shandwick offers a PR Miles scheme, where staff are awarded points by managers for good work. They can save up these points and cash them in for a meal, or a visit to a health farm, a duvet day or something else. 1576 treats its staff to numerous perks – awaydays, yearly staff trips (Amsterdam last time), five nights out a year, a profit share scheme related to personal performance (the directors are not included), and a free staff bar on Friday nights.

However, despite all the benefits that staff now get, many still feel unhappy that favouritism occasionally governs promotion and reward. A vast number of respondents feared that the industry was still plagued by an old boys’ network.

Graham Macready of McKinstrie & Wilde disagrees: “Opportunity does often come down to the size of the agency. If there is an expansive hierarchy, then there will be more chance for promotion. There will be juniors, middleweight designers, studio managers and design directors. Here we don’t have that. There is no hierarchy. But we’re not naive enough to think that we can keep staff if they want to go. Opportunities may not be around immediately, but in the long term they may present themselves. And that will be judged on merit alone.”

His view is shared by directors across Scotland, all of whom laughed off suggestions of favouritism. But again, this reinforced the need for a solid appraisal system.

However, despite this appraisal system, staff still like a bit of reassurance, or to use the technical term – ‘a jolly’.

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