As agencies compete to draw in talented staff, a real commitment to a sustainable business model could be a major advantage, argues Caroline Davison of Elvis.
There is no disputing that the fight for talent in our industry has intensified significantly over the last year. Resourcing pressures are more acute than ever, with the staff fallout from Brexit and Covid in particular impacting our opportunity to take advantage of the current uptick in client briefs and projects.
Agency leaders have been forced to re-evaluate their recruitment strategies and packages – everything from where they look for talent (which can only be positive in terms of increasing adland’s diversity) to the benefits and salary they offer. It cannot have escaped anyone’s attention that what employees are looking for in a job is undergoing a seismic change. Indeed, according to Gallup’s most current State of the Global Workforce Report, “[Employees] are now driven more than ever by company mission and purpose, and require a workplace culture that delivers it.”
Back in 2019, following internal conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion and the climate crisis, we at Elvis had already recognized that redefining our agency mission and direction was going to be key to our sense of self at work. As part of this we decided, with full support from all employees, to embrace a new business model based around B Corp certification – a scheme that recognizes the businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
Little did we know at the time how quickly working toward B Corp certification would become our recruitment secret weapon.
Over the last twelve months, our B Corp journey has been overwhelmingly cited by potential candidates as the number one draw for them when asked what attracted them to Elvis. And we’re talking about applicants across the board here, not just the gen Z demographic. More often than not, interviews have ended with in-depth discussion around how B Corp theory manifests itself in the agency, prompted by interviewees’ astute questions about our progress and commitment. Our recruitment briefs obviously include our B Corp journey, but candidates have shared the fact that Elvis was on their shortlist even prior to seeing the brief because they had already identified through their own research that we had similar values to them.
These revelations are borne out in the findings of a recent external survey we conducted that indicated that a whopping 89% of people view company values that align with their own to be important. It makes total sense that if you are looking for a new job, you are going to actively consider where you might find that ‘fit’ in the marketplace, rather than wait for the opportunity to find you.
Interestingly, this value alignment focus is away from what the prevailing definition of a ‘good’ company to work for was six or seven years ago, when us agencies were losing out to big tech companies offering incredible office perks and significantly bigger salaries. A 2021 global study by IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) indicates that nearly half of people surveyed would now accept a lower salary to work for environmentally and socially responsible organizations.
I can personally attest to how important value compatibility has become when deciding where to work. Many of us are no longer happy to live by two opposing set of values, no matter how long we have been in the industry or how much we love it. The tension and uneasiness I felt around this a few years ago gave rise to those internal conversations I mentioned earlier, which in turn created a space for others to voice similar feelings. Since committing to B Corp and our people being able to see the tangible value-related changes in our business, our employee satisfaction rating has hit an all-time high. Nine out of 10 staff would recommend working at Elvis.
It’s important to underline here that in both the case of recruitment and employee satisfaction it is not the fact that we have stated our intention to become a B Corp that is driving the change, but the tangible evidence that we can now provide of where our business values align with personal ones that result from being on that B Corp journey. This includes real examples of how we do our work, who we work with and how we hold ourselves accountable – a classic case of ‘don’t do as I say, do as I do,’ Employees and potential employees are rightly on their guard for greenwashing and woke-washing, and now more than ever they are ready to hold their employers to account.
As our industry’s cultural values continue to shift around what is and isn’t acceptable, particularly during the transition to a net-zero emission economy, so too will the expectations people have of their agency. As leaders, if we want to attract and retain the best talent, we need to continually consider if the way in which we run our business is ‘fit for purpose’ in the truest sense.
Caroline Davison is managing director and sustainability lead for Elvis.